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January 2022

Leaf blowing is also a habitat and a labor issue!

GettyImages_1036532218-1-1536x1029
https://funnyordie.com/2020/09/25/108532/leaf-blowers-are-the-work-of-the-devil/

 

Progress is progress, but perhaps lost in the progress to reduce the harm caused by leaf blowers to creatures large and small - with university degrees, naked, multi-legged or winged - is the need to make sure that changes in practice don't interfere with the ability of property maintenance workers to make a living and to improve their work environment, wages and skill sets... all while improving nature in our corner of the Universe.

This evening the City Council will take the long-awaited next step to study the use of leaf blowers in Davis. The agenda item should start on or after 7:20pm.

First of all I appreciate the findings of the Natural Resources Commission, though I wish their recommendation was for an earlier complete phase out than 2024. A major fault, however, is that the recommendations do not apply to commercial areas. The problem seems obvious: Pollution caused by gas blowers or stirred up by electric blowers affects adjacent properties - which may be residential, part of the proposed eventual ban - and really everywhere because of, you know, air.

Another way to look at it is that we currently ban leaf blowing when AQI reaches 1oo if that threshold is crossed by just before 7AM - and then there's no decision for a ban for another 24 hours no matter how many firestorms spring out of hell during the interval - based on an air monitor that's outside of the City, just south of West Village. But then it's okay for your commercial neighbor to blow 20 feet from your open window with your asthmatic child.

That doesn't make sense and it's perhaps I am not explaining it clearly... but I make no apologies: The proposal, though an improvement on the current state of things, is too complicated and therefore hard to enforce. By the way, commercial properties are also the residences of numerous animals who simply happen not to be human.

 

Yards are Habitat!

Leaf blowing makes yard clearance of what's perceived as waste far too easy. This kills habitat for creatures small and larger ones that eat them.It depletes trees of food. It makes it easy to put yard waste in the street, including bike lanes, even though the latter is not allowed. This threatens children on bikes. Leaf blowing is dangerous for children and other living things. It's been city guidance for years to let leaves degrade where they fall, or alternatively compost them on site. (Clean those concrete paths with a broom and a rake, very clever!)

The choice is simple: Phase out all use of all leaf blowers, allow leaf vacuums IF they don't also pollute, and ban gas-powered equipment. Do this all as soon as possible.

There's also a recommendation from the Recreation and Parks Commission based on their perspective which is that gas blowers work better than electric blowers so there needs to be more money for lots of batteries and such like -- but the way I see it is like this: In relation to air quality and the state of living environment in the city, the NRC has clear priority over Rec and Parks. It's a mistake to consider them equal - or equally relevant - Commissions on this issue.

 

It's time to bring a labor angle into this, friends!

There's more Commission missions about the emissions missing from these missives: About labor. All these guys - mostly guys - disproportionately Latino - who need jobs, jobs that are good for them, get better and give them more in healthy challenges and pay.

The leaf blowing survey results in the staff report and Commission recommendations detail the nuances of companies and how they work and what tools they use. It's not really explained why some use manual tools and some use electric - aside from the AQI-based bans. But to make things simple let's say that banning the use of blowers increases the amount of work needed, and expenses. With a deep ecological perspective it's simple to say that the people that benefit most from this - owners of properties - are simply entitled. The leaf blowing solution is artificial. 

It's not pleasant work. We need to humanize it. The goals here likely to keep the same number of people employed and to increase wages, while we improve the environment. It has to be this. We can't settle for less.

Our aim must be to improve the skill sets of workers, by having them care in a more nuanced way for yards... to plant, to collect acorns, to add habitat for bees... to build boxes and other structures for on-site composting.

We don't have a labor commission, but we do have a Social Services Commission. Perhaps also Utilities or Fiance and Budget have a role to play? Overall - and clearly - this is an equity issue and it can't be solved only through input from Natural Resources and Parks and Rec. But to be clear, it's up to the workers themselves to decide what they want.

The Council needs to go forward on the best recommendations made so far but then send this work back to these additional commissions and the citizens for more input and wisdom. We have a tremendous number of experts in related disciplines at UC Davis who will want to help. We have labor experts in the county and region who have to help.  It's not simply a matter of copying best practice from other progressive cities, but improving upon it!


