Northern Natural Resources Consultant Report - September 2019

July 11 California Coastal Commission (CCC) Meeting

“In short, the status quo at ODSVRA is clearly not sustainable and it is time to more fully understand and evaluate other public access and recreation options that are consistent with coastal resource protections given the current realities that affect and are affected by OHV activities at this shoreline location. Put simply, in staff’s view a Park that is fully consistent with on-the-ground realities, and with coastal resource protection requirements, does not include OHV use. Rather, it is clear to staff that the significant coastal resource issues and constraints attributable to OHV use render long-term OHV use at this location untenable.” Those were the comments made by the California Coastal Commission (CCC) staff recommending the closure of the Oceano Dunes SVRA and the main subject at the July CCC meeting in San Luis Obispo.

I arrived at the meeting hall at 7AM, a good two hours before the hearing was scheduled to start and there were already hundreds of Dune supporter inside the hotel. By 9AM they estimated nearly 1,000 supporters were lined up to sign in to the hearing and give public comment on the CCC’s staff proposed closure of the Oceano Dunes SVRA.

The CCC staff gave their presentation on why they feel the dunes should be closed to OHV recreation. California State Parks Staff gave a presentation on why the CCC should allow the SVRA to continue with its Public Works Plan and hold off on any new restrictions.

Next to testify was the legislators, city council members and mayors of the local nearby communities. Then groups and finally individuals all had a chance to testify. Over eight hours of public comment was taken that day.

In the end the CCC voted 8-2 to give the Oceano Dunes SVRA another year to work on the issues. If it wasn’t for the huge turnout of the OHV community, I feel it could have been a very different outcome.

California Coastal Commission (CCC)

The CCC staff also wrote that the park should transition to other less intensive forms of public access and recreation. The CCC is also considering these changes to the SVRA:

  • Increasing enforcement of all vehicular use limits, speed limits and other vehicular requirements; would also call for additional signs, rangers and parameters for verifying that the number of vehicles in the park doesn’t exceed maximum allowances.
  • Adding more fencing to protect coastal resources.  Prohibiting night riding from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise. Stopping OHV and camping operations when the Arroyo Grande Creek flows to prevent creek crossing 
  •  Reducing vehicular and OHV daily use limits depending on acreage that is available for use that day due to dust control requirements
  •  Eliminating holiday unlimited vehicular and OHV use exceptions on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Thanksgiving.
  •  Considering entrance modifications that could provide vehicular access to the park while reducing coastal resource impacts.
  • Making 300-acre seasonal endangered special enclosure area permanent and restore the area to natural habitat. 
  •  Allowing for future closures for required dust control for all areas specified by the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District. 

Oceano Dunes SVRA Particulate Matter Reduction Plan

The plan would be implemented over the next four years. State Parks will be working with SLO Air Pollution Control District to monitor the SVRA's dust emissions. The plan would include the following actions:

  • Develop a vegetated foredune behind the tide zone.
  • 50 acres of existing wind fencing area's to natural vegetation.
  • Restore 60 acres of back dunes from open sand to natural vegetation.
  • Deployment of seasonal wind fencing on 40 areas of the SVRA.
  • Prevent track out of sand on to Grand and Pier Avenues.
  •  Dust and meteorological monitoring at the SVRA.

Oceano Dunes Public Works Plan (PWP)

The PWP is a long-range plan land use management plan for compliance with the California Coastal Act this is reviewed and approved by the California Coastal Commission (CCC). The PWP will document current conditions, consider improvements and management programs to improve access. These projects could include-

  • Southern entrance and access to the dunes.
  • Southern campground with RV hookups.
  • Pier and Grand entrances. Clean up outdated kiosk's, lifeguard towers and bathrooms.
  • Corporation maintenance yard improvements.
  • Both campgrounds have traffic and outdated RV utilities.

Between the California Coastal Commission, the Particulate Matter Plan, the Public Works Plan and the Endangered Species plan for the Snowy Plover the Oceano Dunes SVRA is under a very intense analysis and needs good management.

The problem is that the Oceano Dunes SVRA have been without a permanent superintendent for the past three years. That position must be filled immediately to deal with all the issues at hand and be ready to be back in front of the CCC next summer.

SB767- Carnegie SVRA Alameda/Tesla Expansion Property

This bill has made its way through the Senate and is now moving on to an Assembly Appropriations. Currently the bill is being held in the Appropriations Committee on Suspense – which means that there was enough cost and opposition to have it scrutinized more closely. The Suspense file will be reviewed at the end of August and Assembly leadership will decide if it should move forward. If it dies in Appropriation, we will likely see another version next year. The senator has been very honest that he views this as a critical issue for his district and he will continue to pursue a solution.

