PART 2 - The Iminent Threat to our COAST and the Importance of Updating The Local Coastal Plan
[ Please READ Part 1 in the print version November Gazette and
The Public and the LCP: The Sonoma Coast is an irreplaceable public asset and deserves the kind of respect and due process that it was accorded during the thorough public participation by which the first LCP was initially formulated and adopted. After a County-requested pause in the LCP update process following the 2017 Tubbs fire, Permit Sonoma is now pushing through an artificially-rushed public review of hundreds of pages of binding planning guidance and formal regulatory language in the aftermath of this year’s new fire season. How the updated LCP is to be reformulated at this time will determine, more than any other single County policy, the future fate of our coastal environment.
There is a lot at stake here right now. The inspiration our coast provides to each of us compels us to defend it. The health and well-being of our communities requires our participation at this critical time.
A Bizarre Helicopter Poisoning Proposal in the Midst of Our National Marine Sanctuary:
Defending what we have already protected is a recurring theme at this time on our coast. Right in the middle of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary itself, President Trump’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to falsely claim that their agency can somehow help to mitigate the impacts of climate warming by using helicopters to spread 1.5 tons of second-generation rodenticide poison pellets into a National Wildlife Refuge on the Southeast Farallon Island, resulting in uncounted “bykill” of a host of non-target species.
Under this plan, the Fish and Wildlife Service claims it can thereby dissuade about eight burrowing owls from the Marin Headlands from undertaking their annual avian migration out to the island each fall to consume their share of an overpopulation of house mice derived from some escaped mice that were accidentally introduced there during the Gold Rush. These visiting burrowing owls, it is claimed, tend to stick around after the rapid collapse of the mouse population each year and then predate on the eggs and chicks of a small seabird called the Ashy Storm Petrel.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, when asked in a separate petition to list the Ashy Storm Petrel under the Endangered Species Act, asserted in response that the bird’s population has been increasing and the agency has thereby twice denied the request for any elevated protective listing.
On July 10, 2019, the California Coastal Commission, which must approve this “poison drop” proposal, asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff who were presenting this plan in a public hearing to answer some important questions for which they simply had no response. Lacking the ability to react coherently to key questions posed by the Coastal Commissioners, the Fish and Wildlife Service federal staffers then temporarily withdrew their poison plan from consideration, but this same scheme will be back to again seek approval at a future Coastal Commission meeting coming up soon.
Those of us who care about our National Marine Sanctuary will need to once again defend this coast from Trump’s fake science by attending one of these meetings. Meanwhile, you can quickly customize and send your own letter to the Coastal Commission to share your comments on this idea by visiting http://PoisonFreeSanctuary.org
The Incredible Story of Scotty Creek and the Massive Sonoma Coast “Bridge to Nowhere”: And finally, also indirectly affected by what is likely going to eventually be adopted by our Board of Supervisors in the updated Sonoma County Local Coastal Plan, is the long-controversial proposal by Caltrans to construct an oversized elevated urban-freeway-style concrete bridge to span little Scotty Creek on Highway One just north of Sereno del Mar at Gleason Beach. The LCP is supposed to preserve the visual values – the spectacular optics – of our coast, viewsheds that have been well-protected to date within what are known as “Scenic Landscape Units”, or SLU’s, as part of the original LCP.
One of the few remaining largely-undeveloped rural SLU shoreline segments is the Scotty Creek/Gleason Beach watershed, where Caltrans is planning to construct their three-quarter-mile long highway realignment project, including a proposed oversized bridge to cross little ten-foot-wide Scotty Creek, a concrete bridge that would become the largest manmade object on the Sonoma Coast. The County of Sonoma should not simply duck their responsibility to play a duly-designated role in pending decisions that will eradicate the viewsheds and coastal values at this location to Caltrans or any other agency. The updated LCP needs to be reconfigured to actually accomplish what it is supposed to do, protect our coast. Once completed, the updated LCP will likely determine the ultimate fate of this fragile Scotty Creek “Scenic Landscape Unit” (SLU) for all time.