Indexed News on:

--the California "Mega-Park" Project

Tracking measurable success on efforts across California to preserve and connect our Parks & Wildlife Corridors



WE POST NEWS THREE WAYS:
1. long detailed stories on blogspot (here!)
2. short messages on Twitter
3. automated news feeds from CA enviro websites in the right-hand column which change frequently and are not archived by our website (that's why we now have a twitter account to permanently capture the memorable feeds)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

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Cold Feet? Since Development Deal was Announced, the Stock Market has not been as kind to Tejon Ranch Company





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Our Opinion, By Rex Frankel, Rare Earth News

8/28/2008 (new information added 9/1)

Three months after what was described as a “landmark” deal was unveiled to allow 30,000 more acres of urban sprawl to be paved in north L.A. County and southern Kern County, a stock tracking website has reported that mutual funds are "dumping" their holdings in Tejon Ranch stock. Tejon Ranch stock as of today is trading for $34 a share. At its high in 2005, the price was $61 a share, and the share price was around $45 when the deal with environmental groups was unveiled.

How this affects the development deal is unknown. The deal by the ranch company and 5 large environmental groups required the groups to not oppose the development of the 30,000 acres, which totals 10% of this massive ranch as long as the company agreed to not develop the other 90% of their land. Since this deal was unveiled, there has been a large drop in the share price of the ranch company; this could indicate that the deal is lot more shaky than is publicly known.

(For details of the share sell-off, see: http://www.mffais.com/trc.html “Tejon Ranch Company stock was recently dumped by 15 funds!”)

At its current price, the entire Tejon Ranch could be acquired by the State of California for between $500 and $600 million. See:

http://rare-earth-news.blogspot.com/2008/08/tejon-ranch-stock-is-at-5-year-low-is.html

One of the reasons given by the Sierra Club for their decision to cut a deal with Tejon Ranch Company was because the investors controlling the Company had a reputation for buying large ranches and then selling off pieces of the ranches to numerous people. This, we were told, has resulted in environmentalists having to fight numerous battles over the same piece of fragile wildlife habitat, rather than dealing with one owner. Given that Tejon Ranch totals 450 square miles, it is in fact composed of numerous square mile parcels that could be sold off without any review of the environmental impacts. This could, in theory, fracture this ecological gem into several hundred or a thousand mini suburban ranches and that would be an environmental disaster. This was stated as the “threat” if the deal allowing development of the most freeway-close 10% of the Tejon ranch was not approved.

Was this a realistic threat, however? Could a thousand new separate owners of the Tejon Ranch find a water supply, fight off lawsuits from wildlife-protection groups and face the other hurdles any other developer elsewhere in the state would face in developing in a wilderness? The threat made a good headline in the papers, “Developer Backs Off on Threat to Last Major Private Wilderness in Southern California”. The threat may have worked to scare some groups into cutting this deal. But was this threat merely posturing to raise the stock price of the land for the speculators who had little chance of successfully developing this land for a long time, given the currently terrible market for housing development? Judging from the firm's stock price slide since the announcement of the deal, it seems that investors may not share the dealmakers' enthusiasm for the deal.

To remind our readers of the stakes of the battle over Tejon Ranch, it is the largest single contiguous private land holding in California. Its land area is the size of the massive City of Los Angeles: 450 square miles. Located at the spot where the Sierra Nevada mountains connect to the Angeles and Los Padres National Forests, it serves as a critical wildlife habitat linkage that connects Yosemite to the Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu Beach and to Big Sur. It straddles the 5 Freeway and if built with the proposed 30,000 homes and 30 million square feet of office, retail and industrial space, would add new urban sprawl to a virtual wilderness that separates Los Angeles’ sprawl from the next concreted area to the north, Bakersfield.

The 10 percent of the land that could be developed under this plan is all next to the Freeway, Highway 5 and 138, while the other 90% that is slated to be “preserved” is mostly steep and mountainous, crossed by active earthquake faults, and is critical wildlife habitat for the endangered California Condor and home to numerous other rare species of plants and animals.

Announcement of this deal in May between the development firm, and 5 large environmental groups raised quite an outcry from the grassroots members in these groups. The local press in the community of Frazier Park just south of the Ranch has flared with front page exposes on the effects that may have been missed in the rush to “cut a deal”. Twelve Condor experts vilified the dealings of three biologists who chose to work for the developer. Critics have described this deal as giving most of the benefit to Tejon Ranch Company while, under the deal, the public has to accept a huge amount of sprawl in exchange for preservation of land that could never have been developed anyway.

And while the state has entered a severe drought, and it in fact has a law that requires all developments to have a guaranteed source of drinking water or they cannot be approved, we were told that if we didn’t go along with this deal, then speculators could cut dry mountains and desert into ranchettes. Where is the water for this threat? Unless you and I cut back and turn our yards brown, this water isn’t available.

Have some large investors figured out what a lot of us suspected: With gasoline prices surging, a development deal based on residents driving 60 to 100 miles to work each way doesn’t make a lot of sense and likely isn’t going to make sense for a long time. Is it time to rethink this deal?

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http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/environment/2008-07-29-ecoside_N.htm
"The trade-offs affected not only the environment but hundreds of millions of dollars in future profits of Tejon Ranch Co., which trades on the New York Stock Exchange. The firm's stock value has fallen $200 million to $517 million since the deal was announced May 8. The company still must obtain local, state and federal government approval for its projects and could be sued by other groups."

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For more information, see:

http://savetejonranch.org/

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(9/1/2008--Note to readers: we reported last week in this story that, along with other large investment funds, the largest owner of Tejon's stock had sold their shares. The Tejon Ranch Company has issued a press release (http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/tejon-ranch-co-issues-statement/story.aspx?guid=%7B7C8B0683-2070-485B-ACCA-995002023BF9%7D&dist=hppr ) saying that this is not true. This was originally reported by the website http://www.mffais.com/trc.html , which is where our information came from. The website now lists only 10, instead of 15 mutual funds as having "dumped" their holdings in Tejon Ranch Company. From what we can determine, the Ranch company's largest investor, Third Avenue Funds, owning 28% of the stock, filed a form (http://sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1099281/000109928108000090/tam062008.txt) with the Securities and Exchange Commission that gave the incorrect impression that the sell-off of the shares had occurred. This is because 2 columns of information were switched in Third Avenue's filing. The mffais website's "Frequently Asked Questions" page (http://www.mffais.com/faq.html#incorrect ) reports that companies often fail to follow SEC rules and sometimes switch the order of key information such as shares owned, which then leads to errors by the public in interpretting the voluminous amount of data that are in these stock ownership filings. If the mffais website changes their data again, we will post a clarification.

It remains unhallenged that other investment funds are selling off their Tejon Ranch shares.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

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Judge dismisses case seeking roads in Death Valley

By NOAKI SCHWARTZ, Associated Press Writer
8/12/2008
http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_10179217

LOS ANGELES—A federal judge in Fresno largely dismissed a lawsuit that sought to open up roads through miles of remote desert canyons and valleys in Death Valley National Park.
In the lawsuit dismissed Monday, Inyo County sought to re-establish access to four roads near the Nevada border that park officials seized when the national park was established in 1994. The county filed its lawsuit against the federal government in 2006.

Six environmental groups filed legal papers in 2007 to join the National Park Service in fighting the lawsuit. The coalition argued that reopening the old mining roads that had been washed away would harm the park's fragile ecosystem, including a number of federally protected animals.

"It's a significant ruling and a big one for our team and for the park," said Ted Zukoski, an Earthjustice attorney representing the environmental groups.
The conservation groups saw the disputed area as remote canyons that the Bureau of Land Management deemed to be "roadless" years earlier. The county, however, saw the same area as 20 miles of established roadways that could one day be widened.

Randy Keller, assistant county counsel, said the county was trying to re-establish local control over roads in an area where 98 percent of the land is owned by the state and federal government. Keller said the county is disappointed by the ruling and had not decided whether to appeal.

"It's really the prerogative of local government to maintain its roads," he said.

