June 24 - August 30, 2014, outings
This sea otter freed himself quickly from this dangerous plastic bag in Monterey Bay. Other sea life may not be so fortunate. Help Ventana Chapter ban these bags now! (Photographer: Steve Zmak).
View from the Dune by Steve Zmak, July 15, 2014
HEART-BREAKING SCENE—I was reminded by the importance of banning single- use plastic bags as I watched this otter in the Monterey Harbor twist, twirl and splash about while trying to get this plastic bag off its head. Single-use plastic causes great suffering and death among sea life, even in such a protected area as the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. If you’ve ever attended a local coastal clean-up, you know the vast amount of pollution washing up on our beaches includes large quantities of single-use plastic bags and single-use polystyrene packaging. Even though several of our coastal cities have passed bans such as Monterey and Carmel, and several more are planning on signing onto a Monterey County ban such as Marina, unless all communities ban it, this hazard will continue to find its way into our treasured ocean. While this otter eventually set himself free with much applause by helpless onlookers, you can help ensure an end to episodes like this by urging the Monterey County Board of Supervisors to pass the Reusable Bag Ordinance at their meeting on July 29. Please email your comments to the County Clerk of the Board,
Ventana Chapter member Steve Zmak is a commercial advertising and fine art photographer based in Marina, California, available for assignments, projects and workshops:
Proof of Access Ordinance Approved at the Planning Commission
Ventana Chapter supported the "Proof of Access" non-coastal ordinance (PLN060127) proposed as an amendment to Monterey County zoning approved unanimously by the Planning Commission on July 9. This is an important topic as over 50% of the roads in the unincorporated areas of Monterey County are totally or partially private. What exists now is not working. When a developer fills out a project application for the Planning Department, he is not required to do anything special because his project is on a private road. Neighbors on that private road may or may not be notified because the notice only goes to those living within 300 feet of the project. Depending on the project, it may go to the local Land Use Advisory Committee. Neighbors may or may not get notice about the LUAC meeting.
The new ordinance moves the question of access to the front of the application process. The applicant (developer) is required to provide the following information with any project: a copy of the private road agreement, if applicable; a copy of the private road maintenance agreement, if applicable; and a site plan showing existing access limits and minimum requirements of the local Fire Authority and the Public Works Department. If these requirements are not met, the applicant must demonstrate the ability to obtain access necessary to meet this minimum.
The Planning Director then determines if the project is exempt from the ordinance (example a single family home). If it is not exempt, the Planning Director provides notice of the project, within 10 days of the application submittal, to all easement holders and interested parties on that private road (not limited to 300 feet).
Then, these parties, easement holders and interested parties have 30 days from mailing of the notice to state their objections, if any. The applicant and all the interested parties are encouraged to work together to resolve issues. If over 50% of the interested parties still object, before a permit is issued, the County will require adequate documentation that the dispute has been resolved. This improved process is now more transparent and even-handed for all parties.
The Board of Supervisors will hear this issue on July 22. We recommend support.
Redwood Forest Logging Plan Causes Uproar in Boulder Creek
By Kevin Collins
Roughly a year ago the Santa Cruz County staff responsibility for Timber Harvest Plan Review was moved from the County Department of Environmental Health to the Planning Department.
Unfortunately all of the institutional memory and knowledge about this crucial County responsibility has been lost from the Planning Department through retirements and staff resignations. It has been many years since the Planning Department was involved in logging permit review.
Fully 25% of the entire land area of Santa Cruz County is zoned for Timber Production. This includes an area from the ocean to the Santa Clara County line totaling 111 square miles of mountain terrain. The most valuable and sought after lumber is of course from redwood trees. But Douglas fir are also cut here and it is common for timber logging to be followed on the same parcel by the cutting and sale of hardwood trees, primarily for firewood sales.
During the peak of logging activity in Santa Cruz County in the 1990s, roughly 3000 acres a year were being logged annually. Logging here is, by state law, limited to "selection." The rules allow for 60% of all conifer trees 18 inches in diameter and larger to be felled every 14 years. There is also a 10 year "re-entry" rule. A 50% limit applies to the cutting of conifer trees from 12 to 18 inches in diameter. Other rules apply to streamside areas. There is no clear limit on the felling of hardwood trees such as oak and madrone... [more]
Public Outcry Over Threats to Snowy Plover Nests at Sand City Project Site
The California Coastal Commission’s recent conditional vote on April 10 for a mega condominium and resort project on the beach in Sand City has brought out protests from a wide range of community groups including school children. Just before the hearing, a new Western snowy plover nest with 2 eggs was found and identified by a wildlife biologist near the Project site. A few days later, the nest was reported to have 3 eggs and was being incubated. But by the first week in May, the Monterey County Weekly reported the nest, the 3 eggs and its stakes-and string-barrier around it had disappeared. Listed under the Endangered Species Act as Threatened, there is estimated to be only about 2200 birds remaining of this coastal population of Western snowy plover in California.
