CalFire collusion with CGS to violate the law

April 9, 2010

by Rick Coates

California Geological Survey (AKA Department of Mines and Geology) is failing to protect the public health and safety and public resources in collusion with the California Department of Forestry (AKA CalFire) . We have seen a series of disasters caused directly by logging conducted under Timber Harvest Plans (THPs) incorrectly approved by the CalFire and the California Geological Survey (CGS). Homes have been destroyed, water sources made unfit for human use, and fisheries destroyed. On several occasions, lives have been threatened.

This is a result of the inappropriate political influence of the timber industry on CalFire and CGS. At issue here is CGS’s failure to obey both statute and regulations (as outlined in detail below).

The problem is long-standing, pervasive and dangerous. I have been reviewing THPs for nearly 20 years and have noted clear misconduct by CGS in several respects. These problems fall into five categories:

1. CGS permits Registered Professional Foresters (RPF’s) to practice geology without a license.

2. CGS accepts RPF’s claims without substantial evidence in the THP record.

3. CGS uses taxpayer funds to provide consulting to RPF’s and the Companies they represent, fixing mistakes and doing geology that should have been done by an independent geologist.

4. CGS, after providing missing work, then “reviews” their own work, violating the principal of independent review.

5. CGS permits Geologists and Engineering Geologists to submit reports to THP review that are not in conformance with statute or regulation

I will consider each of these points in detail:

1. CGS permits Registered Professional Foresters (RPF’s) to practice geology without a license.

The Forest Practice Rules [Section 1034(x)(10)] require that an RPF provide a map with the location of known unstable area or slides in the THP. It does not, however, require or even permit him to locate them himself or evaluate their stability. That determination clearly falls within the expertise of a licensed geologist. [See Rules and Regulations of the Board for Geologists and Geophysicists, Section 3003(d) and (f)] Just as he must seek advice from other professionals in other areas when his expertise is limited, so the RPF must seek the expertise of a licensed geologists to determine the location of slides and unstable areas. Determination of the location and stability of slides clearly falls under the definition of “professional geological work” as defined in the Rules and Regulations of the Board for Geologists an Geophysicists [Article 1, Section 3003]. Only licensed Geologist or Engineering Geologists are permitted to do professional geological work..

The Forest Practice Act specifically states [Article I, Section 4514(c)] that neither the Board of Forestry nor its regulations may limit “the power of any state agency in the enforcement or administration of any provision of law which it is specifically authorized or required to enforce or administer.” Therefore, neither CGS nor CDF has any authority to determine what constitutes work that requires a licensed geologist. The Board of Geologists and Geophysicists has that authority.

Furthermore, the Professional Foresters Law [Section 752(b)] specifically limits the services an RPF may offer and notes that he may need to utilize the services of other qualified experts. Specifically included in the list of other experts is “geologists”. In addition, Section 772 of this same law makes it clear that the Board of Forestry does not have the authority to certify or license an RPF as a geologist. Add to that CCR, Title 14, Chapter 10, Section 1602(b) which states that “A Registered Professional Forester (RPF) shall perform forestry services only in those subjects in which he or she is competent by training or experience.” Once again “geologists” is listed among those whose services he may need to utilize.

Yet, in spite of the clear dictates of law, CGS routinely permits foresters to locate slides and determine their stability without the aid of a licensed Geologist or Engineering Geologist. The public has often been forced to hire a genuine geologist to review the information in THPs. Repeatedly determinations by foresters that CGS approved have been found to be professionally inadequate, inaccurate and incomplete. I have yet to see CGS reject a THPs geological evidence as incomplete or inaccurate without such a challenge from the public.

2. CGS accepts RPF’s claims without substantial evidence in the THP record.

THP review is a Certified Program under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Act requires that conclusions of “no significant adverse environmental effect” be made on the basis of “substantial evidence in the record” of review. Statements without such backing are termed “conclusory” and courts have repeatedly ruled that approval of a THP based upon conclusory statements is an abuse of discretion. The RPF’s statements regarding the location and stability of slides is not considered “substantial evidence” because he is not qualified to make such determinations. Yet, CGS routinely accepts RPF conclusions despite the lack of a supporting geologic report by a licensed geologist. CEQA requires information in a THP be “site specific”. The only geologic evidence ever offered by an RPF is an outdated geologic map of a scale too large to determine site-specific slides.