This legislation would encourage State Parks to sell the Alameda/Tesla Expansion property of Carnegie SVRA at less than market value. The bill calls for the State to be reimbursed for the land at the 1990 price, when the property was originally purchased.

Senate Bill 767 also ignores the fact that much of the opposition comes from local landowners, many of whom previously agreed to the Carnegie SVRA expansion and Alameda-Tesla property acquisition, but now look to circumvent the current public process with the passage of this bill.

Rubicon Trail- Loon Lake parking issues

The USFS has started to expand the Loon Lake North Shore Campground and the construction project will continue to next summer. With the campground expansion the USFS will be eliminating most of the dispersed camping in the area, these areas have been used by campers for years. The elimination of all these sites has caused a severe shortage of parking and dispersed camping in the area.

As a result of the construction project and the elimination of the dispersed camping in the area around Loon Lake the Rubicon Trail Foundation has decided to cancel the 2019 Cantina on the Con due to the construction, parking and camping concerns in the area around Loon Lake.

I have met with the Eldorado NF and discussed the construction project and the elimination of the dispersed camping around Loon Lake and how it impacts the users of the Rubicon Trail.

Committee Trail closure- Fordyce Creek Trail.

PG&E owns and operates Fordyce Dam and reservoir for water storage in association with the overall Drum-Spaulding hydroelectric project. They plan to perform major maintenance on Fordyce dam during the summer and fall of years of 2021-2023. As a result, the Committee trail will not be accessible from Fordyce Road when the gate is locked in 2021-2023.

Initially, the plan was to gate the road as early as September 2019 but due to the late winter and permit issues they will not be restricting access to the “committee trail” until 2021. In the spring/summer of 2021 their construction schedule will require two shifts of trucks hauling rock into the project, they will be hauling 24/7 on the roads into Fordyce Lake requiring them to restrict all access to the Fordyce Lake area.

I contacted the project manager and expressed my concerns with the closure of the Committee trail and how it effects the OHV community and our Sierra Trek event. We decided to schedule a meeting with all the parties involved to discuss the project and look for other alternatives.

The meeting was held at the PG&E office in Auburn and was attended by members of Cal4, Friends of Fordyce, Tahoe NF and the PG&E Project Team. The PG&E Project Team gave us a quick overview and need for the project. The 2021 construction schedule is so intense with the 24/7 hauling schedule they feel they need to restrict all access to the area. Even, after the bulk of the rock hauling is completed, they will continue to be on a six-day work schedule.

PG&E staff stated that they also have concerns about site security and people driving on the dry lakebed and unfortunately, they were right, people have already started driving on the lakebed even though it has been signed closed to vehicular traffic.

PG&E staff said they would ask the contractors to allow some access to the committee trail on weekends if possible once the 24/7 rocking hauling has been completed.

The project is in its early stages and things could change, another heavy or late winter could delay the project. But, once the project is completed PG&E has assured us that the committee trail will be reopened, and they plan to make improvements to the camping facilities at Fordyce Lake.

OHMVR Commission Tour of the Rubicon Trail

I came home from Sierra Trek on Sunday night and left at 4AM Tuesday morning to meet up with the other volunteer drivers at the Loon Lake spillway to begin our two-day tour of the Rubicon Trail with the California Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Commission. Every OHMVR Commission meeting has a tour of OHV area’s near the meeting site which was in North Tahoe. My rider was Ted Cabral, OHMVR Commissioner and former Chairman of the Commission, Ted is an avid motorcyclist who has served on the Commission for quite a few years.

The tour had planned stops along the trail to discuss the trails history, geology, trail maintenance methods and the effects the 2009 Central Valley Water Board Abatement Order had on the Rubicon Trail. On Tuesday we stopped at the Ellis Creek bridge, Little Sluice, Buck Island and finally at Rubicon Springs. And on the way out Wednesday we talked about the issues on Cadillac Hill, a proposed trail bypass near Miller Lake and the general condition of the trail on the Placer side of the trail.

They also discussed the proposed MOU between Eldorado County, Placer County, Eldorado NF, Tahoe NF and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit to take a better management approach to the Rubicon Trail and to make it a seamless experience from one side of the trail to other.

This tour was made up of OHMVR Commissioners, State Parks staff, County officials, Forest Service and BLM representatives and many others about 60 people in all. It was an eye-opening experience for some who have never been off road before and for the others it was reminder of what can be accomplished if we all work together and share the same goals.

About the Author

Jeff Blewett

Jeff Blewett

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