Here is a poem to the Snowy Plover written by fifth grader, Caroline:
The beach is Snowy Plover home,
The beach is where bulldozers will soon roam
Then away the Snowy Plover will be,
Never ever again will we see,
the small, harmless bird.
What did it ever do to you or me?
Us humans, we harm much living things,
bird, butterfly, worm and tree.
I tell you in the future our world will be,
A land with nothing that has wings.
Only 2,600 left on this coast,
about the resort,
The Snowy Plover habitat matters most,
Please build the resort some other place,
Don’t hurt the Snowy Plover and their space.
A tiny Western Snowy Plover in full breeding plumage at home on the Project site showing the large expanse of coastal dunes slated for demolition by SNG. (Photograph: Steve Zmak).
Coastal Commission Approval of Sand City Resort and Condominium Project Undermines Rare Species Recovery Plan
On April 10, on the second day of a 9 hour hearing, the California Coastal Commission gave conditional approval to the proposed Monterey Bay Shores Resort in Sand City. This project has been contested by the Sierra Club since it was first proposed in 1998 (Sierra Club litigation timeline PDF here). The development would put a 1.3 million square foot, 368 unit hotel and condominium complex with underground parking spaces for nearly 1,000 cars into the fragile dune landscape of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Nearly 700,000 cubic yards of dune sand or 73% of the habitat would be disturbed by bulldozers and trucks. The site is wedged in between a State Park and a Regional Park as well as nearby to another proposed hotel site. The Commission has twice before denied this project a Coastal Development Permit. However after a complex series of lawsuits, the Commission, under pressure from the Attorney General's office, decided to grant the permit with conditions.
The proposed building site is within the highly unstable Monterey dune ecosystem and it harbors three federally listed endangered species, the Pacific coast population of the Western Snowy Plover, the Smith's Blue Butterfly and the Monterey Spineflower. An April 7th letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (PDF letter here) states that about one third of the site is within designated critical habitat for the Western Snowy Plover. The Service calculates that the project will result in 88% of the habitat being disturbed above the high tide line and 38% being permanently destroyed by construction. This habitat degradation may constitute harm to the species if there is loss to coastal plover populations and may result in a "Take" as defined under Section 3 (19) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The plover currently nests in the sand, both on the beach and in the dune areas of the proposed site. A tiny beach bird, it weighs less than 2 ounces. Once the eggs hatch, the chicks, unable to fly for a month, soon begin to wander the beach feeding off insects under the watchful eyes of their parents. Plover chicks often feed at the high water debris line, called the "wrack line" near the edge of the extent of high tide waves. As Snowy Plovers are so small, they cannot protect their chicks from this massive increase in the presence of humans, pets, vehicles and human-activity attracted predators that will access the beach from this new development. A hotel/condo project with hundreds of guests and year-round residents sited directly within plover critical habitat is a major problem for this rare species. There are only about 2,200 of these birds left in all of coastal California.
The torturous lengthy hearing was taken up by back and forth arguments between the developer, his attorney, and the Commission. These discussions centered on the conditions the Commission staff had recommended be placed upon the permit. These "conditions" ranged between limits upon night lighting and windows (that lead to bird strike kills) to a contentions argument about how to build foundations that are expected to be undermined by shoreline erosion and sea level rise.
In other words this hotel/condo proposal is expected to be eventually washed away by the Pacific Ocean and the Coastal Commission staff did not want to recommend approval of a permit that would leave behind concrete foundations buried in the beach. One condition requires that parts of the hotel/condo project be removed once breaking waves come within a short distance of the hotel. (See Coastal Engineer Dr. Thornton's erosion analysis PDF here).
The developer has proposed his own plan to protect habitat for wildlife and rare plants; however experts engaged by the Sierra Club disputed the practicality and effectiveness of the developer's plan. We regard this plan as a smoke screen meant primarily to confuse the issues. It is clear to us that this hotel/condo project will be very destructive to wildlife and rare plants. Structures that are expected to be washed away should not be built in the first place. Sierra Club will continue our efforts to protect wildlife and stop this project from being built.
