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Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county

Forestry Updates

by Jodi Frediani
February 2009

1. Harold Short, Forest Defender, Remembered
2. Grizzly Flat (1-08-NTMP-010SCR) is back...
3. CAL FIRE office closures
4. Waterboard timber waiver program axed
5. Eureka Gulch West non-concurrences
6. County LWD policy
7. Community Wildfire Protection Plan
8. BoF T&I rule filibuster
9. Modified THP for Fuel Hazard Reduction
10. Environmental lawsuit challenges river oversight
11. RF Conference

1. Harold Short, Forest Defender, Remembered

Harold Short was a quiet man with a ready sense of humor. Whenever a person or group needed help with a special project, Harold was there. He was particularly active when the Sierra Club Forestry Task Force, of which he was a longtime member, was protecting the redwoods in Ramsey Gulch and Grizzly Flat.

Harold was a photographic engineer and taught photography in Carmel. His particular focus was on dramatic natural views. Harold died February 2, 2009 in Watsonville Hospital. He was 69. Whenever a special project needs help, Harold will be missed. -- Ida Hills

2. Grizzly Flat (108NTMP010SCR) is back......

In June 2008, the City of Watsonville submitted an NTMP for 184 acres in the Rattlesnake and Shingle Mill Gulch drainages (Pajaro River Watershed, which is 303(d) listed, impaired for sediment). The NTMP was returned for deficiencies on June 30. Gary Paul is the RPF.

The NTMP was resubmitted to CAL FIRE on February 3. It will undergo first review on February 11. The RPF does state that no trees were killed or substantially damaged in the Summit Fire and has addressed at least 28 items identified when the NTMP was returned as needing correction and/or clarification. The resubmitted plan can be found at: ftp://thp.fire.ca.gov/THPLibrary/North_Coast_Region/NTMPs2008/1-08NTMP-010SCR/

3. CAL FIRE office closures

California's budget crisis hits the Felton CAL FIRE office. The courtesy email I received said: "The Cal Fire Resource Management office in Felton will be closed on the first and third Fridays of every month beginning February 6, 2009 until June 2010. DFG employees are also being furloughed two days per month."

4. Waterboard timber waiver program axed

In 2000 legislation passed which required regional waterboards to either issue Waivers of Waste Discharge for agricultural and timber harvest activities or develop a waiver program. The Sierra Club, CRFM, Lompico Watershed Conservancy and Ocean Conservancy worked for two years developing and submitting comments to the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board on the development of a conditional timber waiver program.

The resulting waivers have been in place for a number of years now, but the local timber industry has objected vociferously every step of the way. Now the program is dead in the water. Recent budget cuts were in part to blame. However, we learned that the re-allocation of the remaining funds (a half-time position) was ordered by the State Water Board, eliminating the staff position for the timber harvest review and timber waiver programs. We can only surmise that the local timber folks finally got fed up with the objectionable monitoring requirements and got their lobbyists in Sacramento to 'fix' the problem.

5. Eureka Gulch West (THP 108159SCR) nonconcurrences

Redwood Empire has a THP under review along Buzzard Lagoon Road in the Corralitos area. The plan is 196 acres, has 20 Class III watercourses, 10 Class II watercourses, 46 slides in the plan area and was harvested under two different THPs in the late 1990s. In fact one area was harvested for hardwoods as recently as 2001. The RPF, Michael Duffy, has proposed no cutoff for winter operations. He includes all sorts of directions, confusing at best and misleading at worst, about when crews can operate and when they cannot. Ground-based operations will stop for 10 days after a 1/4-inch of rain, but then can commence if soils are not saturated. There are different dates for different activities. He has also proposed a host of in-lieu practices, including in-lieu tree marking in the WLPZ, operations on steep slopes, in-lieu felling of trees in the WLPZ, tractor ops in cable yarding areas, etc.

There is a TMDL for Corralitos Creek identifying roads as a main contributing source of sediment with an expectation of a 100% reduction in sediment load. The RPF incorrectly stated that neither Corralitos Creek nor Eureka Gulch were 303(d) listed as impaired for sediment.

The previous harvests on this site had landing failures ("drainage created a gully; 15 feet wide, 10 feet long and 10 feet deep"), as well as one "road crossing washed out, leaving a chasm approximately 25 feet wide and 22 feet high", plus other failures noted in follow-up inspection reports.

The County and DFG have both filed non-concurrences on this plan and Sierra Club in conjunction with Central Coast Forest Watch submitted a seven page letter asking that the plan be denied.

The plan, agency documents and the RPF's responses can be found at: ftp://thp.fire.ca.gov/THPLibrary/North_Coast_Region/THPs2008/1-08-159SCR/


6. County LWD policy

Santa Cruz County has had a policy of removing large wood from its streams and rivers for years. Most has been cut up in response to streamside neighbors’ fear of flooding. In actuality, large wood can help reduce flood impacts by slowing stream velocity thus reducing the undercutting of banks, metering out sediment preventing large amounts from settling in low gradient reaches where flooding is most likely to occur, and helping to hold smaller logs and chunks of wood preventing them from hanging up in culverts and against bridge footings.