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Judge Says No to Death Valley Road-building

In a victory for desert tortoises, bighorn sheep, and Death Valley archaeological sites, on Monday a federal judge tossed out a lawsuit by Inyo County, California to build roads through remote parts of Death Valley National Park. In the suit, filed against the National Park Service, the county was trying to use an ancient, repealed right-of-way law to get its hands on three routes -- currently little-used paths and canyon bottoms -- and make them into two-lane highways. Fortunately for Death Valley wildlife, the routes had been included in wilderness study areas back in the disco era. Because the county didn't take action within the 12-year statute of limitations, the court dismissed its demand for all of one route and almost all of the other two. Besides helping species, Monday's decision is a win for the Center for Biological Diversity and five allies, represented by Earthjustice, who intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of the Park Service. Get more from the San Bernardino Sun.
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/center/articles/2008/san-bernardino-sun-08-12-2008.html
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Large Ranch South of Pinnacles National Monument May Sprout Oil Wells

Friday, August 08, 2008

http://www.pinnaclenews.com/news/contentview.asp?c=247399

An Ojai-based oil company could start drilling in San Benito County within months, if county planning commissioners approve the project.

Five Oaks officials own the land, a 13,000-acre cattle ranch near the Monterey County border south of Pinnacles National Monument. Nahabedian Exploration Group officials have the mineral rights.

If exploration is successful, Nahabedian officials would drill 18 wells on 16 acres, Slavich said.
"All the wells are close together and they are right next to the Monterey County line," said Byron Turner, assistant director of planning and building for San Benito County.
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Numerous Wind and Solar Power Plants Proposed in Kern County's Desert

http://www.bakersfield.com/102/story/518632.html

8/11/2008

...At least 27 wind farms have been proposed in eastern Kern County. The growth is due to several factors. Kern’s wind farms now generate 710 megawatts of wind energy, but that’s expected to grow by an additional 4,500 megawatts in the next decade due to the ongoing construction of Southern California Edison’s Tehachapi Transmission line project.

...There are no utility-scale solar plants in Kern County yet, though dozens have been proposed in the Mojave Desert as part of a massive land grab that’s taken place in recent years. In Kern, four projects are proposed for BLM land and two others are slated for private land in the desert.
The most promising so far is a solar thermal plant near California City proposed by Beacon Solar LLC that would supply electricity to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
eSolar, a solar startup backed by Google, is also planning to build a solar thermal plant in southeast Kern to supply Southern California Edison, according to the utility company. When contacted, eSolar officials declined to comment on the project.
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U.S. Marines Seek to Expand 932 Square-Mile Twentynine Palms Base by 70%
in Mojave Desert


Base taking closer look at Johnson Valley property
http://www.hidesertstar.com/articles/2008/08/20/news/news2.txt
8/20/2008 Hi-Desert Star

The Department of the Navy has submitted an application to the Bureau of Land Management to withdraw from public use 421,270 acres of land that border Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, including land in the Johnson Valley area.

The Marine Corps announced in May last year that the Secretary of Defense authorized a study that could lead to land acquisition near the base. The public acreage in the study area borders the base on its eastern, southern and western areas. Base officials say the withdrawal request gives the Marine Corps the opportunity to carefully study these areas as alternatives for meeting training requirements. The BLM will publish a notice of intent for the withdrawal request, which will trigger a public-comment period. While forming an environmental impact statement, the Marine Corps and BLM say they will work with off-road vehicle, recreation and business communities to manage continued public access to the areas under study for potential acquisition.

Base officials expect the Department of the Navy to issue a notice of intent to begin the environmental impact study in late October or early November, with a public scoping meeting to be held in early December. At the meetings, officials say they will share with the public reasonable alternatives, including one alternative to take no action at all.S olar and wind power enterprises have also expressed their interest in acquiring government land in this area for solar- and wind-power generation.

Off-roaders urge base to look east

Ray Pessa is past president of the Friends of Giant Rock, a non-profit organization that formed a few years ago, “To address issues of concern to off-roaders and keep riding areas open,” among other stated goals.Pessa is also working with the newly formed Partnership For Johnson Valley, which seeks to keep an approved off-road riding area bordering the base from being annexed for military use. Johnson Valley is the site of the largest open access riding area in the country. The partnership has met with base officials to inform the leadership about public land use and encourage the government to look to the east of the base for its expansion plans, not into Johnson Valley. In addition to off-roaders, Pessa pointed out that government land bordering the base hosts hikers, campers, rock hounds, scouting organizations and rocket clubs.Pessa said the organizations he represents are in “full support of Marines getting best training they can possibly get.”

He further stated the groups he is associated with would like for the government to “take a good, hard look to the east” to fulfill its training needs. Twentynine Palms called best siteThe Marine base currently covers 932 square miles of land north of Twentynine Palms and south of Interstate 40 in the southwest Mojave Desert. If the Marines were to acquire all of the proposed 658 square miles, it would increase the size of the training grounds by more than 70 percent. The Marines have stated previously that any additional land area added to existing base real estate would be primarily used as buffer zones, not for live fire or maneuvering.In a fact sheet published last year, the Marine Corps said it conducted a lengthy, nationwide search for additional training areas in Virginia, North Carolina, the Southeast and the Southwest, concluding only the Twentynine Palms facility met its requirements.Earlier this year, the Marine Corps announced plans for building projects and facilities upgrades totaling more than $271 million dollars for the Twentynine Palms base and the intent to station an additional 1,700 Marines here.The planned plus-up is part of a proposal to increase the active-duty population of the Marine Corps from 175,000 to 202,000.Brig. Gen. C.M. Gurganus, commander of the combat center, wrote in a letter to the community on Monday that the proposed land acquisition has a single purpose: To train Marines as they fight.

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Cyanide-Leaching Gold Mine Proposed Between Owens Lake and Death Valley National Park

Dear California Wilderness Coalition Supporter,
One of California’s many unprotected wilderness areas is at risk of being bulldozed and mined. Please take action today to let the BLM know that the stunning Conglomerate Mesa is an important place for plants, animals, and people and deserves a full Environmental Impact Statement.

Click here to take action. http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2167/t/5243/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=2537

Background:

Conglomerate Mesa is located in the northern Mojave Desert, between the Inyo Mountains and the Malpais Mesa Wildernesses. Jutting up from the Joshua Tree covered valley floor is the 7,700 foot mesa topped with spectacular, ragged conglomerate formations, while the western slope includes amazing rolling, laminated badlands. The area also contains the remains of primitive shelters and old foot and mule trails from California’s mining past. Absolutely pristine, it is roadless and has never been settled, mined, grazed, or used by ORVs. From the top, visitors are treated to dramatic a 360 degree view of the Owens Valley and Mt. Whitney to the west and Telescope Peak to the east.

Conglomerate Mesa was identified in CWC’s 2001 Citizens’ Inventory as possessing outstanding wilderness qualities. Over the last few years volunteers and staff have been working to include it in proposals for wilderness protection. Now, the Idaho-based Timberline Resources Corporation wants to bulldoze roads and conduct exploratory drilling on this stunning and picturesque landscape. Their exploration could lead to open-pit cyanide heap-leach gold mining.
The BLM has just released their Environmental Analysis and we have until this Friday, August 29 to submit public comments in response. Please take a moment to let the BLM know that this area is important to the environmental community and deserves a full Environmental Impact Statement.

http://www.calwild.org/help/index.php
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Endangered Gnatcatchers Threatened: Oil Company wants to wreck the Montebello Hills in East Los Angeles

http://www.whittierdailynews.com/ci_9834248?source=rss_viewed

By Amanda Baumfeld, Staff Writer and Thomas Himes, Correspondent
Article Launched: 07/09/2008

MONTEBELLO - Residents who attended a meeting about a possible development in the Montebello Hills expressed opposition to transforming the vast open space into a residential neighborhood. About 80 community members on Tuesday provided input on the Montebello Hills Specific Plan, a project that proposes to build 1,200 residential homes, a series of trails and a public park on 480 acres of open space. "I'm for the hills to be used for recreation, not housing," said Barbra Diaz, 43, a Montebello High School graduate. "This is that last open space we have. I think we need to think about this in great depth."