Blog: View from the Dune by Steve Zmak, April 14, 2014
Rare Western snowy plover nesting now in the beachfront dunes in Sand City. (Photograph: Steve Zmak)
Western snowy plovers are challenging to photograph. First, they're federally listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act with dwindling rare habitat so just finding them is the first hurdle. Second, they are easily confused with the more plentiful sanderlings that do not have the black head markings. Third, they're small, well camouflaged, and very fast. Once I spot one or a group, I have to get down on my stomach and crawl very slowly towards them. I do this when they aren't looking at me. When they do turn and look at me, that’s when I click. Then move and little closer; click. Move a little closer; click click click, but careful not to disturb them. They're very sensitive to intruders such as humans and dogs when they're nesting March through September. I found 3 on the beach less than 2 weeks ago where the proposed Ghandour 39-acre Monterey Shores Resort would remove more of the western snowy plover's habitat, so don’t wait too long to view them there. You can also ignore the "No Trespassing" signs posted on the gate at the base of Sand City's biggest dune. The Coastal Commission ruled them to be illegally posted some years ago.
Ventana Chapter member Steve Zmak is a commercial advertising and fine art photographer based in Marina, California available for assignments, projects and workshops:
Sierra Club Submits Letter Opposing Monterey Bay Shores Resort to California Coastal Commission
CLICK TO ENLARGE
This graphic shows the negative impacts of the Project in the dunes on western snowy plover nests. It also gives the areas of predicted coastal erosion from sea-level rise. Data provided by conservation biologists. (Graphic design by Steve Zmak).
Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and Audubon have drafted comments for the upcoming hearing at the California Coastal Commission scheduled for April 9, 10 and 11. Chapter members will be attending the hearing and speaking on our behalf.
This massive development will occur on beachfront land currently undeveloped and used by the western snowy plover, a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. Due to significant concerns with the Project detailed in our attached comments (PDF here | See also comments from Peter R. Baye Ph.D.), these groups urge the Commission to deny Project approval because the Commission has failed to meet its obligations under CEQA by not analyzing all Project impacts on the plover, including increased public access to western snowy plover habitat, beach erosion, sea level rise and cumulative impacts from neighboring property. The Commission has also failed to adopt all feasible mitigation measures for the Project and the Project, as currently proposed, will result in the likely "take" of the threatened western snowy plover, an important coastal resource... [more]
FORA Vote Leaves Sierra Club Environmental Protections in Reuse Plan
On Friday March 14, the FORA (Fort Ord Reuse Authority) Board vote on Consistency with the Monterey County 2010 General Plan which the Sierra Club opposed was DENIED, a victory for environmental protections. The FORA Board voted 6-6 to adopt the FORA staff Resolution Attachment A, Consistency Determination between the General Plan and the Fort Ord Reuse Plan. When a vote results in a tie, the vote fails so the Consistency Determination failed.
We opposed this "determination of consistency" and believe that the FORA Board should require that the County amend the 2010 General Plan to be consistent with the 1997 Reuse Plan for several reasons we outlined in our letter by attorney Thomas N. Lippe (PDF attached). County staff must now create redline draft revisions, verify CEQA requirements are met, hold a Board of Supervisors hearing and then back to FORA for a vote of consistency. The Chapter will be monitoring this closely.
Sierra Club wishes to thank FORA Board members Supervisor Lou Calcagno, Supervisor Jane Parker, Marina City Council member Frank O'Connell, Marina City Council member Gail Morton, Carmel City Council member Victoria Beach and Monterey City Council member Nancy Selfridge for their votes on behalf of environmental protection at Fort Ord.
New interpretive board at Jacks Peak Park created by the FJPP Outreach Committee showing native plants and wildlife found in the Forest. (Photograph: Steve Pendlay).
Spring in Jacks Peak Park
Everyone is asking, "Where’s our beautiful yellow pollen that announces the spring courtship of the Monterey pines?" Yes, the candles are showing, but the sap flow is weak right now. Yet, new cones will be growing soon, and many plants, animals and birds are arriving for the warmth and sun. Indian soap plants are sending their wavy, thin leaves out into the pathways, and the Fremont star lilies are also re-appearing. The fuchsia-flowered gooseberries are greening up, and white-tailed deer, not often seen in the Park over the last several years, are rummaging through the new, green shoots, ignoring the dried grasses from last year. The small seed-eaters, like the nuthatches and chickadees, flit through the oak and pine undergrowth. Poison oak is still sporting its deceptive winter sticks, but a few early leaves are a stunning, innocent, bright green.
