Don’t Disparage the Mighty Eucalyptus

Do not cut these trees down!

Los Osos environmental activist Joey Racano weighs in on the controversy surrounding the Morro Coast Audubon Society’s plans to remove Eucalyptus trees from the Sweet Springs Nature Preserve.

As misunderstood as King Kong and standing nearly twice as tall, the Eucalyptus of California is alive and well, and living in Sweet Springs Nature Preserve. There are as many varieties of Eucalyptus as there are flavors at Baskin Robbins, with names like Blue Gum, Wooly Butt and Black Peppermint. As with many trees inhabiting present-day California, the Eucalyptus originated elsewhere, and some, like the Black Peppermint, grow taller in their native lands. There are some who disparage the mighty Eucalyptus, branding her an alien, an invasive, a weed to be eradicated. But like it or not, this tree is now part of our ecosystem, and causing us to redefine the word native.

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Is Taxpayers Watch Pimping For MWH?

Taxpayers Watch leaders (Clockwise from top left) Gordon Hensley, Stan Gustafson, Joyce Albright, Richard LeGros.

Los Osos Taxpayers Watch, the successor group to Tri-W sewer site promoters Save the Dream, has become an enigma in Los Osos: are they watching out for taxpayers or are they watching out for big business? In this case, it’s big business with a long shadow.

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SLO County’s Tragic Failure to Communicate

The County of San Luis Obispo has no public relations or communication skills. The dire lack of effort on the County’s end to actively provide updates and respond to misconceptions has led some in the community to operate in disarray and confusion.

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Another Brick in the Wall

The Tribune’s Bob Cuddy has not stepped into Los Osos deeply enough to gauge public opinion regarding the wastewater project. In his article on March 2, Cuddy reported that Chairman Mecham is no longer allowing a “special speaking time” for Los Osos since it detracts from other board business. Where’s the comments from the sewer critics? Take that, journalism! Since Cuddy wouldn’t elaborate on the finer details, we’ll discuss them here.

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Tsunami Advisory for February 27, 2010

The San Luis Obispo County coastline is under a tsunami advisory, meaning that an actual tsunami is possible after a magnitude 8 earthquake hit Chile earlier today — so please be advised. Stay away from the beaches. If there is a tsunami, the sandspit will likely not protect your home from damage if you live by the Los Osos bay area. Stay away from the beaches and marinas in Morro Bay and Cayucos. Hopefully, if there’s no tsunami, expect strong currents in the water.

UPDATE (7:22 PM PST): A high surf advisory will remain in effect until 9:00 PM, but the advisory warning is no longer in effect for the area. Still, it’s best to stay away from the beaches and marinas until 9:00 PM.

Gibson’s Costly Arrogance

In a Tribune viewpoint penned by SLO County Supervisor Bruce Gibson on Jan. 25, Gibson had a mixed reaction to the California Coastal Commission’s overriding 7-5 vote to dismiss staff recommendation, calling their vote “disappointing and encouraging.” Those mixed messages require some translation to get at the root meaning of his Viewpoint comments:

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Sewer Costs Will Be Unbearable

New article from The ROCK

Los Osos Affordability Report: Sewer Costs to Lower-Income Residents Will Be ‘Unbearable’

There is no escaping it. No topic in the far-flung Los Osos Wastewater Project universe remains on more residents’ minds than affordability. Yet the word and what it stands for – thousands of people forced to leave Los Osos because of the looming $250 a month sewer bills — has all but disappeared from the public dialogue, as if the issue never existed in the first place. To document the ongoing ground-level reality of this overriding issue in Los Osos, Sherry Fuller and Mimi Whitney last year co-authored a “white paper” on the potential sewer project costs to lower income residents of Los Osos. Their “Affordability Report” of January 2009 used census data from the year 2000 that had been projected to the year 2008 by a leading computer modeling firm (ESRI) that is widely used by both government and industry. “With the new Census being prepared now, we should see updated figures next year that will most likely be even worse that what I reported last year,” co-author Mimi Whitney recently told The Rock. “Consider the effects of our current recession on Los Osos residents: unemployment, bankruptcy, the housing market…We will do an updated ‘white paper’ after we have the new census data to work with. Stay tuned for the really bad news.”