An Environmental Impact Report on the project is currently being drawn up by P&D Consultants. Tuesday's meeting marked one of many opportunities for community input on the project. Another meeting will take place on Saturday afternoon. Mayor Bill Molinari said much of the community is in favor of the development. "It is the last opportunity we have to develop the remaining hills," Molinari said Tuesday. "It would bring a lot of assets to the city."
Molinari pointed out that there are still a number of issues to be worked out, including the impact on schools and if the hills development would require a fire station.

An application to develop the land was submitted to the city in December by Cook Hill Properties LLC, a development consultant for Plains Exploration & Production Co., which owns the property. The land is also home to the gnatcatcher - an endangered species of bird - which requires two-thirds of the land to be devoted to a habitat for the bird.
"We've worked hard to develop a balanced, comprehensive community plan that respects the land and the needs of the community," said Byron de Arakal, spokesman for Cook Hill Properties.

But Linda Strong, a member of the "Save the Montebello Hills" task force, offered her own take. "It has tremendous ecological and recreational potential for current and future Montebello residents," Strong said. "Residents have no idea what they're sacrificing for profit and for out-of-town business interests."

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useful links:

the developer's website: http://www.montebellohillsreserve.com/

http://saveourcommunity.us/?q=node/812 for debate in the local community about the project

http://angeles.sierraclub.org/environmental/CampaignsLAC_MontebelloHillsTF.asp

http://angeles.sierraclub.org/environmental/images/MontebelloHillsVision_Brochure.pdf
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Coastal Commission approves desalination plant in Carlsbad

The $300-million project in San Diego County would produce up to 50 million gallons of fresh water each day. Environmentalists say marine life would be damaged.

By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, August 7, 2008

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-me-desal7-2008aug07,0,5546574.story

The California Coastal Commission voted Wednesday to approve a controversial $300-million proposal to build a desalination plant at the Encina power plant facility adjacent to the beach in Carlsbad."I think it's time to move forward, to take decisive action, " said commission Chairman Patrick Kruer.

The desalination plant, to be built by the Poseidon Resources Corp. of Stamford, Conn., is designed to produce up to 50 million gallons of fresh water each day, which would be 9% of San Diego County's usage. Promoters would like to begin construction immediately and have targeted 2011 for completion.The proposal was backed by seven local mayors but opposed by several environmental groups and San Diego City Atty. Michael Aguirre. Aguirre, at the commission's meeting in Oceanside, sided with critics who say that the amount of fresh water that would be provided is outweighed by the damage to marine life; he suggested greater use of water reclamation.

The commission tentatively approved the project in November but with 22 conditions involving finding ways to minimize damage to fish and plants and to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the salt-water-to-fresh process. A majority of commissioners agreed, in a series of votes, that the company has satisfied the conditions.

Promoters of the for-profit venture are hoping to provide at least a partial answer to San Diego County's perennial search for water. With scant groundwater resources, nearly all of the region's water is received from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and from a deal that allows the county to buy some of the Imperial Irrigation District's share of the Colorado River. San Diego farmers are already facing a 30% cutback in water supplies as the state struggles with continued drought along the Colorado River and a court decision that has restricted water flows from Northern California through the California Aqueduct.The issue now goes to the state Lands Commission before construction can begin.
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Wetland Mitigation for Desalination Plant is Inadequate


from Mark Massara, director of the Sierra Club's Coastal Program
http://www.sierraclub.org/CA/coasts/

Greetings,
On August 6, 2008, the California Coastal Commission (CCC) is holding critical hearings to decide the fate of Poseidon Resources' proposed Carlsbad Desalination Plant (CDP), which if constructed would be the largest desalination facility in the western hemisphere. Some of its damages are known: Poseidon intends to take over 300 million gallons of ocean water per day, and destroy 11 billion marine organisms per year, including 16 million fish larvae per day, and 1 million garibaldi fish per day, in an attempt to make 50 million gallons of fresh water per day that will be some of the most expensive tap water in the United States. To do it, Poseidon admits it will contribute mightily to global warming by emitting over 100,000 tons of green house gas (GHG) anually.

Next week the California Coastal Commission will vote on Poseidon's inadequate and self- serving 'plan' to mitigate the climate and marine impacts of this facility. Expert analysis has revealed that Poseidon's 'plan' is designed to give them veto power over their climate impacts, and that they seek to dramatically limit the number of acres of wetlands needed to mitigate their massive fish kills. Poseidon seeks to create only 37-acres of wetlands as mitigation when studies show that it will take more than 68-acres to offset environmental damages caused by their plant. In California, wetlands are normally required to be offset at a ratio of 3:1; meaning, Poseidon should have to create approximately 200-acres of new wetlands.
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Major Container Port Proposed at Humboldt Bay

http://www.wildcalifornia.org/pages/page-289

Comments needed on proposed Redwood Marine Terminal by Thursday, August 28, 2008.

EPIC wants to encourage more community engagement with proposals todevelop Humboldt Bay as a major industrial port. Check out http://wildcalifornia.org for more details.

A group promoting the in the proposed Redwood Marine Terminal project,calling itself the “Rail and Port Infrastructure Taskforce” (RAPIT) has put together a one-sided "forum” to push for unsustainable development of Humboldt Bay. The RAPIT forum will be held tonight August 20 at 5:30 at the Wharfinger in Eureka. The Redwood Marine Terminal business plan being considered by the Humboldt Bay Harbor District would create a new industrial container shipping facility, subsidize the defunct Northwest Pacific Railroad and build massive infrastructure for broader industrial development of Humboldt Bay. The time is now to get involved! Even if you can’t make tonight’s forum, please write even brief comment on the draft Redwood Marine Terminal business plan. The Humboldt Bay Harbor District will accept comments on the proposed development, including acontroversial proposal to lease the harbor and railroad as a single entity through investment bankers Goldman Sachs, through Thursday, August 28. We need to let the District know that we cannot sustain our unique localcommunity by turning Humboldt Bay over to heavy industry, bringing in hugecontainer ships, and resuming polluting freight-only rail service in our bio-region.The business plan and feasibility study can be viewed at http://www.wildcalifornia.org/cgi-files/0/pdfs/1219248865_Redwood_Terminal_Business_Plan.pdf

To submit your comments call 443-0801, email ptyson@portofhumboldtbay.org or mail them to the Humboldt Bay Harbor,Recreation and Conservation District at 601 Startare Drive, Eureka, CA95501.Your voice counts! Tell them you DO NOT support the Redwood Marine Terminal Project. Our bay need not support industrial corporate development to a few special interests for Humboldt County to thrive.
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Steelhead could return to Ventura County's Santa Clara river


By Ron Bottorff, Friends of the Santa Clara River, http://fscr.org/
Posted: Aug. 20, 2008, the Santa Clarita Signal

On July 25, the National Marine Fisheries Service issued a document that could eventually return steelhead salmon to the Santa Clara River.

In a document that will have major effects on future operations at the Vern Freeman Diversion facility near Santa Paula by the United Water Conservation District, the National Marine Fisheries Service issued a final biological opinion concluding that future operation of the facility in the proposed manner could jeopardize the existence of the Southern California steelhead.

A biological opinion is a technical document written after in-depth study by wildlife agency scientists that reviews the proposed human impacts to an endangered species. The agency then determines whether that species can continue to survive.

This biological opinion also laid out a set of actions, termed a "reasonable and prudent alternative," that United could take to avoid the likelihood of steelhead extinction. This fish was once plentiful in local rivers but is now listed as endangered.The Freeman Diversion is owned by the United States Bureau of Reclamation and operated by United Water. Starting in May 2005, the National Marine Fisheries Service has been in formal consultation with the bureau under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act on how diversion operations (including the existing fish ladder) affect the steelhead and its critical habitat.