Friends of Jacks Peak Park's new Outreach Committee. From left: Katie Hart, Ventana Chapter leader and FJPP sponsor Mary Pendlay, Michael Layne and Elizabeth Lambert. (Photograph: Steve Pendlay).
At the western kiosk, a beautiful array of pictures cover the bulletin board next to the map, welcoming visitors with images of the most popular Monterey pine forest inhabitants. The rear of the kiosk now presents specific information and pictures of the Monterey pine forest. Chapter leader Mary Pendlay and three student volunteers from the CSUMB Service Learning Institute have created new public outreach media, which include the bulletin boards for the kiosk; a 12 page color booklet about the Park, Monterey pine forest and history, soon to be published; and an educational power point presentation for middle and high school science students about the pine forest and its habitat. Many thanks to CSUMB students Elizabeth Lambert, Michael Layne and Katie Hart for their hard work and excellent projects, and to Laura Lee Lienk for her support through her "Environmental Interpretation" course. The Friends of Jacks Peak Park (FJPP) and the local community continually look for ways to celebrate the unique nature of Jacks Peak Park and the means to share it. Please join the docents every second Saturday of the month at 11 a.m. for a leisurely one hour tour through the largest, native, contiguous stand of Monterey pines in the world.
(See Monterey County Parks for more information)
Inner Coast Range habitat with a mosaic of vegetation including Chaparral, Oak and Foothill Pine Woodland on BLM land near the Fort Hunter-Liggett military base in Monterey County. (Photograph: Nikki Nedeff).
Chapter Submits Comments to BLM Regarding the Dangers of Fracking
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently soliciting comments to conduct studies of the potential environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and other oil drilling activities in central California for the 284,000 acres of public land under the jurisdiction of the Hollister Field Office. The resulting Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will evaluate the effects and risks of fracking in the Monterey Shale, an area stretching from Santa Cruz to Ventura Counties. BLM is also seeking statewide science review of potential oil and gas drilling impacts on the environment and geology of California, including the potential seismic impacts of drilling in a state that is constantly subjected to earthquakes.
The decision to conduct EIS review comes after a federal judge gave a victory to a Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) lawsuit which challenged BLM's decision to auction off about 2,500 acres to oil companies. The Court found that BLM had violated the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA; that they were using out of date environmental assessment and that the new drilling techniques warranted updated studies. The EIS process is likely to take about two years.
Attached are the Chapter's comments emphasizing the potential negative effects fracking will have on the environment and our dwindling water supplies. (PDF here)
Monterey's First Seed Library Almost Ready to Grow
By Justin Ebrahemi
Every great project begins with a few seeds. With the help of her community, Heather Cunningham, Environmental Science major at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) may have helped sprout a local grassroots seed revolution.
After completing her senior Capstone last year on seed libraries and models around the country, Ms. Cunningham connected with Francesca Garibaldi, Administrative Assistant of Monterey Public Library (MPL). Under Ms. Garibaldi's lead, MPL had begun quietly exploring the possibility of housing a Seed Library from as early as 2011. Four months ago, Garibaldi and Cunningham partnered to lead the project development and search for sponsorship. Particularly inspired by the Richmond Grows Seed Library, they contacted over 30 organizations and individuals with the hope that a local project would launch... [more]
Aerial view of the lush forests and natural visual resources at Fort Ord. (Photograph: Steve Zmak).
Chapter Retains Legal Counsel to Object to
Weakening Environmental Protections at Fort Ord
Ventana Chapter has retained San Francisco attorney Thomas N. Lippe to represent the Chapter in its challenge to recent events at the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) Board that could weaken the environmental protections we included in the Fort Ord Reuse Plan by way of our 1998 Settlement Agreement, known as Chapter 8 of the Master Resolution.
The Chapter has been working to protect the environment at Fort Ord since the Fort Ord Reuse Authority was established in 1994. In 1997, the Club filed a lawsuit challenging FORA's adoption of the Fort Ord Reuse Plan and the Environmental Impact Report for the Reuse Plan. The Club and FORA settled that case by FORA agreeing to adopt a "Master Resolution" governing FORA's certification of the local general plans adopted by the City of Marina, the City of Seaside, and Monterey County. The Master Resolution includes a mandatory requirement (in Master Resolution section 8.02.010), that FORA disapprove the "consistency" of any local general plan that meets any of six specified criteria.