3. CGS inappropriately uses taxpayer funds to provide consulting to RPF’s and the Companies they represent, fixing mistakes and doing geology that should have been done by an independent geologist.

It is not appropriate for a State agency to provide consulting services to a private party at taxpayer expense, especially when that agency is also charged with reviewing the profession adequacy of the work of that party or their consultant. Furthermore, the scope of geologic review on a logging plan by CGS is limited to conformance with professional standards, the requirements of law and regulation of a geologic report submitted with the plan.

Notwithstanding, CGS routinely and inadequately evaluates the geologic conditions on THPs doing some of the work that independent geologists should be doing. They pretend that it is “review” but the work they do exceeds the scope of that which a reviewer does. The work is more akin to a (deficient) geologic report. They rightly do not call their work a “report ” (they refer to it as a “memorandum”) because it does not meet the legal requirements of a geologic report. But neither does it meet the legal requirements of a “review”.

Forest Unlimited commissioned a report by Engineering Geologist Ray Waldbaum titled “Standard of Care For Engineering Geologic Investigation”. It reviews the adequacy of the geologic analysis for a specific logging plan, THP 1-06-008 SON and the CGS’s Geological “review” of that THP. It concludes that there is no legitimate geology presented in the THP for CGS to review and that the work done by CGS is contrary to CGS’s own guidelines and workshop for geologists.

4. CGS, after providing missing work, then “reviews” their own work, violating the principal of independent review.

It is not proper under regulations contained in Note 45 of 50 the Geology Board for the reviewer to provide the geologic work for the RPF and then “review” it himself. The task of a reviewer is to determine the qualifications of the contributor to the THP and the adequacy of their work. They are not to second guess the conclusions of the professional unless the conclusions clearly do not follow from the data provided. Because the only evidence presented by a licensed geologist is that done by CGS, this evaluation lacks any independent review.

5. CGS permits Geologists and Engineering Geologists to submit reports to THP review that are not in conformance with statute or regulation

After considerable effort CDF, CGS and the Board of Geologists and Geophysicists agreed on guidelines (actually regulations) governing the content of geological reports for Timber Harvest Plans. Specifically Note 45 (Guidelines For engineering Geologic Reports For Timber Harvesting Plans) and Note 50 (Factors Affecting Landslides in Forested Terrain) spell out what information must be included in a geologic report for THPs. In the rare instances that foresters actually submit such a report, CGS fails to insist that these regulations are complied with. Checking for compliance with the regulations is, of course, one of the main duties of a reviewer.

Will Sebastopol Creeks See the Light of Day?

As part of our Urban Forestry Program, Forest Unlimited organized citizens interested in improving and “daylighting” Sebastopol’s two urban creeks, Calder and Zempher. Calder Creek is their first project.

Calder Creek runs through Ives Park. At the edge of the park Calder enters the dark confinement of two large underground pipes laid beneath three parking lots and Highway 116. It finally escapes four blocks later into the life-giving light near the Laguna de Santa Rosa and the Joe Rodota Trail. A spring Southwest of Ives Park nourishes Calder’s year round flow.

The Sebastopol group, which has yet to adopt a formal name, held its first organizing meeting on July 1. Citizens (including professionals in creek restoration, City Council Members, residents, artists and educators) pooled information and suggested some interesting ideas for improvement of the creek. Here are some of their ideas:

Reconfigure the intersection of Jewel Avenue and Willow Street which sits atop Calder Creek and is confusing and dangerous, daylighting a small portion of the creek in the process.

Daylight the portions of the creek beneath city-owned parking areas east of Ives Park by rezoning for housing and commercial development. Selling the lots for development would increase Sebastopol revenues, focus development in the downtown core, make it easier to walk to businesses, beautify the area and provide a source of funding for the daylighting. Reforest the daylighted section with a riparian zone and connect Ives Park to the Joe Rodota Trail with a bicycle route along the creek beneath the state highway.

Naturalize the creek channel in Ives Park by restoring meanders and removing the concrete banks, sloping the sides so children could safely access the creek for environmental education.

Address pollution and runoff issues by encouraging the city to relocate the trash dumpster away from the creek, organizing creek cleanup events and instituting water quality monitoring. The group has already hosted a walk on the lower portion to the creek and will soon investigate the upper portion.

Know your watershed

by Rick Coates

I am amazed at the number of blank stares that I get in response to the question “What is your watershed?” If I had asked what neighborhood they lived in or what street they lived on, they would answer immediately. Yet a question about water, an absolute necessity for life, elicits perplexity.