The service document was issued as a result of the need for new operational procedures at the diversion. Under the Endangered Species Act, the bureau must consult with the service if facility operation involves impacts to an endangered species that is within the service’s jurisdiction, as is the case for anadromous species that spend portions of their life cycles in the ocean.A fish ladder does currently exist at the facility. But it has not allowed successful passage over the past decades of steelhead migrating upstream from the ocean.

The Santa Clara is deemed one of the most important rivers in Southern California for steelhead recovery. The 122-page biological opinion does not specifically define what changes are needed at the facility, but instead calls for convening of a panel of experts to establish interim physical modifications to the facility (to be operational by Dec 21) as well as long-term modifications to be complete by Dec. 31, 2011, when the bureau’s discretion over operation of the diversion lapses.

Recovery of steelhead runs in the Santa Clara River has long been a top priority for the Friends of the Santa Clara River. The southern steelhead was listed as endangered about 10 years ago.Since then, there has been a plethora of meetings, discussions, issuance of formal and informal documents and studies. But effective action has not ensued, as evidenced by the fact that only a handful of adult steelhead have been observed in the Santa Clara River in recent years.

Friends of the River believes it is time — in fact, way past time — to take the appropriate action.Potential return of the steelhead to their ancient spawning grounds in the Santa Clara River watershed is exciting news that would not have occurred without the Endangered Species Act. Now proposed rule changes could eliminate such progress toward species protection.Under the current regulations, federal agencies must consult with scientists at the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine whether a project is likely to harm endangered species or habitat.

The new regulations would:

--Exempt thousands of federal activities from review under the Endangered Species Actn Eliminate checks and balances of independent oversight

--Limit which effects can be considered harmfuln Prevent consideration of a project’s contribution to global warming

--Set an inadequate 60-day deadline for wildlife experts to evaluate a project in the instances when they are invited to participate — or else the project gets an automatic green light

--Enable large-scale projects to go without review by dividing them into hundreds of small projects

Because these regulations are administrative and not legislative, they won’t need the approval of Congress.

Friends of the Santa Clara River joins with thousands of other local conservation groups and individuals across the nation in asking President Bush to rescind such inappropriate rule-making and let our independent wildlife scientists do their jobs.Without proper checks and balances, these new rules may simply mean extinction for many of our beautiful and rare plants and animals throughout the United States.

Ron Bottorff is chairman of Friends of the Santa Clara River. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.

North Coast Forest News:

All Ancient Redwoods Protected: Pacific Lumber’s New Owners Promise “No Cutting of Trees Born Before 1800 With a Diameter of 4 Feet or More.”

Green Diamond Company Tree Cutting is Halted

8/26/2008

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-timber24-2008aug24,0,6237338.story

SCOTIA, CALIF. -- Beneath the gnarled green-needled boughs of the North Coast redwoods, a remarkable encounter one recent day shook the roots of the forest's fiercest struggle.

A top timber company executive hiked into the woods with a message for the latest generation of tree sitters perched on platforms high in the massive limbs of the ancient trees they've campaigned to protect.

Come down out of the sky, he told them. The war is over.

…Pacific Lumber under Hurwitz mowed down trees in vast clear cuts to maximize profits and hungered to cut mammoth thousand-year-old trees; the new company intends to wield the chain saw far more selectively on its sprawling 328 square miles of coastal forest and won't cut any redwood born prior to 1800 with a diameter of 4 feet or more….cutting no more wood per year than the forest can grow…

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http://efhumboldt.org/2008/08/latest-ef-humboldt-action-press-release/

8/25/2008

A new Earth First! tree-sit in a Green Diamond Resource (formerly known as Simpson Timber) logging plan east of Eureka ended as suddenly as it began

….Three days later, a Green Diamond employee returned to mark the occupied tree and at least two other imperiled Old-Growth Redwoods as “Wildlife Leave Trees”, seeming to indicate that they won’t be cut. This surprised EF! Humboldt activists because the California Department of Forestry had already approved the logging plan. While the activists suspected it was a deceptive move to trick the tree-sitters into coming down, another piece of information came to light.

An Earth First!er reviewing the logging plan document discovered that Green Diamond would not be allowed to log the area until next February 19th at the earliest. This is due to the fact that lumber companies are required by California law to allow trees in adjacent clearcuts to reach three years of age before logging neighboring forests.

The Earth First!ers decided to remove the platform and gear from the tree, assess the new situation and re-calibrate the defensive strategy for the threatened groves.

“At least now they know we’re serious,” said a tree-sitter by the name of “Crossroads”.

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http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/green/detail?&entry_id=29442

With the sale of Pacific Lumber Company to Don Fisher's Humboldt Redwood Company, the longstanding and fabled tree-sits of Humboldt County—home to some 40 percent of all remaining old-growth redwood forests—may be ending.

Humboldt Redwood Company has promised to embrace sustainable logging practices, and has engaged in direct talks with the current generation of tree-sitters.

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The war of my childhood has ended

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/8/24/205151/539

The redwood wars preceded me and the redwood wars outlasted my time in Humboldt, but this month I can finally say that the biggest of them - the war with Pacific Lumber, once controlled by Charles Hurwitz, the junk bond king, the man who would have cut them all down at once if he could have - that war is over. And the trees, and the people of Humboldt, won.

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Direct Action Works!!! Tree Sitters in Humboldt are Victorious!!

http://bullsheet.wordpress.com/2008/08/23/direct-action-gets-the-goods-treesitters-in-humboldt-victorious/

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http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2008/08/378571.shtml

http://www.forestdefenders.com/2008/08/19/tree-sits-protection-news-still-gaining-momentum/

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/08/18/18527632.php

http://www.times-standard.com/localnews/ci_10243735

http://redwoodreality.blogspot.com/2008/08/press-release-from-bay-area-coalition.html

also commentary from those who supported other bankruptcy reorganization plans

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/08/18/18527635.php

http://humboldtforestdefense.blogspot.com/2008/08/treesitting-works.html

http://www.forestdefenders.com/2008/08/12/its-just-about-official-all-current-humboldt-county-tree-sits-are-saved/

Monday, August 18, 2008

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News on the Ongoing Threats to the Chino Hills Wildlife Corridor

(It Rivals Tejon Ranch in significance for wildlife migration from Southern to Northern California)


http://www.hillsforeveryone.org/news-and-press/pdfs/summer-2008.pdf

When people begin to accept that success is possible, it becomes virtually inevitable.

Despite the economic downturn, bad projects still abound but can also still be stopped.


Diamond Bar’s Bad Project - Shell-Aera


The Shell-ExxonMobil project, aka Aera Energy, remains Diamond Bar’s bad project. Five years ago Shell-Aera submitted a nearly identical development proposal to Los Angeles and Orange Counties to build 3,600 units in the undeveloped hills along the 57 freeway between Diamond Bar and Brea. (We call this area the “Missing Middle” of the Puente-Chino Hills Wildlife Corridor since thousands of acres of land have been saved on either side.)

Shell-Aera owns 2,700 acres of unincorporated land in southeastern Los Angeles County and 300 acres in unincorporated Orange County in Brea’s Sphere of Influence. Shell-Aera’s proposal threatens not only to sever the Wildlife Corridor and destroy important walnut and oak
woodlands, but it would also add 50,000 vehicle trips a day to our already congested roads and freeways.

After Los Angeles County found that the Shell-Aera project did not comply with its environmental rules, Shell-Aera sought to annex most of its land into Diamond Bar. With ambitions to enlarge its city, Diamond Bar rushed into a marriage with Shell-Aera in December 2006 in the form of a pre-annexation and pre-development agreement. An EIR was promised by fall of 2007. Yet, 19 months later, we are still awaiting a real look at the project. All we have ever been able to see are cartoon-like bubble diagrams.