The Sierra Club is concerned because, in drafting its new General Plan, Monterey County altered or omitted many important, mandatory policies and programs of the Base Reuse Plan that are essential for protecting the environment. These alterations and omissions fundamentally change the County's legal obligations when it reviews future development entitlements, because the changes transform mandatory requirements of the Reuse Plan into discretionary decisions by the County.
Currently, the FORA Board, based upon legal advice from its outside counsel, is poised to adopt an interpretation of Master Resolution section 8.02.010 that will severely weaken environmental protection at Fort Ord. This interpretation is designed to allow the Board to approve the consistency of the Monterey County General Plan with the Fort Ord Reuse Plan when it is anything but "consistent." The attached letter from the Chapter's legal counsel, Thomas N. Lippe explains these complex issues in more detail. (PDF here)
Monterey County drought conditions are very evident to Chapter hikers shown here on the Badger Hills Trailhead at Fort Ord.
(Photographer: Jerry Steingraeber).
Chapter Appeals Sand City Approval of The Collection Resort to
the California Coastal Commission
Sierra Club has concerns about the future of this federally-listed Threatened Western snowy plover with planned developments in coastal dunes at Sand City. (Photographer Brian L. Sullivan).
Ventana Chapter's attorney, Larry Silver has filed an appeal with the California Coastal Commission over the approval by the Sand City City Council of the The Collection at Monterey Bay resort planned for 26 acres in the dunes west of Highway 1. As proposed, the 340 unit resort is to be constructed in two phases: the first phase will include 105 time share units and the second phase will include a 235-unit hotel with a restaurant, conference center and wellness spa. There will be over 600 parking spaces.
The appeal says that the project as approved is inconsistent with the City's certified Local Coastal Program (LCP) policies including those related to hazard avoidance, protection of public views and natural resources, public access and adequacy of public services (traffic). The FEIR is inadequate and does not address protection of Seacliff buckwheat or Western snowy plover at the site. The project does not avoid and minimize significant impacts to important public views of the Pacific Ocean and the Monterey Peninsula. And the FEIR does not adequately address traffic access and shoreline hazards at the site.
Furthermore, the development is not sited to ensure safety and dune stability over its economic lifetime as required by the City's LCP. Portions of the project would be threatened by coastal erosion over time and the FEIR does not address this high risk scenario. Also, the FEIR does not discuss the effects on public access of re-routing the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail to accommodate this project.
California Coastal Commission Chair Steven Kinsey and Commissioner Mary Shallenberger have also filed an appeal of the Collection proposed development to the CCC. They argue that "the approved project is inconsistent with provisions of Sand City's certified Local Coastal Program with respect to hazards, natural visual resources, development and public access, and is also inconsistent with the public access and recreation policies of the Coastal Act."
The new fracking moratorium for Santa Cruz County will protect our homes, farms and water supply. (Photograph: Kenn Reiller).
Santa Cruz County Moves to Adopt Fracking Moratorium
On September 9th, 2013 the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors took a vote to move forward with a moratorium on all oil or gas development in the County. In October, after the necessary public noticing period had passed, the Board put a moratorium in force for all the unincorporated areas of the County. This begins the process of amending the Santa Cruz County General Plan to establish a moratorium on Fracking.
Sierra Club California and various Sierra Club Chapters from the Ventana Chapter south to the Angeles Chapter are organizing to confront the environmental threats posed by this new oil drilling technology. In the Monterey Shale "tight oil" or shale oil is the target of the fossil fuel industry, rather than natural gas. A "well stimulation" technique called acid stimulation is likely to be the extraction method of choice for the oil industry in the Monterey Shale. Acid stimulation is intended to chemically melt rock when it is combined with the high-pressure hydraulic fracturing techniques that began to be widely used in the 1990s. Contrary to oil industry public relations, Fracking is a new technology with a relatively short track record. Many problems have been exposed. Once the international price of oil rises again, drilling in the Monterey Shale is likely to increase rapidly unless our local governments act to prevent it... [more]
Rafael Payan, Executive Director of the Monterey Peninsula Park District. (Photographer: Stef Pummel)
Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District
Hires New Executive Director
By Justin Ebrahemi
The Ventana Chapter welcomes Rafael Payan, the newly appointed Executive Director of the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District (MPRPD), to our community. Serving in the recreation and open space conservation industry for nearly three decades, Payan has worked as a National Park ranger at Grand Canyon and Carlsbad Cavern Parks, project manager, acquisition specialist, executive director for Arizona's Natural Resources, and much more.