In some cases it is the word “watershed” that they do not know. Your watershed is the entire upland area, from ridge top to ridge top, that collects, stores and releases rain water surrounding your home together with the creek or river that drains that area. Watersheds are usually named by the creek or river that drain them such as the Santa Rosa Creek Watershed, but they include all of the surface land that drains to that watercourse.

City folks often know not their watershed because it is underground. Rain flows from their roofs to the curb and down the culvert drain. Out of sight, out of mind. No visible creek and the related watershed disappears. Or their waterway no longer bears the name of a creek. Instead it is called a “flood control channel” and is straight as a city street. Most likely, though, most folks have never thought of how important the watershed is to them and how they effect it. Until a flood washes through their living room. You can bet that the citizens of Guerneville know their watershed. Or until gasoline bubbles up in the bathroom tub as happened in the Roseland neighborhood of Santa Rosa. Or until their well runs dry. Or until the salmon disappear.

Take some time to get out a map, locate your home and note the creek or river closest. Thomas guides or Google Maps show greater detail but topographic maps better define the drainage area. Actually you live in several watersheds. The “highest” order watershed is the headwaters or tributary of the nearest creek. Each time the creek flows into another larger creek it drains an even larger watershed. The final and largest “first order” watershed drains to the sea.

For example, consider Santa Rosa Creek Watershed, a fifth order watershed. Santa Rosa Creek, which starts in the Mayacmas Range east of Santa Rosa, flows south to the juncture of the Valley of the Moon and Rincon Valley. Along with the water flows pesticide and herbicide residues washed off the nearby vineyards. Along the way Brush Creek joins Santa Rosa Creek. Therefore those who live in the Brush Creek watershed also live in the Santa Rosa Creek Watershed. At E street in downtown Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa Creek dives underground flowing beneath the Santa Rosa City Hall hidden from life-giving sunshine. When it emerges just west of Highway 101 near Days Inn it has become the “Santa Rosa Flood Control Channel”, straight and true. By this time the drainage from city streets and parking lots has joined the flow. It caries nice additives like garden pesticides, gasoline, oil, and detergents. Soon thereafter, near Llano Road, it joins the effluent from the Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant falling into the Laguna de Santa Rosa Flood Control Channel, a fourth order waterway which meanders sluggishly and darkly through the Laguna de Santa Rosa Watershed. It is here that animal waste tea joins the soup. The Laguna is a third order Watershed. The water and its pollutants then join the waters of Mark West Creek, a second order watershed. Mark West Creek together with its load of treated sewage effluent joins the Russian River Watershed just downstream of the Sonoma County Water Agency’s drinking water intake. The Russian River is a first order, if not a first class, watershed. It is fed by many smaller watershed some contributing agricultural fertilizers and pesticides and some contributing silt from logging operations.

Its pretty obvious that what happens upstream of the drinking water for most of Sonoma County is important. Its important for the fish too. Pesticides from home and farm wash into the stream. Many pesticides aside from being toxic themselves contain a wetting agent known as nonyl phenol. Many detergents also contain nonyl phenol. Nonyl phenol, an estrogen mimic, has been shown to effect the salmonid reproductive cycle. Salmonids must readjust to salt water when they return to the ocean. Unfortunately, small concentrations of nonyl phenol can damage their ability to properly adjust to sea water. The result: these salmon fail to thrive and seldom return to spawn. Excess silt running off denuded hillsides can actually confuse migrating salmon and steelhead causing them to end up in a creek for which they are genetically unsuited.

Forests, both upland forests and riparian forests, play an important role in cleaning the creaks and rivers of silt and pollutants. What is upstream in your watershed matters. Forests hold water and release it slowly throughout the year, reducing flooding. Trees, especially redwoods, filter prodigious quantities of water trapping pollutants in their trunks. The transpired water gets recycled to the forest by fog precipitation. Consequently, it is important to monitor the forest condition within your watershed.

What’s downstream matters too. Pollutants carried by tributaries into the main stem below your watershed can kill fish before they ever reach your stretch of the creek. More and more salmonids must “run the gauntlet” before reaching spawning habitat. After spawning, salmon die and their decaying bodies provide necessary nutrients and food for other creatures. Wildlife require riparian corridors up and down the length of the watershed (including within cities!). It is particularly important that wildlife have access to clean drinking water. Zoning should provide development setbacks from the creek to protect wildlife habitat and provide sufficient riparian forest and wetland to cleanse the runoff waters.