Perhaps one reason the project has slowed is that California Attorney General Jerry Brown sent a letter to Diamond Bar insisting that the project comply with Assembly Bill 32 - California’s effort to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. The letter can be seen at:
http://ag.ca.gov/globalwarming/pdf/comment_aera_master_planned_community.pdf

So we still wait, and residents continue to inform fellow citizens of this massive project that, despite the early support from the Diamond Bar City Council, can still be stopped.


Brea’s Bad Project - Canyon Crest


Not to be outdone by Diamond Bar, Brea is now confronted with its own bad project called Canyon Crest. So far the City’s nose is clean when it comes to hillside development (ever since the illuminating initiative in 2000). The project that is currently being bulldozed along the 57 freeway and Lambert Road was actually approved by the County of Orange, not Brea, since it was in unincorporated territory and not within the city limits.

The Canyon Crest project will be the first test of Brea’s resolve. This 165-unit project on 367 acres is proposed to be built immediately adjacent to Chino Hills State Park and what remains of the land owned by the Scouts on the Firestone Scout Reservation. In approving the Final EIR in June, on a 3-2 vote, the Brea Planning Commission issued three Statements of Overriding Consideration - on air quality, traffic, and biology. This means these three Planning
Commissioners believe the benefits of this project (providing housing in Brea for multi-millionaires) outweigh the significant, unavoidable, unmitigatable negative impacts of (1) air pollution, (2) traffic congestion, and (3) destruction of 1,899 oak and walnut trees.
Issuing three Statements of Overriding Consideration is unprecedented in Brea development history.

The decision has been appealed so the outcome now squarely rests with the City Council. If the
Council approves the project it will virtually be proclaiming “we were just kidding when we
established strict criteria for developing hillsides.” The City of Diamond Bar can justifiably criticize Brea for the hypocrisy of “do as we say, not as we do.” After all, Brea has expressed strong concerns about Diamond Bar’s potential approval of the 3,600 unit Shell-Aera project. It too would bring negative impacts like air pollution, traffic congestion, and destruction of natural resources. Both cities are well within their rights to turn down these projects, if they judge that the negative impacts outweigh the benefits.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

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In the Search for Natural Treatment Methods for Urban Water Pollution, Expecting Existing Natural Areas to do the Job Can Be A Hard-Sell

Gentle Treatment
Cities Run Up Against Regulations in Attempt to Go Green
by Lisa Owens Viani

From Terrain Magazine, Summer 2008

http://ecologycenter.org/terrain/article.php?id=13649

What to do with human waste isn't dinner-table conversation, and it hasn't been city hall's favorite topic either. Now, with energy and chemical costs rising and conventional sewage treatment plants needing refurbishing to continue doing their jobs, cities are hunting for a better way to handle sewage—and it's easy to see why wetlands treatment ponds jump to the top of the list. These wetland areas, in which sunlight, soil, plants, and bacteria help break down waste, are often used in combination with conventional treatment, but they are greener and cheaper than the usual method, and they attract wildlife. With its flocks of resident and migrant birds, the treatment wetland at Arcata Marsh has become a major tourist attraction. And treatment wetlands are doable—or at least they used to be.

Treatment wetlands need to be built near an existing plant to minimize pumping costs, close to a potential disposal or re-use site, and on relatively flat land, all of which narrow down a city's site choices. In some cases, there's another hurdle to pass: proposals to create treatment wetlands are getting the ax because the site is already in use & as another wetland. Recently, the North Coast Regional Water Board shot down several cities' proposals on the grounds that installing a treatment wetland could damage an existing wetland on the same site. The board is attempting to protect existing wetlands even if they are seasonal or already degraded by livestock grazing.

But if a little wetlands is good, isn't a whole lot of wetlands better? Does a seasonal horse pasture count as degraded land ripe for a wetlands, or is it a habitat to preserve? Everybody involved in these stand-offs is trying to do the right thing, and the clashes demonstrate the strains between environmentalists with different land-use priorities.

First, though, a word about waste: It's routine for most of us to flush a toilet and not give it a second thought. Unless you have a septic tank (and most urban users don't), the flush goes into a sewer pipe that connects to a wastewater treatment plant. The force of gravity helps carry waste to the plant, but if the plant is uphill, sewage has to be pumped. The plant is likely a large concrete building tucked out of sight, and the only clue you might have to its existence wafts your way when the breeze blows just right.

After the sewage arrives at the plant, large debris is screened out (you'd be surprised what ends up in sewer pipes), and then the sludge is aerated and mixed in large vats. Grease, plastics, and soap are skimmed off the top, and the wastewater is sent to more tanks where it is disinfected using chlorine and other chemicals. Solids are kept for days in large heated digesters where bacteria gobble up as much as they can; the remains are sent to a landfill or incinerator. Some plants make leftover solids into "cakes" or "pellets" to be sold as fertilizer. The disinfected wastewater is discharged—usually via a long pipe—as far out as possible into a nearby bay, river, or ocean. If you've ever been trapped in traffic in the MacArthur maze, you likely noticed that East Bay MUD's treatment plant is located nearby, with its discharge pipe into the bay.

In rural areas where land is still available, treatment wetlands offer a viable alternative. They mimic and function like natural wetlands, with plants, soils, algae, and bacteria filtering and taking up nutrients from the waste. These created wetlands usually work along with some traditional treatment but still greatly reduce the use of energy and hazardous chemicals, as well as maintenance costs. Martinez, Hayward, Palo Alto, and Los Gallinas in Marin County treat their waste with wetlands; Humboldt County's Arcata, Manila, and McKinleyville also use the system, and Petaluma is completing construction.

Treatment wetlands keep waste local: "The worst thing we can do is treat [waste] at the end of the pipe," says treatment wetland expert and Humboldt State environmental engineering professor Brad Finney. "Shipping it off to some place on the other side of the bay where some magical plant pops out a little brick—I'm not interested in that." One of the biggest benefits of treatment wetlands, say advocates, is that they provide much-needed wildlife habitat, helping replace wetlands that have been filled for big boxes or condos.

What about the witch's brew of chemicals that clogs our sewers these days? Finney, who helped write the US Environmental Protection Agency's manual on treatment wetlands, says wetlands probably do a better and safer job of tackling contaminants than traditional treatment. "Worries about toxins are real, but [many toxins] are not removed during conventional wastewater treatment," he says. "With treatment wetlands, you're tightly regulated—you're right there in front of everyone's face. If dioxins start showing up, we can control them, contain them in a treatment wetland. With traditional treatment you send it out there into the bay or ocean and hope for the best. If it shows up in fish in fifty years, it's too late."

Finney was part of a team that studied potential pollution bioaccumulation at Hayward Marsh's treatment wetlands. "It was a comprehensive study, and no significant problems were found with birds, mammals, or other organisms," Finney says. "In fact, we found that the wetland water and sediments were significantly better than the adjoining bay muds and waters. In wetlands, there's an incredibly diverse set of organisms, solar radiation, lots of oxidizing agents, and lots of time—thirty, forty, fifty days of contact [compared to the average three to six days at a traditional plant]. It's likely that that complex environment can handle being exposed to these toxic compounds and also attenuate them better than conventional treatment—it can't do any worse. The key is a lot of opportunities for organisms to naturally break things down."

The downside to treatment wetlands is that they take up more land than those concrete buildings—and some communities have identified sites for treatment wetlands that already contain seasonal wetlands used for grazing cattle or horses. That's how Ferndale and Willits ran afoul of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board—and in the case of Willits, aroused the ire of environmentalists who might be expected to support this greener method of treating waste.

When a proposed site contains a wetland of any kind—or in any condition—state and federal laws designed to ensure no net loss of wetlands come into play, particularly since so many wetlands have been destroyed, and continue to be destroyed, by development. In California, wetlands fall under the jurisdiction of the US Army Corps of Engineers, the region's water board, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Fish and Game. Explains North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board's John Short, "Wetlands, riparian areas, and headwaters are shallow waters, which by their nature are affected most often and severely by filling and excavation." When regulatory agencies allow developers or others to fill or alter natural wetlands, those parties are required to mitigate by creating new wetlands on- or offsite.