Currently, he sits as a board member for the White Mountain Apache Tribe's Heritage Foundation to make facility improvements on tribal land. Payan shares his sagacity with the nation's current park directors, as an instructor for the National Parks and Recreation Association's Directors School. He has partaken in the development of the New Sante Fe Trail along the front ridge of the Rocky Mountains, as well as the Kartchner Caverns State Park, which was acclaimed by National Geographic.
With so much under his belt, the Ventana Chapter is blessed to have him join our environmental effort. The ambitious director has only been part of our community for three months, yet when asked what his current projects are, it's obvious he's been busy. "We believe we can become a premier provider and conservator of open space."
The MPRPD is working in partnership with the Ventana Wildlife Society to establish condor feeding stations along the Big Sur Coast to enhance their northward movement. These stations would discourage condors from flying inland for food, where they can get lead poisoning by feeding on animals that have been hunted. Also along the Big Sur Coast, Payan leads his team to ensure that Palo Corona Regional Park is soon fully permitted to be more open to the public.
Payan is additionally working on the development of the Garland Ranch Education Center and Museum in Carmel, set to open this Earth Day in April. "We are placing much of our focus on the potential development of youth science camps at several sites. It is critical that we reach our youth and have them develop a positive, strong, and abiding relationship with the natural environment. As empirical evidence shows, we protect those things we love," explains Payan.
Hailing from sunny Arizona, the takes his family hiking despite Monterey's precarious weather. "Moving here in late summer was interesting for us, as we were not used to the fog that persistently rolled in from the Pacific Ocean every afternoon. But we have adjusted well and feel blessed to be here."
Payan has been offered several other positions in the western United States. When asked why he chose a position in Monterey, he humbly said "This was the place we felt we could most make a difference with regard to environmental preservation, conservation and, frankly, getting folks to become more engaged in a positive manner with the natural environment…This region is one of the most beautiful and diverse natural landscapes on the planet. We wanted to be part of it and the communities in the region."
Payan invites environmental leaders, educators, and students to open lines of communication with the MPRPD to address challenges together.The Ventana Chapter welcomes Rafael Payan to our community with great optimism for the future of our Peninsula.
Chapter hikes are a great way to learn about the world around us. Members here are looking at a Painted Lady butterfly held by lepidopterist/ornithologist Chris Tenney on a hike in Soberanes Canyon led Lynn Bomberger shown right.
(Photographer: Mary Conway).
Chapter Urges Sand City City Council to Deny Collection at Monterey Bay Project
Sand City City Council will hold a public hearing on the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for a proposed development, Collection at Monterey Bay on 26 acres in the dunes west of Highway 1 on December 17. King Ventures of San Luis Obispo has plans for a 340 unit resort to be constructed in two phases: the first phase will include 105 time share units and the second phase will include a 235-unit hotel with a restaurant, conference center and wellness spa. There will be over 600 parking spaces.
Ventana Chapter retained attorney Larry Silver of the California Environmental Law Project and coastal ecologist Dr. Peter Baye to provide comments. Our position is to request the City to deny the Project a Coastal Development permit (CDP) and not to certify the FEIR... [more]
Ventana Chapter Conservation Committee member Steve Zmak with his Sungevity solar panels in Marina that have been operating for more than a year.
Marina Is Going Solar!
The Ventana Chapter is assisting Citizens for Sustainable Marina (C4SM) in their campaign to convert as many homes in Marina to solar by August 2014. The Chapter donated $500 to fund printing and distributing flyers and other informational materials to educate residents of Marina on the benefits of rooftop solar power.
Enabled by a close partnership with one of California's leading solar providers, Sungevity, Marina residents who sign up will have access to easy, affordable solar. Sungevity's solar-leasing programs will make it possible for homeowners to put solar on their roofs with no money down, a $750 credit on their lease, and low monthly payments that will significantly reduce their current PG&E bill... [more]
Chapter members on the Infamous marathon hike of the entire 24-mile Pine Ridge Trail in the Ventana Wilderness led by leader Esperanza Hernandez this month.
Hiker Julio Ponce drew this sketch of the Pine Ridge Trail Hike as thank you to leader Esperanza!
Our redwood forests get a reprieve in AB 904. (Ventana Chapter file photo).