A healthy watershed provides a year round source of water for forests. Forests provide an even, year-round flow of water to the creeks and rivers. Watersheds are crucial to the health of forests. Forests are crucial to the health of the Watersheds.

Does your watershed have an active group of citizens that monitors and protects it? If not, Forest Unlimited would like to help you organize one. If you do, Forest Unlimited would like to provide your group with a forest protection training. Forest Protection Workshops, custom scheduled for your group’s convenience, provide an understanding of the political and legal tools your group can used to prevent abusive logging or riparian damage in your watershed. For more information contact us at 707-632-6070 or visit

Friends of Sheephouse Creek

April 10, 2009

In the small Sheephouse Creek watershed west of Duncans Mills, multiple timber harvest plans have been proposed to log 20 percent of its area. The creek’s headwaters are part of the Jenner Headlands a new acquisition of the Sonoma County Agricultural and Open Space District. It is also the site of an ongoing taxpayer-funded captive broodstock program for coho salmon initiated in 2001.

Designated by the California Coastal Commission as a special treatment area, partially because it still support of silver (coho) salmon and steelhead trout, this watercourse has been proposed for multiple restoration projects. The National Marine Fisheries Service has determined Sheephouse Creek to be a core restoration area for coho recovery. Its waters are important in the development of the summertime fresh lagoon proposed for the lower Russian River to create a healthier nursery for young steelhead and salmon.

In January of 2008 Forester Glen Edwards filed Nonindustrial Timber Management Plan 1-08NTMP-004 SON in the Sheephouse Creek watershed on behalf of the Rocioli Ranch. Because of the multiple threats to the recovery salmon,some local residents the Friends of Sheephouse Creek and sought Forest Unlimited’s help understanding the California Department of Forestry’s review process for NTMPs.

This NTMP, about 2-1/2 miles west of Duncans Mills and bordering Sheephouse Creek, involves 228 acres of “Selection” silviculture. Forty-three acres of the area are Coastal Commission Special Treatment Zone.  The area contains areas of moderate to high erosion which will be logged with tractor and cable yarding. The forester proposes extensive road reconstruction and new roads, as well as in-lieu practice for the use of heavy equipment on an existing seasonal roads and landing within a Class 1 watercourse.   The area contains Osprey habitat, Steelhead trout, as well as the California Red Legged Frog and Red Tree Vole.  A domestic water supply may be threatened. The ongoing Russian River Coho Salmon Captive Broodstock Program may be jeopardized.. Based on a ten year harvest cycle taking 800 MBF per decade over the next 40 years. Headwaters are part of the Jenner Headlands Project. Proposed for multiple habitat restoration projects by DFG in 2009 and identified as a Core area by NMFS for Coho recovery.

This plan was originally submitted in February 2008 and returned by the California Department of Forestry (Cal Fire) ten days later with four pages of corrections. Resubmitted in December 2008, the NTMP was returned again by Cal Fire ten days later with eight more pages of corrections. We are currently waiting for the plan to be resubmitted a third time.

This NTMP is an open ended perpetual logging plan with a 40 year planing horizon. Logging would occur every ten years. Like most timber plans, it does not acknowledge cumulative watershed effects and makes a claim that mitigations proposed in conjunction with logging and road construction can prevent them. Major issues, such as changes in hydrology associated with the NTMP go completely unrecognized.  Relevant data that show significant environmental problems are not analyzed or discussed, failing to meet CEQA standards for cumulative effects.

The fisheries section of the NTMP now acknowledges that Steelhead trout and Coho salmon are found in the watershed, and mentions that Sheephouse Creek is a restoration stream for the Coho Salmon Recovery Program, initiated in 2001. Sheephouse Creek is considered to be in the Willow Creek watershed assessment area, which contains Coho salmon, and therefore Sheephouse Creek is also considered to contain Coho.  Since 2004, Sheephouse Creek has been actively planted with young Coho.

While the RPF apparently downplays the numbers of Coho found in Sheephouse Creek, he neglects to mention NMFS considers Sheephouse Creek as a Core area for immediate restoration by NMFS in its draft Recovery Plan for Coho.