In Willits, a long-planned proposal to build full-treatment wetlands on agricultural land that contained seasonal wetlands was turned down by the North Coast water board regulators. "We had the land purchased; we had the design for three levels of treatment," says Willits city manager Ross Walker. "We knew that the deep oxidation ponds [used for the first level of treatment] would have taken some area designated as jurisdictional wetlands, but the treatment wetlands were designed not as a detriment to wetlands but an enhancement."

That was not the view of the water board or the Army Corps of Engineers, says Walker. "Our question was, what was our impact going to be? I could see no rationale for [the board's position] because 'no net loss' made no sense in an area where there are hundreds of acres of wetlands. We never wanted to do anything that was not improving the environment; we felt like we were enhancing it." Walker says he understands and supports wetlands regulations and stresses that he is not a scientist. What he can't understand is the board's decision: "When you're taking a piece of hardened ranchland, you're not talking about a major detriment to a wetland."

The city could have mitigated off-site—but "the cost [to acquire land] is a big thing for a small city; we couldn't do it," says Walker. Willits is now trying to squeeze an upgraded facility onto the footprint of its current plant and build a much smaller treatment wetland in an upland area. Because of the delays, Willits must raise its sewage rates to pay for the new mechanical plant.

Regulators weren't the only problem in Willits, says Walker. "We didn't have the full backing of a very active environmental group here," he says. The Willits Environmental Center's Ellen Drell says her organization was disturbed both by the scale of the project—ponds with berms for primary treatment, and acres of treatment wetlands for secondary treatment and beyond—as well as the proposed location. "The fact that this valley is a seasonal wetland makes it even richer than a permanent wetland," she says. "It acts as a sponge to absorb excess runoff; it recharges groundwater, mitigates flooding, and supports a wide range of vegetation and critters. That there's not only water every winter, but grasses going to seed in other seasons, is one reason it supports so many species."

Drell says she felt the city leaders never understood the value of seasonal wetlands. "They thought, 'If a little bit of wet is good, then a whole lot is really good.' We disagreed." Drell says the seasonal wetlands flood in the winter and connect to local creeks that support runs of steelhead, and Chinook and coho salmon. That made her nervous about altering the existing hydrology. Drell says the sewage treatment wetlands, some of which would be surrounded by berms, would have blocked the flow of water into the creeks. Drell says she wouldn't have objected had the city put wetlands on the site of an auto wrecker or lumber yard, but she felt the proposed site—known by locals as Little Lake—was just the wrong spot. "They said, 'There's nothing there.' But there is something there."

Farther north, Ferndale also ran up against the North Coast Regional Board. Facing enforcement orders from the board to upgrade its existing plant, the city rallied the community around the idea of a treatment wetland. City councilmember and wetlands ecologist Ken Mierzwa says the treatment wetland had tremendous support from Main Street business owners. "A lot of them are elderly and conservative politically," says Mierzwa, "but they understood that birdwatchers would come to see the birds."

Ferndale's geography got in the way. Situated at the mouth of the Eel River, the city is surrounded on three sides by wetlands—the floodplain of the Eel. That meant that building a treatment wetland on open space anywhere close to town would have involved impacting a natural wetland, says John Short, even if those wetlands happen to be cow pastures. And that meant that Ferndale would have had to mitigate for those impacts—with the only space available for mitigation on an upland area, a less than ideal spot for creating a wetland.

Building a mitigation wetland upland probably has the "least likelihood" of success, says Mierzwa: "You'd be trying to force ecological processes to do something they don't naturally do." Finney, too, was frustrated by the outcome in Ferndale. "There's nothing wrong with the wetlands that exist in a cow pasture, but to say that the [treatment wetland] systems we're creating have less wetland value makes no scientific sense."

Short says, "No one technology fits every situation. Each community has its own unique set of issues. In my mind, certain wetland treatment advocates have done a disservice to small communities by pushing treatment wetlands as a solution to all wastewater problems, and unfortunately, that is not always the case. Our responsibility is to remove pollutants before the discharge reaches our wetlands and streams." The bottom line, says Short, is that if Ferndale had been able to do enough wetland mitigation, the Regional Board probably would have permitted their project. Instead, Ferndale, like Willits, will undertake an expensive major upgrade of its existing treatment plant.

It wasn't always this hard to build wetlands. In 1974, the Mt. View Sanitary District in Martinez became the first wastewater wetlands in the state, built on the site of a degraded natural wetland that had been diked off and used for agriculture. The site was located between the treatment plant and the Carquinez Strait, where the district discharged its wastewater. To adequately dilute its waste, the district needed to build a very long, expensive, deepwater outfall pipe, says Mt. View Sanitary District's Dave Contreras. Instead, the wetland helped Mt. View retain and treat its wastewater sufficiently so that it did not need to build the pipe. In the early '90s, the district upgraded its traditional plant to use UV disinfection and sand filtration to treat the wastewater before it enters the wetlands for final treatment.

In addition to an enthusiastic San Francisco Bay Regional Water Board, Mt. View had support from the Department of Fish and Game and the Audubon Society, says Contreras. Today, the marsh is promoted as Martinez's crown jewel. "We have over 120 species of birds and wildlife, deer, river otter, fox, and beaver in these wetlands," says Contreras. By switching to UV and sand filtration for primary and secondary treatment, and treatment wetlands for final treatment, Mt. View has been able to stop using chlorine gas, gaseous sulfur dioxide, sodium hydroxide, and anhydrous ammonia, says Contreras. "We eliminated the use of acutely hazardous materials. It's actually been a model for the Bay Area."

Steve Moore, an engineer who formerly worked for the bay's regional water board and is now with a private engineering firm, says he thinks Mt. View produced "a net environmental benefit of treating waste while providing 21 acres of habitat." But as he points out, making a decision isn't always easy. "From a regulatory perspective, you have to decide: How do you fairly account for that lost natural wetland versus the wastewater purification function on your balance sheet?" he asks. "It's different environmental values clashing. I think we have to take a more holistic perspective and realize that all of us are robbing the state's natural waters for drinking and farming. That water is unavailable for wetland habitat. As we try to make gains in wetland function and habitat, wastewater wetlands are a good tool. That's the perspective we're missing."

Since it's hard for regulators to decide whether building treatment wetlands is ultimately going to help or hurt the local environment, the decision process can be rife with contradictions and absurdities. The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, a highly successful treatment wetland and a major tourist attraction, likely would not be permitted by the North Coast Regional Board today. Arcata Marsh was built on top of historic wetlands that had been filled and become degraded, says Finney. "Their functioning was extremely poor, but in today's regulatory environment, [some regulators] would have said they were jurisdictional wetlands."

Often where a treatment wetland can or cannot be built depends on the judgment of the individual regulator—and the regional board office—involved. Says Bob Bastian with the US EPA's Office of Wastewater Management, "It's not unusual to see varying interpretations and constraints being imposed by field offices. The same thing happens with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and endangered species. In one part of the country they are open and willing to work with [a private landowner or developer] on how to manage an area to protect endangered species. In another office, you just can't do anything. I think we're seeing some of the same thing happening when it comes to how to protect existing wetlands."

Finney points out that since we have paved over most of our historic wetlands, constructed wastewater wetlands help replace that loss. But, he says, "If you object to the notion of using a wetland for treating water—which is what wetlands have been doing since before man roamed the planet—that contains some human waste, then it will be increasingly difficult to find sites that can receive regulatory approval." The bottom line is treatment wetlands have to be done right and in the right place, says Finney. "I wouldn't want to convert a nice, beautiful existing wetland to a treatment wetland. But where there's an opportunity to create new beneficial uses and at the same time take care of a problem, I think we should do it."

Monday, August 4, 2008

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Solar Power Entrepreneurs are Bidding for
Federal Land in the Mojave Desert



http://money.cnn.com/2008/07/07/technology/woody_solar.fortune/index.htm

“The race has barely begun - finished plants are years away - but it's blazing fastest in the Mojave, where the federal government controls immense stretches of some of the world's best solar real estate right next to the nation's biggest electricity markets. Just 20 months ago only five applications for solar sites had been filed with the BLM in the California Mojave. Today 104 claims have been received for nearly a million acres of land, representing a theoretical 60 gigawatts of electricity. (The entire state of California currently consumes 33 gigawatts annually.)”