Legislative Victory for Santa Cruz Mountains Forests
In a hard fought legislative victory for conservation activists in Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, Assembly Bill AB 904 will not apply to these counties or to Marin County. Activists with the Ventana and Loma Prieta Chapters of Sierra Club, the Committee for Green Foothills, a member of the Sempervirens Fund Board and several mountain neighborhood groups and agencies worked very hard and were finally successful in excluding this law from applying to the coast ranges from Marin south to Watsonville. There is little commercial timber logging in the coast-ranges south of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The Santa Cruz Mountains have the most intense intermix of logging zoned land and residential home properties in the entire State of California. This was the issue that helped the activists fighting this bill to finally convince enough legislators to agree to exclude this area. Sadly this law could not be stopped for the sake of the rest of California's forests, despite strong efforts by Sierra Club CA and several Northern CA environmental groups. A representative of the Ventana Chapter, Kevin Collins, traveled to Sacramento twice to lobby in the State Capitol against this bill, as did several other local activists... [more]
||Chapter members Nikki Nedeff and Terry Hallock enjoying the views from Cone Peak. Kudos to Mike Heard of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance trail crew for clearing this spectacular route to the Ventana Wilderness second highest peak.
No fracking in the Monterey shale. This is what we have to lose! (Photograph: Steve Zmak)
Sierra Club Opposes Weak Fracking Bill SB 4 Passed by the Assembly
On September 11, the weak hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" bill SB 4, Senate Legislation by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills and Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced passed the Assembly with 46 votes. Earlier this month, several consumer and environmental groups including Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch and Center for Biological Diversity called for Senator Pavley to withdraw this hopelessly compromised bill.
Although well-meaning, SB 4 does not provide the disclosure needed for Californians to protect their environment and public health from fracking impacts. Moreover, recent amendments adopted on September 6, will make it hard for Californians—or local and state agencies—to oversee and control fracking's negative impacts until 2015. This could encourage a rush of new fracking well construction with no oversight... [more]
The Salinas Valley is under pressure for private oil and gas leasing. This will threaten prime agricultural land, water supplies and human health as well as destroy the unique natural landscape of our region. Photograph: Steve Zmak
Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity Win a Major Fracking Decision for Central California
On August 2, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced that it would halt two hydraulic fracturing leases for oil drilling on federal lands managed by their Hollister BLM office and covering several counties including Monterey. This decision came in the wake of a legal victory earlier this year in a suit brought by Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which challenged the BLM's decision to auction off about 2,500 acres of land in Monterey County to oil companies. The BLM has now further agreed to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate the effects and risks of fracking in the Monterey Shale, a region stretching from Ventura to Santa Cruz Counties... [more]
The Carmel River near Sulphur Springs Camp in the Ventana Wilderness. Look closely and you will see a mountain lion jumping across the river in his natural habitat. Photograph courtesy of Ventana Wilderness Alliance.
New Water Supply for Monterey Peninsula Residents Moves Closer to Approval
Early this month, three formal settlement agreements regarding the new Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project (MPWSP) were filed by California-American Water Company (Cal-Am) with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Cal Am is seeking a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) before the CPUC.
Sierra Club has been engaged in legal action to protect the public trust resources of the Carmel River since 1991 when represented by attorney Larry Silver, the Club filed a complaint with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) protesting Cal Am's continued over drafting of the Carmel River. After years of legal wrangling the SWRCB issued a Cease and Desist Order in 2009... [more]
Federally listed threatened Pacific Coast Western snowy plover which nests locally on Marina and Sand City beaches (courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service).
Chapter Seeks Protection for Western Snowy Plover
By Rita Dalessio
Ventana Chapter will be working to protect the federally listed threatened Pacific Coast western snowy plover as plans are developed for a sustainable Monterey Peninsula desalination plant.
Proposals for a new Regional Water Project for Monterey Peninsula are currently undergoing review by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and other agencies. Next steps could be a search for a suitable location for desalination test wells along the coast. Under consideration is a portion of the Cemex sand mining property in Marina... [more]
A History of Sierra Club Efforts to Protect the Carmel River
Carmel River from the Boronda Bridge in Carmel Valley (Ventana Chapter file photo).
For over 22 years the Ventana Chapter has been litigating on behalf of the public trust resources of the Carmel River. We have been represented by attorney Larry Silver, and consulted with hydrologist and fishery biologist Dr. John Williams.