The RPF admits “The Sheephouse Creek watershed has been impacted in regards to sediment primarily from past timber harvesting.” The Ricioli Ranch NTMP then tries to make a case that the plan will be able to make corrective changes and improvements to the areas proposed for harvest and will have “a positive net effect upon the beneficial uses of the watershed resources,” without providing any evidence to support this claim as required by CEQA.

Despite stated objectives, the proposed activities under this NTMP are exactly the opposite of what is needed for recovery of fish and wildlife in Western Sonoma County and the lower Russian River.  The stated mitigations are inadequate to protect the fishery.  The plan is inconsistent with the Russian River Biological Opinion released by NMFS in September, 2009  and the NMFS draft Recovery Plan for Coho which is now being circulated among co-managing agencies. The NTMP should assist salmon and steelhead recovery in the Russian River basin instead of further contributing to their decline. It does not state even the most general goals for salmonid recovery nor include plans for increasing the salmon or steelhead resources of the state. The NTMP states “Erosion control measures contained in the Forest Practice Rules and the NTMP should mitigate the potential for sediment input into any watercourse on site or off site of the project area.” It concludes – “it is anticipated that no impacts will occur to the habitat or watershed resources which could significantly adversely impact these species.”

DFG has concluded, and NMFS agrees, that Coho salmon in the Central Coast Coho ESU are in serious danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of their range. Coho salmon once inhabited the entire Russian River basin, but are now restricted to the lower watersheds near the coast and within the redwood forest zone. A captive broodstock program to prevent the extinction of Coho salmon and re-establish new native populations has been started in 2001 at Warm Springs Dam Hatchery based on juveniles taken from Green Valley Creek. The first planting was done in 2004 in Ward, Mill, and Sheephouse Creeks, which were chosen for their quality habitat. Initial results are encouraging. The Ricioli Ranch NTMP places this multi million dollar, taxpayer subsidized program in jeopardy.  The forester states in his plan that “It is anticipated that no significant adverse impacts will occur to the habitat or watershed resources which could significantly adversely impact these species.” Yet he later admits “Changes in stream flow may adversely impact aquatic species if peak flows exceed the carrying capacity of the existing stream channel.” then, “An increase in late summer flows may be expected following timber harvesting. However this effect diminishes within a few years as the forest regenerates.”

Cold water fish species are recognized as a beneficial use of the Russian River, therefore some quantitative measurements of fish habitat also serve as water quality indicators for Sheephouse Creek. Data such as flow, channel type, temperatures, habitat type, embeddedness, shelter rating, substrate composition, canopy, and bank composition were last noted by DFG in an assessment of Sheephouse Creek’s habitat and biological inventory completed in 1996. This data is now included many times throughout the revised NTMP. The DFG report concluded that Sheephouse Creek and its tributaries should be managed as an anadromous, natural production stream. Access for migrating salmonids is an ongoing potential problem in the Southwest and Northeast tributaries of Sheephouse Creek, where log debris from upslope timber operations periodically moves downslope. Also, the report notes road related erosion should be identified and corrected. Lastly, cross sections to monitor sediment transport should continue to be monitored by DFG staff. Many of these legacy conditions were created by past logging entries by the very same family which proposes the current NTMP. While the RPF now repeatedly points out that the current NTMP has been designed with the protection, maintenance, or restoration of the beneficial uses of water or the populations and habitat of anadromous salmonids or listed aquatic or riparian associated species as significant objectives, nowhere does he state what will be done to correct conditions which were caused by past events which are today causing serious adverse environmental impact.

In 1999, biologists estimated there were only 100 adult Coho salmon in the Russian River and its tributaries, or 6% of what the population was in the 1940’s. A variety of factors led to this decline, including loss of habitat to farming, dams, overfishing, and logging. NOAA Fisheries has identified the failure of the Forest Practice Rules to adequately assess cumulative impacts, focusing in particular on their adverse effects on anadromous fisheries. The DFG has concluded that historical forestry practices impacted and continue to impact watersheds inhabited by northern California Coho salmon. Cumulative impacts from logging include an increased sediment yield, promotion for warming of ! stream temperatures, and an alteration of watershed hydrology.