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Short List of Substantial Issues

Here are three of the most substantial issues that were raised by the commissioners of the California Coastal Commission regarding the Los Osos wastewater project permit (in no particular order). They will be the limited focus of the Commission’s de novo hearing in April:

1. “Double dipping” at the Broderson site. The Broderson site used 72 acres as mitigation of impacts for the original site (Tri-W) and plan in 2004, but there are nine acres that impact environmentally sensitive habitat area (ESHA). This ESHA is reserved for conservation of the Morro manzanita, Monterey spineflower, Blochman leaf daisy, Morro shoulderband snail, Morro Bay kangaroo rat and the monarch butterfly. County staff did not set aside land for mitigation of that ESHA since the County intends to use all of the 72 acres for the wastewater project. Failure to address the “double dipping” will result in enforcement. Even if it were to go to enforcement, by the time the County completes work on the Broderson site, there will be no acreage left to mitigate ESHA. Additionally, if the language was left unmodified, the burden to mitigate the ESHA would fall on nearby property owners.

2. Questionable application of wetland delineation. Wetland delineation is defined as a determination of the landward extent of a wetland. The County’s EIR analyzed the wetlands strictly as jurisdictional wetlands (in accordance to Section 404 of the Clean Water act) but the County did not specify whether some of the wetlands sampled were wetlands as defined by the Coastal Act (as specified in 14 CCR §13577). The Coastal Act applies a one parameter definition for delineating wetlands. Only one of  the three criteria needs to be met for soil, vegetation and hydrology to determine wetland conditions.  It’s possible that the County data is compliant with the Coastal Act’s standards, but if it’s not, it’s also possible that the County underestimated the number and extent of wetlands on the Giacomazzi site, which would indicate the project could not avoid facility development on wetlands.

3. No implementation of specific water conservation plan. The County did not specify how and when their water conservation plan would be implemented. Since there are no specifics to follow, there is no feasible way to bring enforcement action. In his October 18, 2009 appeal to the County, Keith Wimer of the Los Osos Sustainability Group (LOSG) recommended a basin-wide management plan to be implemented within one year of the project approval in order to aggressively combat saltwater intrusion. Wimer also suggested that the plan include the goal to stop at least 900 acre-feet of water per year (AFY) of pumping from the lower aquifer within two years. However, County staff recommended the motion to deny all appeals, including Wimer’s, which had a prepared remedy for what would later become a substantial issue.

The January 14th California Coastal Commission hearing was all about the County of San Luis Obispo not going far enough to ensure that the project would preserve environmentally sensitive habit and wetlands. It is truly remarkable that a project of such magnitude would have several “fill in the blanks” that would cause significant delay. Since nobody else in Los Osos has had the ability to delay the wastewater project based on three critical flaws that could have been remedied previously within their jurisdiction, by process of elimination, do we now know who the real obstructionists are?

— Aaron Ochs

The ROCK Takes on the Coastal Commission

Here are two new articles hot off the presses!



As a result of the Coastal Commission’s 7-5 vote last week to hold a limited de novo hearing in April to review finite details of the Los Osos Wastewater Project, the County will have to wait at least four to six months to receive a CDP from the Commission for the $165 million project to be permit-ready. Despite staff and Commission recommendations to find ‘no substantial issue’ with any of the nearly 30 appeals brought before the Commission, and Supervisor Gibson’s warning that a delay might put at risk $80 million in federal stimulus dollars for the project ($64 million of that in the form of a loan), the Commission rejected any attempt to use time or money as an excuse to waive its standards of consistency and rubber stamp the project.

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County’s Omissions, Gaps and Lies Force Coastal Commission Hearing on Unresolved Sewer Issues

The 2nd District Supervisor had stumped up state and down lobbying the all 12 Coastal Commissioners in their offices, via email and on voice mail to approve the Los Osos Wastewater Project, and when the commissioners voted 7-5 to extend the process and hold a de novo hearing in April for a limited review of project loose ends, Bruce Gibson bowed his head, his ears red. He was joined in defeat by brother San Luis Obispo County Supervisor “Katcho” Kachadjian, who had lobbied from within as both a Coastal Commissioner and County Supervisor, to follow staff’s recommendations and find ‘no substantial issue’ with any of the almost 30 appeals of the project brought before the Commission in Huntington Beach on January 14. But at the end of that long day, after waging what the Tribune called a “week-long lobbying blitz,” Gibson and Kachadjian stood there with the long faces of losers, looking more like the blitzed. It was a most reassuring sight and worth the long trek for several Los Osos appellants who had driven five hours to Huntington Beach to speak to the Commission for five minutes each. It was also a reprieve, no matter how brief, for homeowners and residents back in Los Osos.

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