Do Not Disturb
Water Pipeline Project Alert
DEADLINE for COMMENTS Extended to May 2
By Linda Lucey
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve is known for containing the largest contiguous stand of old growth coast redwoods in Sonoma County. Sadly, these famous trees are endangered by the very people responsible for protecting them. The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) plans to install a water pipeline through the entire length of the valley floor. Unless we respond now, we can anticipate the sights, sounds, and smells of backhoes, excavators, graders, bulldozers, compressors, and dump trucks operating within the sensitive ecosystem. On March 18, 2014, DPR announced an Environmental Impact Report is being prepared. To have our concerns addressed during the review, we must respond before May 2, 2014.
A review of plan designs revealed plans for 1740 feet of surface trenching and 4290 feet of horizontal directional drilling (HDD) through the heart of the grove. Starting at the park entrance, the pipeline will follow the road, passing close to the Parson Jones tree. Then the pipeline leaves the road and follows the existing nature trail through the heart of the grove. The pipeline will intersect with the existing paved road east of Burbank circle. From there it will head to the back of the park weaving back and forth across the road. Plans indicate some fallen old growth trees and a hillside may have to be removed.
Designs indicated surface excavation of five pits. During an interview, Patricia DuMont, Environmental Coordinator at DPR, stated the surface size of the largest pit would be 112 square feet. The pits will be deep enough to provide space for lowering drilling equipment and lengths of pipeline segments to install a waterline 30 feet below the surface. According to DuMont, an unknown amount of additional surface trenching would be necessary.
The average 200 foot tall redwood has surface feeder roots that extend outward 100 to 200 feet in every direction. Some of the smallest roots lie only inches under the ground. The main bulk of the root pad goes down around six feet. Though the redwood tree does not have a taproot, larger feeder roots will grow down to seek water flowing deeper in the underground water tables.
A redwood cannot adapt to loss of its usual water supply. When the roots are crushed or severed or deeper water tables are drained, the redwood can no longer supply enough moisture to its branches. When this happens, vital processes are shut down, new growth stops, and cells begin to die. The extent and pace of the decline depend on the extent of the root damage and water loss. Often, the tree dies very slowly, from the top down, gradually turning into a “spike top”. The “Clar Tree” near Northwood is a good example. Once a healthy tree 357 feet tall and twenty feet in diameter, the Clar Tree has been in decline since logging activities circa 1910.
Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve, the place where some of the last of the old giants were thought to be safe, is dotted with spike tops. Declining trees can be seen around the camping and picnic areas. During an interview, a retired ranger stated the Armstrong giants, “… are not getting something they are used to having, and I think it is water. Civilization is sucking the water right out from under the trees. The water tables are dropping …”
The initial studies for the water line project failed to identify any significant impacts to the old growth trees. The report did not identify unique and special features such as the Parson Jones Tree, towering to 310 feet, the tallest tree in the park. There was no special consideration to tree circles, such as the Burbank Circle, where multiple trees share identical genetic material as well as interconnected roots thousands of years old. Existing damage to redwoods from compaction, paving, and trenching was not identified. Impacts to the water table from planned well drilling were not discussed.
The trees are not the only resource endangered by the project. Initial studies did not provide for consideration of endangered bird species such as the Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet. There was no discussion of the delicate redwood orchid. The impacts to the nearly one million annual visitors to the park were not considered significant enough to merit further study. The impacts to the local residents who use the park regularly during all seasons were not considered.
Project designs and descriptions of the proposed work can be viewed in initial study documents stored at the Guerneville Library, Armstrong Redwoods Reserve Visitors‘ Center, and the Russian River District Headquarters in Duncan’s Mills.
To have questions and concerns reviewed for the proposed Environmental Impact Report, the public must respond before April 16, 2014. Send your comments and letters to:
Patricia DuMont – Environmental Coordinator
DPR – Northern Service Center
One Capitol Mall, Suite 410
Sacramento, CA 95814
Or Email Patricia at: CEQA.NSC@parks.ca.gov (Subject line: Armstrong Redwoods).
Or Email Patricia at: Patti.DuMont@parks.ca.gov