The NTMP continues to fail to fully evaluate road impacts, especially for the proposed use of the contested easement road through Keller property to access the timber area. Much of the sediment that enters our California streams comes from road related erosion. Roads, such as that proposed for use along Sheephouse Creek, and which parallel the watercourse have the highest chronic sediment delivery. Over 1250 of new road and road reconstruction are proposed in the Ricioli Ranch NTMP along with 12 new crossings of class II and III watercourses, as well as replacement of a log stringer bridge over a class I crossing. If the Problem Sites and Landmarks section of the 1996 DFG Sheephouse Creek survey are any indication, stream side landslides are contributing sediment directly to Sheephouse Creek today. Roads that parallel watercourses for most of their length pose high risk of sediment yield and disrupt riparian function. Degradation affects many aspects of the riparian and wetland ecosystem: riparian vegetative cover decreases, bank and channel erosion increases, sediment deposition into channels increases, flooding increases, water quality decreases and recreational opportunities decrease. This is the very reason we are contesting the use of our easement road for logging purposes, decommissioning it and strongly encourage the use of an identified alternative road on Ricioli property and/or Berry property, which would have far less environmental impact upon the riparian area along Sheephouse Creek. While the Keller property is not included in the NTMP, it should be afforded the same protection of its riparian area that the FPR’s dictate with the WLPZ and EEZ. As this is private property, no in lieu practice is allowed as a deviation from standard rule.

The NTMP now admits the existence of many active and dormant landslides and areas of unstable soils which are associated with the timber harvest area. The RPF notes that the surface erosion hazard rating for the NTMP area is moderate to high, and the soils types found here to have a permeability considered moderate with runoff very rapid and a hazard of erosion at high. Slopes are steep (50%+) leading into the watercourse area. Trees are shown to be harvested on slide areas and road construction is proposed in unstable areas, as well as in slide prone areas. The Ricioli Ranch NTMP deals with slope stability and sediment contributions by implying mitigation measures are designed to reduce the potential for adverse impacts to the species of concern to a level of insignificance. Because of the unstable nature of the landscape on which this plan will be operated, the Ricioli Ranch NTMP will not be able to a chieve its goal of no net sediment discharge. Any addition of sediment into an impaired waterway is a significant adverse impact upon the environment and grounds to deny this NTMP. Because of the potential association of these landslides and unstable soils with existing and planned disturbances (logging), we have asked for further review with a CA Geologic Survey independent geologic investigation allowing for peer review of the findings. The investigation should be done independent of the Santa Rosa office.

I have asked the RPF through CDF if the removal of dominant overstory trees and the reduction in hardwoods will require the use of herbicides, but I have not received an answer nor does the NTMP seem to address this issue. Any use of herbicides and pesticides with the NTMP area will pose risk to the salmonids in Sheephouse Creek. This is well documented in the scientific literature.

The  NTMP does not fully explore cumulative watershed effects within the Sheephouse Creek watershed or the relevant Calwater Planning Watershed (Willow Creek), much less characterize environmental stressors that exist in the Russian River basin for this area. When assessing the cumulative impacts of a timber harvest plan that is proposed on any portion of a 303(d) listed water body that is located within or downstream of the proposed water body, the RPF must undertake additional analysis. He must assess the degree to which the proposed operations would result in impacts that may combine with stressors for which the water body was listed to further impact the! listed water body. Also, he must determine the extent to which these combined impacts would impair the beneficial uses of the water body.

The EPA has listed the Russian River as an impaired water body with regards to sediment and temperature. The NTMP makes the claim that mitigations to offset damage will actually improve current conditions and have a “net positive effect” upon the environment then if no harvesting of timber took place. The problem is that timber harvests are typically reviewed as individual impacts and not in conjunction with all the activities in the watershed. This would include the cumulative impacts of past, present, and proposed plans. Each timber harvest plan must be considered in its full environmental context and not in a vacuum. All significant environmental impacts of a proposed! timber harvest plan must be considered, whether those impacts may be expected to fall on or off the logging site. This would include the human and environmental impacts this plan would have upon the Keller property should the proposed easement road through their property be used for commercial logging.

After admitting that the Sheephouse Creek watershed has been impacted in regards to sediment primarily from past timber harvesting, the RPF briefly summarizes the recent timber activities in the Watershed and BAA approved within the last ten years, but fails to discuss their significance. If you were to look only at plans approved in the watershed over the last ten years, about 14% of the watershed has been impacted; but over the last fifteen years, 37% of the watershed has been impacted; and if you were to add in the two proposed plans for this watershed, over 56% of the watershed acres will have been impacted by logging. The RPF is ignoring the impacts this NTMP will have on the watershed by diluting its impact by only going back ten years and using the greater WAA and BAA to generate his ratios. What is lacking is a prudent limit or threshold for! timber harvest to avoid cumulative watershed effects. We have asked that the last five previous THP’s in this watershed be looked at in conjunction with the two currently proposed in order to truly understand cumulative effects. Questions which should be addressed are how much unstable ground was disturbed; how many miles of roads were constructed or rebuilt; and what monitoring data show that impacts from the plans are not already exceeding cumulative effects thresholds? What are the thresholds?

