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Of the Ventana Chapter P.O. Box 604, Santa Cruz, CA 95061 phone (831) 335-4196 www.ventana.sierraclub.org/santacruz scscrg@cruzio.com

The Work of Your Local Sierra Club in 2011

Climate Change
In February 2011, the Sierra Club made comments on the City of Santa Cruz Climate Action Plan. In addition to reducing GHG emissions, we brought up the issues of sea level rise, flooding, preserving adequate flood space and space for riparian corridors in the city. Ironically, less than two weeks later, the Tsunami hit and both the Yacht Harbor and a large part of Capitola Village were inundated with a storm- driven surge of water. Many businesses suffered water damage.
Capitola Flooding Source: Stripers Online

Water Resources
Indications of a severe drought for winter 2011-12 are becoming stronger every day. A La Nina pattern is governing the Pacific and December 2011 rainfall for this area was one of lowest totals in the historical record. If this continues, the impacts upon regional water supplies will be very serious and this will have political as well as environmental impacts. A drought would be certain to affect the debate swirling around proposals for Desalination plants in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties. Our Coastal Committee Chair, Aldo Giacchino, has been meeting with groups that are working on policy and challenges to the Desal development. The Sierra Club also co-sponsored a forum on desalination with Desal Alternatives. This potential drought will affect the upcoming release of the City of Santa Cruz Water Department's Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for salmon and steelhead. This process has been underway since 2002. In recent years, the San Lorenzo River flow in December has been has been as low as half of the natural flow. This is much less than is needed for critically endangered Coho salmon and harmful to many species. Coho migration ends in January. If regional creeks do not rise soon, then there will be no

Coho salmon Source: NOAA

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chance for Coho to spawn this year. These iconic animals are very near to complete extirpation south of San Francisco Bay and are endangered across California. The Sierra Club wrote to the City of Santa Cruz requesting them to convene a stakeholder working group and open up the HCP process. This is quite common in public agency HCPs but the City refused to do so. The HCP will probably be released as a flood of documents that will be difficult to respond to. There will be the actual HCP but also a National Environmental Policy Act EIS and an EIR, a CEQA document and other complex documents to review. Monterey Bay continues to suffer problems with pollution from rivers, streams and storm drains flowing into the Bay. This is endangering sea otters and possibly triggering toxic algae blooms. Surfers encounter this water pollution especially in the winter. Our Conservation Chair, Mike Guth, continued his work with the County on improving the Santa Cruz County Storm Water Management Plan implementation with the adoption of an effective Storm Water Ordinance. Mike Guth and Kevin Collins have reviewed long complex documents that require a thorough understanding of pollution laws, local geography, and development patterns.

Sea otter Source: TurtleTrack.org

Members of the Forestry and Water Committees worked with the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water to stand up to large agribusinesses, opposing weakening of new regulations to control discharges of nitrate and pesticide-laden water into creeks and sloughs.

Forestry and Watersheds

The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County came out with their blueprint for preservation of sensitive ecosystems in Santa Cruz County. Our Forestry consultant, Jodi Frediani, had many comments on the sections on forests and watersheds. Jodi also made comments on the shuttered Cemex Plant and San Vincente Creek. The land has recently been purchased by five land trusts, including Sempervirens Fund, but concerns remain about continued logging on the property. Several logging plans were also reviewed and commented upon in an attempt to reduce the harm to natural resources. These included the Soquel State Demonstration Forest logging plans.
Santa Cruz Redwoods Source: Sierra Club / Santa Cruz Group meetup page

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Jodi also joined a coalition of organizations that raised the profile of logging in the Battle Creek watershed in the Sacramento Basin, as well as testifying at a hearing before the Board of Forestry in Sacramento. Battle Creek is one of the critical habitat streams for endangered Winter and Spring Run Chinook salmon. The King Salmon (Chinook) caught off shore from Santa Cruz primarily originate in the Sacramento River system.

Zoning and Land Use

The County has continued a reform process, begun in 2007, of weakening their zoning standards and building code. This is an extremely complex affair that requires an understanding of the actual implementation of these basic land use codes. The Chair, Kevin Collins, has worked with the Rural Bonny Doon Association and the San Lorenzo Valley Water District to challenge the most recent set of proposed changes. This code- change proposal will be heard again by the County Board of Supervisors in early 2012. These codes are especially important in the rural areas of the County where impacts on wildlife and water resources are most acute. Kevin Collins sent a Government Records Act request to the County in 2011 asking for records of the last 2 years of "exceptions" to the Riparian Protection Ordinance. A complex analysis of this big pile documents is underway. This crucial ordinance appears to no longer be functioning to protect County streams.

Coastal Development

Letters and comments were sent to the Coastal Commission and the County regarding several coastal development proposals including the proposed 5 and 1/2 story tall La Bahia Hotel replacement proposal, the Schwan Lagoon Coastal Trail and the Pleasure Point road reconstruction.


Santa Cruz tarplant Source: Elkhorn Slough Foundation

In collaboration with the California Native Plant Society, the Center for Biological Diversity, and with help from Friends of Arana Gulch, the Club worked to protect the endangered Santa Cruz sunflower/tar plant and rare coastal prairie habitat in Arana Gulch. It is due to these efforts that the Arana Gulch plan now has dedicated funding for tar plant preservation.

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The Sierra Club has written letters and testified in support of the Regional Transportation Commissions purchase of the Union Pacific Rail Line a goal that finally was achieved this year. Our Transportation Chair, Paul Elerick, worked with the Campaign for Sensible Transportation on the lawsuit opposing widening of Highway 1, which unfortunately was dismissed in court in San Francisco.

Santa Cruz Rail Trail

Membership Outreach

Our Events Committee started up a series of Environmental Education talks that have been well attended. Two events took place last year, one presented by Jodi Frediani about the Humpback Whales off the Dominican Republic and another presentation on alternative energy and practical home development of solar energy. The Group is also sponsoring a new "Meetup" page for hikes.
Hikers at Fall Creek Source: Sierra Club / Santa Cruz Group meetup page

The Ventana Newsletter

The Ventana Newsletter, a bi-monthly publication, met each deadline and was mailed to Ventana Chapter and Santa Cruz Group Sierra Club members. Activists from the entire Chapter provided stories for the Ventana. Editor Debbie Bulger is completing her 15th year as Ventana editor, making the newsletter a financial success by marketing advertising space to Sierra Club supporters. Debbie has done superb job with keeping the Newsletter balanced between Chapter and Group items of interest, as well as covering both sides of issues. Her shoes are going to be hard to fill. We wish her well in her next endeavors.

Electronic Communication

The Group received a new volunteer webmaster, Michael Lewis, and has started a new and more interactive website with a blog and calendar of activities, and the Chair, Kevin Collins, has started Convio emails to Sierra Club members. The Chair has also revived the email alert network for activists.

You can be Involved

The Sierra Club always needs new energy to be effective. There are many volunteer opportunities in the Sierra Club from administrative support to environmental analysis and lobbying, to membership development and outings.
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Please contact our Committee Chairs to become involved. Email addresses are available at on our Group website under contact us www.ventana.sierraclub.org/santacruz. Thanks, and have a good new year.

The Santa Cruz County Group

Of the Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club

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