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Tejon Ranch Stock is at 5 –Year Low:

Is a Development Deal the Only Answer?

As the dust has settled from the controversial land deal announced in May that resulted in 5 environmental groups agreeing not to oppose the development of 30,000 acres of new sprawl at the Ranch, the stock market hasn’t been as kind.

With news of the impending deal leaking out, the company’s stock rose from $37 a share in April to $44 by the May 8 announcement of the eco-settlement.

But since then, the stock has cooled off and has been trading for $30 a share. (See http://quote.morningstar.com/Quote/Quote.aspx?ticker=TRC&TimeFrame=Y5&byrefresh=yes for the latest price.) The stock that has traded as high as $60 a share in 2005 is at its lowest point in 5 years. What this all means is that the true market valuation of this huge piece of fragile and irreplaceable wildlife habitat is valued by investors at half its value from only 3 years ago. And since the deal was unveiled, the price has dropped by 50%.

What this shows is that based on its 17 million shares trading at $30 a share, (http://www.smartbrief.com/news/ICSC/industryBW-detail.jsp?id=30ECE7A8-CF00-42C1-A84E-2AEB7079188D&sb_code=RSS&i=Commercial%20Real%20Estate%20Development), the 270,000 acre Tejon Ranch is currently worth $510 million.

Given that 10 years ago the State and federal governments paid almost $500 million for the less than 10,000 acre Headwaters redwood grove in Humboldt County, and the State paid $290 million for 2 parcels in the L.A. area, the Ahmanson Ranch and the Ballona Wetlands (getting 3500 acres), is it really out-of-the-question to think California couldn’t buy the entire Tejon Ranch now?

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Wrapping Up the Pacific Lumber Saga

Appeals Court Shoots Down the Last Delaying Tactic

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/07/30/BAKU121MCB.DTL

Billionaire founders of San Francisco's Gap Inc. are expected to take control of some of the most valuable timberland in the country within days, after a federal appeals court Tuesday (7/28) shot down some of the last legal arguments from opponents to a plan to reorganize the storied Pacific Lumber Co.


7/29/2008: the new owners take over Pacific Lumber, rename company Humboldt Redwoods LLC.

http://www.hrcllc.com/

To see what their new parent company, Mendocino Redwood Company, owns: www.mrc.com/ and

http://www.mrc.com/pdf/mrc_own_map.pdf

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http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/07/30/BAKU121MCB.DTL

The Fisher plan offers $530 million for the land, promises to keep the Scotia sawmill running with a workforce cut from 350 to 250, and to harvest about 50 million board feet from the forest each year. The company will also seek certification from the Forest Stewardship Council, which advocates sustainable forestry.

Pacific Lumber is currently harvesting about 100 million board feet each year; in the 1990s, annual harvesting maxed out at 300 million board feet.

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More on the Supreme Court decision overturning Pacific Lumber’s logging plans:

http://www.realestateandconstructionlawblog.com/natural-resources-and-endangered-species-california-supreme-court-holds-headwaters-agreement-incidental-take-permit-and-sustained-yield-plan-invalid.html

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More local commentary:

http://www.northcoastjournal.com/issues/2008/07/31/unknown-coast/

http://humboldtherald.wordpress.com/2008/07/30/a-headline-for-the-scrapbook/

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A Little History:

http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20080730/news/953391239

7/30/2008

Hurwitz's Maxxam Inc. seized Pacific Lumber in a surprise 1980s takeover, and then quickly accelerated the pace of logging in an attempt to meet annual interest-only payments on $850 million in junk bond debt.

The Hurwitz era was marked by widespread environmental protests over accelerated timber cutting, an economic roller coaster ride for Scotia and surrounding communities. The discord tainted the reputation of a once aristocratic company touted for its conservative timber-cutting practices.

Before Hurwitz, Pacific Lumber for decades had worked with Save the Redwoods League and other conservation groups to preserve thousands of acres of ancient groves of redwoods in a string of state and federal parks along the North Coast.

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http://www.times-standard.com/localnews/ci_10039458

A Timeline for the Pacific Lumber Company:

1863 -- Pacific Lumber Co. formed

1906 -- Redwood rebuilds San Francisco after quake

1964 -- Massive flood wipes out PL log decks, nearby timber towns

1975 -- Pacific Lumber listed on New York Stock Exchange

1986 -- Houston-based Maxxam Inc. takes over PL

May 1990 -- Activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney hurt in bomb blast

Summer 1990 -- Redwood Summer protests

March 1992 -- California lists Marbled murret as endangered

Jan. 1997 -- Mudslide from PL land swamps town of Stafford

Fall 1997 -- Activists pepper sprayed during protests

Dec. 1997 -- Julia Butterfly Hill begins tree-sit above Stafford

Sept. 1998 -- David “Gypsy” Chain killed by tree felled by logger

March 1999 -- PL sells Headwaters Forest, groves to government for $480 million

Feb. 2003 -- Humboldt DA files fraud suit against PL

March 2004 -- PL-funded recall of DA fails

Jan. 2007 -- PL files for bankruptcy in Texas

June 2008 -- Bankruptcy Judge Richard Schmidt approves Mendocino Redwood plan for PL

July 30, 2008 -- Mendocino begins rebuilding PL as Humboldt Redwood Co.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

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November Ballot Measure Will Ask Californians to Fund on $9 Billion State High-speed Train



Will the supertrain mean an end to air flight congestion between L.A. and the Bay area? Will it lead to more urban growth at the less-expensive cities along the rail route? There are both pro's and con's with this plan and, so far, the major environmental groups haven't come out in support of it.

The backers of the project claim they are part of a coalition that includes environmental groups, but their website doesn't list them.

http://www.californiahighspeedtrains.com/newsletter/
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Update on the Eastern Sierra Wilderness and Rivers Bill in the U.S. Congress


from the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter July 2009 conservation newsletter

http://angeles.sierraclub.org/environmental/Newsletter.asp

Wild rivers in the San Gabriel Mountains and Eastern Sierra took a huge step toward preservation May 22. The bipartisan Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act was introduced as companion House and Senate bills sponsored by Representative Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

The legislation proposes to protect more than 52 miles of Wild & Scenic Rivers and nearly 476,000 acres of Wilderness, including some of the most spectacular scenery in the West.

The Amargosa River south of Death Valley, the Owens River Headwaters in the Eastern Sierra, and Piru Creek north of Los Angeles would gain Wild & Scenic protection. The Owens River Headwaters flows into one of the most popular wild trout streams in the West. Piru Creek is one of only three year-round coldwater trout streams in Southern California. The Amargosa
is a rare free-flowing desert river that supports many rare and endangered wildlife species.

According to Steve Evans, Conservation Director of the statewide organization Friends of the River, the legislation would significantly diversify rivers protected in the federal systems. “This legislation protects three distinct streams in the Eastern Sierra, Mojave Desert, and San Gabriel Mountains. Those are such important ecological regions that were—up to now— unrepresented in the system,” he said.

Approximately 19 miles of Glass Creek, Deadman Creek and Big Springs would be protected as a Wild and Scenic River in the Eastern Sierra. These water sources come together to form the Owens River, a favored destination of wild trout anglers from across the nation.

A 28-mile segment of the Amargosa River near the Mojave Desert communities of Shoshone and Tecopa would be protected, not only for its important habitat, but also as a unique desert recreation area for tourists.

A 7-mile segment of Piru Creek with easy access off of Interstate 5 would also be protected north of Los Angeles. The segment is a popular destination not only for anglers but also families who visit the creek to escape the summer heat.