The Ricioli Ranch NTMP does admit the potential for increases in peak flow and potential for downstream impacts but feels this effect diminishes within a few years as the forest regenerates. The RPF requests that an in-lieu practice be approved that allows the use of heavy equipment in areas which are considered Class 1 WLPZ and EEZ. Extensive use of tractors and an increase in road usage will indeed increase peak discharges in Sheephouse Creek. This increased peak flow can scour stream channels and wash out large wood and spawning gravels. These effects on the habitat can greatly reduce salmonid carrying capacity. Can the RPF and Cal Fire guarantee that the carrying capacity of Sheephouse Creek’s anadromous fish runs is not compromised?

The Ricioli Ranch NTMP is interested in its short term economic yield as it fails to recognize the long term human and environmental effects it will have upon the Keller property, Sheephouse Creek, its watershed, and the Coho and Steelhead habitat. It is obvious that something is amiss in the California redwood ecosystem that is causing the decline of our salmon population. Avian indicator species such as the northern spotted owl and the osprey, which are found in the Sheephouse Creek watershed, cannot move to adjacent habitats if it is logged. A historical survey of the endangered, threatened, and sensitive species found over the last fifteen years in this watershed do not exist today in the same numbers, nor are they increasing. Congressman Mike Thompson, who has expressed concern for this NTMP, mentions Wild salmon are to the rivers and the watershed and the ocean what the canary is to the coal mine. Their decline in numbers indicates the loss of biodiversity in this watershed due to historical logging.

The Ricioli Ranch NTMP does not contain sufficient imformation on which to judge its impacts and, for this reason, the proposed plan should be denied. Data required should include a yearly population estimate of Coho salmon and Steelhead trout. Turbidity measurements for Sheephouse Creek should be required, as well as other factors of water quality. Threshold levels should be determined to know how much additional sediment the watercourse can tolerate without significantly effecting fishery productivity and domestic water uses downstream. The Ricioli Ranch NTMP will add to the impairment of water quality, cause further loss of fish habitat, and be counter productive for the recovery of Coho and the continued existence of Steelhead trout in Sheephouse Creek.


Death by freeway

January 31, 2008

by Rick Coates

Last month I witnessed something that sickened my heart. Undoubtedly you have noticed the highway 101 widening project. Not, of course, because traffic was at a standstill. This is the normal condition of 101. The clues were the CalTrans trucks, heavy equipment and flaggers. But did you also notice the many large, stiff carcasses laying along the shoulder? I refer to the redwoods slaughtered to make way for freeway expansion? These slain trees symbolize our Transportation madness.

Anyone who has studied such matters know that the automobile causes more environmental and health damage than any other source. It distorts our land use decisions with sprawl development. It paves over ground water recharge areas. Its toxics fill our cancer wards and its burdens our trauma centers. It maims parents and orphans children. It fuels our wars. It heats our planet, literally leading us “down the road” to climate disaster. And climate change will destroy our forests.

The safety record of the automobile when compared to that of trains on a passenger-per-mile basis is abysmal. And most train accidents involve, yes, an automobile.

Our so-called leaders refuse to give us a choice. Their policy is to devote more precious land to the automobile. They cannot see that the goal is to move people, not vehicles, in a safe, comfortable and efficient way. We need to remove cars from the freeway, not make more room for them.

Some have the audacity to complain of subsidies for trains. The most heavily subsidized form of transportation is the automobile. Hidden subsidies at every level, from the parking spaces that local business’s are required to provide to federal tax breaks for massive oil tankers, it drains our public treasury and our private accounts. The price at the pump is but a tiny fraction of the true cost of the automobile. Return to some free-market utopia sans subsidies, and automobiles would be melted down into rails.

These trees, sacrificed on an altar of steel, rubber and concrete, once cleansed the air of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. They cooled the air and help protected the soil from driving rain. They shielded us from the cacophony of road noise. They turned fog into ground water and their roots channeled rain into our aquifers. And they made the long slow journey on the ugly freeway tolerable. I will miss them.