About two years ago, a confluence of events began to shift how the County thinks about large instream wood. A small group of concerned citizens including members of the San Lorenzo Valley Women's Club Environmental Committee and the Lompico Watershed Conservancy wrote to Supervisor Mark Stone and John Ricker (Environmental Health) asking that the County reconsider removal of large instream wood. The National Marine Fisheries Service and others also let the County know that their large wood removal program was problematic, even possibly constituting a 'take' of endangered coho salmon by adversely impacting their habitat. In 2008, the county did not remove any large woody material from streams.

After many months, John Ricker has come up with a proposed policy change, which will most likely go before the Board of Supervisors on March 3. The draft proposal says the county will not remove or modify large woody material unless it is determined to "pose a threat to life, public safety, public infrastructure or aquatic habitat." Non-emergency modification will be directed by the Water Resources Division Director after consultation with DFG, NMFS, a fishery biologist and/or geomorphologist. Under an emergency, the wood will be removed or modified at the direction of Public Works or Environmental Health management. Requests from the public will be evaluated by Environmental Health. The county will disseminate information to the public regarding the value of large woody material and the terms of the revised county policy.

Some folks are still concerned (yours truly included) that the latest draft proposal doesn't go far enough. Plan to attend on March 3 if you'd like to encourage the county to leave large wood in our streams to provide essential fish habitat for our dwindling steelhead and coho populations.

7. Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP)

CAL FIRE in conjunction with the Santa Cruz Resource Conservation District (RCD) is preparing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan for all of Santa Cruz County. So far they are doing this on their own with some financial assistance from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. A new staff member of the RCD is preparing the CWPP.

In Santa Clara County, a very different process is underway. Their FireSafe Council, which includes the fire agencies, representatives of large landowners, local neighborhood groups, volunteer fire departments, water districts, etc., has hired an experienced fire consulting firm (after conducting a lengthy interview process) to prepare a CWPP for the Lexington Hills area. An extended working group has been created involving more community members and other interested parties. The consultants have prepared a questionnaire that has been revised to include local issues and concerns by the Extended Working Group and sent out to the community. A community meeting was held early on to inform residents and other stakeholders of the process. In the meantime, the FireSafe Council has obtained funding to hire the consultants and to conduct some fuel reduction programs. A chipping program has been underway for some months and currently a shaded fuel break is being created along Morrell Road near the Summit.

Why can't we have a similar process in Santa Cruz? Monterey County also has an open, transparent process in which a professional fire expert firm has been hired to prepare the CWPP. The Board of Supervisors will ultimately need to approve this plan. If the community is not engaged until after the plan has been drafted, what kind of buy-in can be expected? Contact your Supervisor and ask that the CWPP process be opened up to interested parties now, so those who will be impacted can have a say in the development stage before the plan is drafted.

A Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) may be developed to help an urbanwildland interface community (Santa Cruz County, for instance) clarify and refine priorities for protection of life, property, and critical infrastructure. The process was established under the 2003 federal Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA). The establishing legislation gives statutory incentives for the US Forest Service and BLM to give consideration to the priorities of local communities as they develop and implement forest management and hazardous fuel reduction projects.

Here are some quotes about CWPPs and the process from a document developed to aid communities in plan preparation (See link below):

Minimum requirements include: 1) collaboration between local and state government representatives, in consultation with federal agencies and other interested parties, 2) Prioritized Fuel Reduction (must identify and prioritize areas for hazardous fuel reduction treatments and recommend the types and methods of treatment that will protect one or more at-risk communities and essential infrastructure), and 3) Treatment of Structural Ignitability (must recommend measures that homeowners and communities can take to reduce the ignitability of structures throughout the area addressed by the plan).

"The process is intended to be open and collaborative, as described in the Ten-Year Strategy, involving local and state officials, federal land managers, and the broad range of interested stakeholders."

"The success of a CWPP also hinges on the ability of the core team to effectively involve a broad range of local stakeholders...As early as possible, core team members should contact and seek active involvement from key stakeholders and constituencies including, homeowner associations, DFG, water districts, utilities, watershed councils, etc.

http://www.safnet.org/policyandpress/cwpphandbook.pdf

8. Board of Forestry Threatened & Impaired Rule filibuster

The Board of Forestry is currently considering proposed revisions to the Threatened and Impaired Watershed rules which currently provide more, but not enough, protection for listed salmonids. Theoretically, the existing rules apply for impaired waterbodies as well. (In Santa Cruz most impaired waterbodies also have listed fish species.) After a lengthy literature review by an outside consultant and task force meetings to develop proposed rule revisions, the 'strawman' is now being considered by the Forest Practice Committee of the Board of Forestry. They have added an extra meeting day on Mondays of each month prior to the regularly scheduled BoF meetings to discuss the concepts and proposed rule changes.