The legislation also proposes protection for more than 476,000 acres of Wilderness on the eastside of the Sierra Nevada, in the White Mountains on the Nevada border, and the northern slope of the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles. The existing Hoover, Emigrant, Ansel Adams, and John Muir Wilderness would all gain significant additions, while entirely new areas would be protected in the White Mountains, on Granite Mountain, and in the San Gabriel Mountains. The areas include some of the most spectacular scenery in the west and are popular destinations for hikers, backpackers, anglers, hunters, equestrians, and all those seeking unconfined and primitive forms recreation.

Areas included:

Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act, Introduced by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) May 22, 2008

Amargosa Wild & Scenic River 26.3 miles
Location: Inyo and San Bernardino Counties, Bureau of Land Management
The Amargosa River is a stunning oasis in the surrounding desert landscape of the northern Mojave Desert. The only river flowing into Death Valley, it sustains biologically rich wetlands and riparian forests as it makes its way through ancient, rugged canyons. The Amaragosa supports more than 280 bird species, including several that are threatened and endangered.

Owens Headwaters Wild & Scenic Rivers 19.1 miles
Location: Mono County, Inyo National Forest
The Owens River headwaters, including Glass Creek, Deadman Creek, and Big Springs, support one of America’s finest and most popular trout fisheries. Found eligible for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic River system by the Inyo National Forest, Wild & Scenic protection of the public lands along the Upper Owens River would tremendously enhance the Eastern Sierra fishing economy.

Piru Creek Wild & Scenic River 7.25 miles
Location: Los Angeles County, Angeles and Los Padres National Forests
Located northwest of Castaic, Piru Creek is one of the few year-round catch and release trout fishing streams in southern California. With easy access from Interstate 5, the creek is a popular recreational destination for family picnics and summertime wading. High winter and spring flows offer one of the most spectacular class IV wilderness kayak runs in the west. Piru Creek provides habitat for numerous threatened and endangered wildlife species, including arroyo toad, California red-legged frog, least Bell’s vireo, southwestern willow fly-catcher, California condor and southern steelhead.

White Mountains Wilderness 223,517 acres
Location: Mono County, Inyo National Forest
The White Mountains are America’s largest and highest desert mountain range. They contain the largest expanse of alpine tundra in western North America, the highest peak in the Great Basin, and the second largest unprotected roadless area in the lower 48 states. The Whites are home to the world’s oldest living trees, the ancient bristlecone pines, which live to almost 5,000 years. With its large size and tremendous diversity of unique and beautiful habitats, the Whites are world-renowned for scientific research and are home to desert bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope and other mountain and desert wildlife and plants.

Hoover Wilderness Additions 76,982 acres
Location: Mono County, Humboldt, Toiyabe and Inyo National Forests
The Hoover Wilderness additions represent a classic High Sierra landscape of deeply carved glacial valleys dotted with tranquil alpine lakes and forests of lodgepole pine. The northern Hoover additions (“west” and “east”), which includes 12 miles of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail and the headwaters of the West Walker River, is a popular recreation destination for hikers, anglers, hunters and equestrians. The southern portion, consisting mostly of a high plateau rising above the west shore of Mono Lake, is home to a reintroduced population of the endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep.

Granite Mountain Wilderness 35,564 acres
Location: Mono County, Bureau of Land Management Bishop Field Office
East of Mono Lake, Granite Mountain is a geologically varied landscape of open alluvial basins, basaltic plateaus and granite ridges. Its Great Basin sagebrush steppe habitat is currently underrepresented in the National Wilderness Preservation System. The area contains sage grouse, deer migration corridors, abundant raptor nesting sites and wild horses.

Owens River Headwaters Wilderness 15,247 acres
Location: Mono County, Inyo National Forest
Over 100 seeps and springs form the headwaters of the Owens River just east of the San Joaquin ridge between Mammoth and June Lakes. This area is the Eastern Sierra’s most important river system and a popular wild trout fishery. The area contains exceptionally diverse and unique habitats including the largest subalpine meadow in the central Eastern Sierra (Glass Creek Meadow), the region’s largest old growth red fir forest, and habitat for many sensitive and rare plant and animal species.

John Muir Wilderness Additions 80,112 acres
Location: Mono and Inyo Counties, Inyo National Forest
These additions would move the current wilderness boundary down from the crest to include more of the steep Eastern Sierra scarp. The boundary adjustments would protect the unparalleled viewshed, transitional lower elevation habitat and trout-bearing streams which flow down into the Owens Valley while maintaining access to popular car camping, hunting and fishing sites.

Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness 28,424 acres
Location: Los Angeles County, Angeles National Forest
This spectacular area is located south of the desert communities of Palmdale/Lancaster on the north slope of the San Gabriel Mountains. The area features 8,200-foot Mt. Williamson and other dramatic peaks, the headwaters of Little Rock Creek, and some of the most magnificent and remote ridge and canyon country in southern California. The Pacific Crest Trail and other popular trails access the area, which offers opportunities for fishing, rock climbing, class IV kayaking, and snowshoeing. It is home to bighorn sheep and the mountain yellow-legged frog, old-growth pines, and Joshua trees.

Magic Mountain Wilderness 13,709 acres
Location: Los Angeles County, Angeles National Forest
A scenic backdrop to the Santa Clarita Valley, Magic Mountain’s chaparral covered hillsides and live oak canyons drain into the Santa Clara River. Visitors enjoy the spectacular view from the summit of Magic Mountain, and hikers and equestrians can journey from the mountain’s summit down to the river. An important habitat link with mountain ranges to the north and west, Magic Mountain is frequently visited by California condors and also provides habitat for black bear, mountain lion, bobcat and deer.

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Batttling Over the Malibu-Santa Monica Mountains Coastal Slope Trail


the First Round Is a Draw

by David Brown, Sierra Club Santa Monica Mountains Task Force Conservation Chair,
July, 2008 Newsletter

One of our major projects in recent years has been completion of the Coastal Slope Trail, which would follow the coastal slope of the Mountains above Malibu from Lower Topanga to Leo Carrillo, providing outstanding views of the Malibu coastline and Santa Monica Bay. The trail is in the master plans of every park agency and local government, but completing it will require the willingness of either park agencies to buy the route or of local governments to require dedication of the right-of-way during the subdivision process.

A key link in the Coastal Slope Trail is the section just south of Solstice Canyon Park between Corral Canyon and Latigo Canyon. Over a year ago the Malibu Planning Commission approved creating four lots on this mile-long property without requiring dedication of the right-of-way for the Coastal Slope Trail.

Fearing the failure to dedicate this section of the trail would prevent completion of the entire trail, the Task Force joined the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the Malibu Trails Council and several other organizations in appealing the Planning Commission’s action to the Malibu City Ccouncil.

The subdividers were rumored to be a world-famous rock group, represented by a businessman from Georgia and a well-known, hard-line local developer lobbyist.

Instead of trying to work something out with the opponents—who at first would have settled for the trail dedication—the subdividers’ lobbyist tried to play hardball with us, offering to dedicate the trail only if we would agree to development of four oversized mansions on the ridge overlooking Solstice Canyon. We refused to go along with that offer, leading to a year- long stalemate during which the entire property—including an old house on the site—burned over in last Fall’s Corral Canyon Fire. Then in this Spring’s City Council Election an extremely pro-development councilmember was "termed out" and a couple of new councilmembers were elected.

After numerous postponements our appeal finally came before the City Council on June 23rd. To our surprise city planning staff recommended that the Council either deny the subdivision or require the subdividers to do an Enivironmental Impact Report on the project that would address the trail issue, the visual impact on Solstice Canyon Park, the fire hazard, and the numerous faults and landslides on the site.

The "hardball" lobbyist and the man from Georgia were not happy with this turn of events, to say the least, and angrily withdrew the project. For the moment that kills the subdivision, but it also kills any chance of a trail dedication for the time being.

Past experience tells us that the development community should now know there is strong public support for the Coastal Slope Trail, and that any future plans for this property will have to address the trail. Either the subdividers will cool down and come back with revised plan or they will sell the property to someone who realizes he will have to address the trail issue before getting approval to subdivide the property.