Following years of futile negotiations, in March 1991, Sierra Club filed a complaint with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) protesting California American Water's (CAW) continued over drafting of the Carmel River. Our complaint alleged that CAW's pumping from the Carmel River's subsurface flow was without lawful right and that its water diversions threatened the survivability of the local steelhead population (Oncorhychus mykiss). During twelve days of hearings by SWRCB, Sierra Club presented scientific evidence that CAW's diversions were unlawful and that CAW was producing water from the Carmel River alluvium without a permit from SWRCB. Sierra Club also showed that these practices were damaging the public trust resources of the Carmel River... [more]
Chapter Submits Comments to State Regulatory Board Regarding Lack of Oversight for Fracking; Public Concern Grows
Does Monterey County need a fracking rig here? Big Oil says yes... we say No! Photograph: Steve Zmak
The California Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) has recently come under fire for its lack of regulation of "fracking," the process of hydraulic fracturing, an oil and natural gas extraction technique that involves injecting a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and assorted chemicals into the ground. In October 2012, Sierra Club and Earth Justice sued DOGGR to block approval of new oil and gas wells because State regulators have allegedly failed to consider or adequately analyze risks of fracking. This year the agency held five state-wide hearings to receive public input on a "discussion draft" report on proposed regulations. The final hearing was held in Monterey. Chapter members joined a group of about 70 participants from Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz Counties to voice concerns about fracking in the 1750 square mile area which contains Monterey shale... [more]
Fish Rescue Program at the Sleepy Hollow Steelhead Rearing Facility in Carmel Valley
MPWMD staff rescuing steelhead in the Carmel River (Photo courtesy of MPWMD)
by Rita Dalessio
The Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD) has been rescuing young Carmel River steelhead (Oncorhychus mykiss) from the drying lower Carmel River as part of an annual program to preserve local stocks of the threatened fish since 1989. Every spring or summer, beginning at the Highway 1 Bridge, District staff follow the retreating river upstream and remove fish from pools before they dry up. The rescued fish are either transported to upstream portions of the Carmel River with proper habitat conditions or to the District's Sleepy Hollow Steelhead Rearing Facility (SHSRF) if river habitat is not available. Fish are reared there until the river flows again in late fall or winter... [more]
New Sierra Club Lawsuit Aims to Protect More Public Lands from Fracking
In the wake of a landmark legal victory against fracking on public lands, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed a new lawsuit on April 18 challenging the auction of an additional 17,000 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) acres in Monterey, San Benito, and Fresno counties for drilling and fracking.
The lawsuit of which the Ventana Chapter is a sponsor, says the government did not fully consider the dangers fracking poses to watersheds, endangered wildlife and air quality before auctioning off the leases in December... [more]
Chapter Executive Committee members met this month with Congressman Sam Farr to discuss our conservation work.
From left to right: Dale Agron, Rich Fox, Rita Dalessio, Congressman Farr, Scott Waltz and Neil Agron.
South Monterey County land near Lockwood-San Ardo Road looking northeast across BLM Lease Parcel 15 towards the Salinas Valley. Parcel 15 was auctioned off in December by BLM in spite of Sierra Club and CBD protests. Sierra Club is considering litigation in federal court. This is an area of prime inner Coast Range habitat with a mosaic of vegetation including Chaparral, Oak and Foothill Pine Woodland. (Photo: Nikki Nedeff)
Sierra Club and CBD Win Major Fracking Lawsuit Victory:
Federal Judge Rules that BLM Failed to Consider Effects of Fracking on Oil Leases
On April 7, Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) won a challenge to Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) September 2011 mineral lease sale, which leased roughly 2700 acres for oil and gas development in Fresno and Monterey counties.
Federal Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal granted the Club's motion for summary judgment on the primary issue, which was that BLM failed to consider the effects of fracking.
The potential consequences of this ruling are very significant, as Monterey County is believed to have one of the largest deposits of shale oil in the nation.
In issuing his ruling, the judge stated that fracking both makes oil and gas production more likely, and it increases the risk of oil and gas production that does occur... [more]
Make a contribution to the Sierra Club today - stop fracking in Monterey County!
Your local Sierra Club Chapter and Group needs financial support to carry on our fight to protect the spectacular coast, valleys, and mountains.
We cannot fight for endangered and at risk wildlife without money. We cannot save precious forests, mountains, watersheds, and open spaces without money.
We know that you care about the environment from your membership in the Club. Now we need your help.
Much of the work of the Club consists of non-glamorous, roll-up-your-sleeves labor. Volunteers study EIRs and make comments; activists get government staff reports and keep tabs on proposed developments and policy changes; sometimes the Club files suit.
Please help us continue to protect and preserve the Central Coast. To make a donation please send a check made out to ‘Sierra Club' to
Sierra Club Ventana Chapter, P O Box 5667, Carmel, CA 93921-5667
Contributions to the Sierra Club are not tax deductible. To send tax deductible contributions, which mainly support legal actions when they become necessary, make your check out to ‘Sierra Club Foundation' instead.