I attended the January meeting and listened to one timber industry representative essentially filibuster for nearly five hours while the committee tried to discuss changes to flood plain rules. While this RPF repeatedly said he did not want to do flagging only to find out on the PHI that he would need to move his flags over 10', it turned out that his real concern was his extensive road system currently in an area (the flood plain) which could become off limits.

In February, the timber industry, once again, managed to keep progress to a minimum. It was disheartening. The agencies had a strong presence with multiple members of DFG and the North Coast Waterboard present. There was also a rep from the Central Valley Waterboard, NMFS and multiple CAL FIRE representatives. Essentially, the agency folks were in agreement about tightening the rules. Proposed changes include a 30' no-cut buffer along Class II streams and additional retention standards in the WLPZ. But there is tremendous resistance from industry. Cajun James, scientist for SPI, kept coming back to the issue of 'proximity', claiming that tightened rules should not apply more than 600 feet upstream of a Class II. As if sediment inputs further upstream do not travel that far downstream.

Committee deliberations will continue on March 2 in Sacramento, but at the glacial pace set so far, the fish may all go extinct before the Board has a chance to take action.

For the text go to: http://www.bof.fire.ca.gov/board/board_proposed_rule_packages.aspx

Scroll down to Threatened or Impaired Watersheds (T/I) Regulatory Review, 2008 and check out the December 2008 documents.

9. Modified THP for Fuel Hazard Reduction

Just when you think you've seen it all, a new beast comes down the road. Fire. A new rule package is under review that would 'encourage forest landowners to consistently manage vegetation to create fire resilient conditions, and reduce the threat, and potentially deleterious effects of catastrophic fire.'

These selection harvest rules can occur on harvest areas of 5000 acres with clearcuts up to 500 acres. And no cumulative impacts review will be required. Fortunately, folks from Ebbetts Pass Forest Watch are keeping an eye on this package, which not surprisingly industry is trying to rush through like a wildfire.

http://www.bof.fire.ca.gov/board/board_current_docs.aspx

Look under Management Committee Work in Progress

10. Environmental lawsuit challenges river oversight

Suit claims water quality officials are not doing enough to clean up North Coast streams

By ROBERT DIGITALE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Published: Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 6:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 6:54 p.m.

A coalition of conservation and fishing groups Wednesday filed a lawsuit contending that California water quality officials have failed to do enough to clean up streams and rivers along the North Coast.

The lawsuit claims that the North Coast Water Quality Control Board and state water board have taken too long to implement action plans to clean up more than 15 waterways from southern Sonoma County to the Oregon border. The rivers include the Russian, Navarro, Albion, Eel and Mattole.

“We’re hoping to both restore the health of these rivers and to provide the cool clean water for these salmon populations to be restored,” said George Torgun, an attorney with the Oakland-based environmental legal group Earthjustice............

http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20090204/articles/902040161

11. SRF Conference, March 4-7, Santa Cruz

SRF Conference Field Tours & Workshops
Wednesday, March 4 and Thursday, March 5

Meet at the Civic Auditorium at 8:30am

Workshops and Field Tours begin at 9:00am. We recommend arriving at the Civic Auditorium early to register and to prepare a bag lunch if attending a field tour. The Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium is located at 307 Church Street, in downtown Santa Cruz. Please note that parking is extremely limited. For a full description of the field tours and workshops offered: http://www.calsalmon.org/conference/2009/Field_Tours.htm

Conference Sessions on Friday and Saturday March 6 & 7

Come for the info, the camaraderie, the fun, and stay for the banquet. For more info:
http://www.calsalmon.org/pdf/SRF_NwsltrSummer2008_121508_conf%20pkg.pdf

Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival on Tour
Thursday, March 5, 7:30pm

Salmonid Restoration Federation is proud to host the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival as part of the 27th Annual Salmonid Restoration Conference. The Film Festival takes place March 6, 2008, from 7:30 to 9:00pm following a dinner and beer social at the Civic Auditorium. Films being featured this year are the Last Descent and Red Gold. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Advance tickets can be purchased when you register for the conference.

SRF Work Trade and Scholarships Available for Conference

Work trade positions are a great way to learn about conference organizing and a tremendous support to SRF. Please call (707) 923-7501 or email if you are interested in arranging a work trade position at the conference. Limited scholarships are available for SRF members.

To apply, please send a paragraph by February 15 describing how you would benefit from attending the conference. Check out www.calsalmon.org for more information.


Jodi Frediani
Director
Central Coast Forest Watch
tel/fax 831-426-1697

Jodi Frediani
Chair, Forestry Task Force
Ventana Chapter, Sierra Club
tel/fax 831-426-1697




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