Mid-peninsula Open Space CEQA issues

Subject:
DEMAND LETTER: Cease all grassland/wildflower field projects
Date:
Sun, 29 May 2011 17:34:43 -0000 (UTC)
From:
"Craig Dremann - Redwood City Seed Company"
To:
mradcliffe@openspace.org, sschectman@openspace.org, BOARD@openspace.org


Dear Ms. Radcliffe, The Board, Attorney, Management, and WMA,

DEMAND LETTER: IMMEDIATELY CEASE ALL GRASSLAND MANAGEMENT PROJECTS IN ALL
PRESERVES until full EIRs completed.

Only a week ago, the Board sent me a letter about the herbicide spraying
at the Russian Ridge preserve that I have been objecting to this spring,
conducted without any CEQA EIR written, or even any basic environmental
safety features to protect the resources for that project, and now a
person is dead.

Your Board president wrote only a week ago:

"You've expressed concerns about herbicide application at Russian Ridge.
Staff has recently provided you with extensive information and maps
describing the District's careful management practices when applying
herbicides on target invasive plants species. We will welcome your input
when further CEQA review of vegetation management commences."

It is true, I received a map of the Harding grass infestation, but no maps
of the Italian thistle, the yellow star thistle or the wild oat
infestations, which were all spread from the five fires.

For example, the Italian thistle was only a path-side weed on the 1996
Russian Ridge weed map, now covers 20% of the north end of that preserve,
like the picture I took a few weeks ago at
http://www.ecoseeds.com/ital_thistle_2011.JPG

Here is a list of items related to the Russian Ridge herbicide spraying,
that I still have not received from your District:

1.) No maps of the Russian Ridge preserve, showing where the herbicide has
already been applied, and/or where herbicide is intending to be applied
later this year.

2.) No maps showing the Russian Ridge preserve, of the current ranges or
the locations of the wildflower field and species.

3.) No maps of Russian Ridge, showing the locations and extent of the
wildflower fields and/or species prior to the CAL FIRE burns (i.e.
pre-1997).

4.) No spray damage mitigation plan. Since the native wildflower
seedlings had already germinated at Russian Ridge when the spraying
started this spring, and this preserve is the best example of
non-serpentine wildflowers in Northern California, I did not get any
copies of the mitigation plan for avoiding damage to those seedlings, that
could potentially be killed by the herbicide that is being used for the
project.

Wildflowers at Russian Ridge have already been killed this year, when
herbicides hit the best buttercup patch in the area--the big buttercup
patch that is located at the trail crossroads about 200 feet from the
Skyline lookout parking lot, just to the left of where I took the picture
at http://www.ecoseeds.com/russian_2011.jpg

5.) No details of any before-and-after vegetation monitoring and
measurements that will be conducted to monitor the herbicide project this
year at Russian Ridge.

I also have not found any evidence of CEQA consultation with the State
Department of Fish and Game regarding either the burn projects on any of
the preserves since 1996, or any of the grassland and wildflower field
herbicide projects..

I did find, that if the Board thinks that it does not have to write a full
EIR because it is going to claim a Categorical Exemption for the Russian
Ridge herbicide project, that legal theory is prohibited under the State
law for herbicides in the native grassland habitats and wildflower field
areas.

And I did find the 1988 McQueen decision about Mount Umunhum, that the
District lost in the California Court of Appeals, and the court ruled
against you for not doing your EIRs in that case, and for painting the
CEQA exemptions much too broadly.

The 1996-2011 Mid-pen grassland and wildflower resource preserves lack of
EIRs for projects and painting the exemptions too broadly, is so much like
the McQueen case---it is like, as Yogi Berra said, deja vu all over
again.

You are assuring me in your letter last week, that a CEQA review of your
grassland and wildflower field herbicide and burn projects will be
conducted sometime in the future, date unknown.

However, that is the complete opposite of how CEQA is supposed to work--as
explained to me by the attorney at the Governor's Office of Planning and
Research, who is in charge of CEQA.

What you were supposed to do, is hold scoping meeting with the public, do
the draft EIR, offer the public alternatives to the herbicide or burn
projects--including a no project alternative--and allow the public to
review and comment on your proposed projects, BEFORE you start spraying
herbicides or setting fires, and adding more damages and one death so far,
to the massive damages already done by the five fires.

It seems that your District wants to run the CEQA process backwards? To
any reasonable person, that seems to be what you letter is saying.

Your District wants to do the projects without any public input or any
environmental reviews, then you want to write the EIRs at some date in the
future--months, years, or over a decade after the projects have been done?

And you want to do all of this, without having done any before-and-after
project vegetation measurement data, never knowing what the results were
to the environment, or to have any record for the public, of the
catastrophic damages that were done to the resources?

I am requesting that you IMMEDIATELY CEASE all projects within all of the
grassland habitats on all of your preserves, take a deep breath, and begin
the CEQA EIR process for each project on each preserve that contains
grassland habitats.

I am also requesting, that you survey the grassland areas of all of the
District's preserves, and precisely map the locations of the grasslands
and wildflower resources and record a copy at the County Recorder's office
in both San Mateo and Santa Clara County.

Then, I am requesting that the Board passes a Resolution based on that
map, officially adopting those grassland and wildflower areas as
"Particularly Sensitive Environments of Critical Concern", like what is
described in Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations, Section
15300.2, for example.

And I am requesting that you pay for an independent botanical review, to
be conducted this year, of Russian Ridge and any other Preserve that has
been burned by the District since 1996, and compare the before-and-after
effects of the burns, and produce a public document that would outline
what the estimated costs would be, to bring those preserves back to their
pre-burn conditions.

Mid-pen needs to admit their mistakes, and set up a mitigation program
backed up with an EIR, to start the repair of the massive fifteen year's
worth of fire damages, and get back on track with CEQA, before anyone else
dies.

Sincerely, Craig Dremann