Letter from DISC developers to Davis Automobile Association

AutoCenter
It took some digging but I found a key letter from the DISC developers to the City of Davis Association of Private Motor Vehicle Sellers and Suppliers:

Dear CDAPMVSS,

Following are what we plan on the primary characteristics of DISC in regards to your organization’s mission:

1 – Most of the day a connection by private automobile to Downtown Davis, UC Davis and West Sacramento will be extremely convenient and fast.

2 – A private automobile will be required to conveniently and quickly travel to Pioneer Elementary, Nugget (on Mace) and surrounding stores, and of course to the Davis Auto Mall (identifiable by its bicycle logo from I-80).

3 – Travel by cycling and walking to Harper Junior High and Korematsu Elementary will be significant until a crossing guard is killed and two students are injured at the intersection of Alhambra and Mace. In response we plan to place small posters at bus stops in the area to direct drivers to slow down. We were going to pretend to compromise and pretend to return to our spoken-only agreement the construction of a grade-separated crossing of Mace but in the end the Council didn’t ask for it.

4 – Travel by automobile to schools outside of east Davis will be the majority mode, especially to Davis High School, and drivers will threaten students crossing E. Covell to get to Birch Lane Elementary, crossing F and 14th to get to North Davis Elementary and the high school.

5 – The TDM plan will determine that carshare is not interesting for nearly all residents who have opted to rent a parking place near their home.

6 – Caltrans has confirmed that they have no interest in assisting in building a safe and dedicated bicycle and pedestrian facility across I-80 in the vicinity of Mace, similar to their same position on the I-80 Managed Lanes project.

7 – Some residents will ride cargo bikes to Target and surrounding shops until a user is killed at the corner of Mace and 2nd.

8 – The Chevron station at Mace and 2nd will gain business.

9 – Mode share of the fare-free shuttle to Davis Depot and Downtown will be insignificant due to duration and inability to match fluctuating schedule of Capitol Corridor trains due to problems outside of their control, such as shipping traffic on the Carquinez Strait that requires bridge interruption.

Thanks, the DISC development team.


Hope in Difficult Times: An Interfaith Conversation

Hope in difficult timesFREE 1.12Join the Celebration of Abraham, Sunday February 6, 2022, 3-4:30 PM, for their Annual Community Conversation - Virtual!

You must register to attend! Please register here:

bit.ly/COAHope

Monetary donations will be collected for:

International Rescue Committee, Sacramento (https://help.rescue.org/donate/us-northern-california-ca)


DISC 2022 Transportation - Planning Commission falls for Developer's Trick

TrapBacThe trap was set likely shortly after "DISC  2020" was defeated by voters.  When the developers of this peripheral sprawl - or I'll be nice and call it West West Sacramento - were planning to re-introduce it last year for a vote this year - they realized that a key demand was a grade-separated crossing of Mace. So they removed it from the Baseline Features... fully-intending to agree to do it as a concession.

Back story

The City Council-approved Street Standards (2016) don't mention e-bikes at all. What this means is that the width, curvature, and proper siting of infrastructure that would optimize the use of e-bikes - in particular the Type 3 variant that has assistance up to 28 mph - is totally missing in Davis, or more immediately in concepts, plans as well as development agreements and baseline features in current and near-future projects.

To address this, over two-and-a-half years ago when I was on the Bicycling, Transportation and Street Commission (BTSSC) I got support for adding an item to the long range calendar which would address it; this first appeared on the LRC in September 2019, with a possible date of December 2019 for the agenda. (It is abbreviated somewhat erroneously as "intersection design guidelines / standards"). It has been pushed back repeatedly since then, and the BTSSC did not support forming a sub-committee about it during 2020.

What this means is that significant concepts and projects which could alleviate transportation problems, such as Reimagine Russell, the new-ish Class I multi-user path on the south side of Russell (chronically and clinically-referred to as a "bike path) or smaller projects all over the city are not future-proofed for the increase of modal share for cycling we desperately need to improve everything from climate impacts to conviviality to fitness to transportation crashes. Our city is simply too large now in size to have a significant modal share with "acoustic" bicycles. Not convinced? Look at the low bike modal share from peripheral areas of town in the UCD Campus Travel Survey, which shows low share even for people with campus destinations where car parking is not always convenient, and not fare-free. It's not hard to extrapolate - necessary, as the City has essentially refused to do its own counts for years - that almost no one regularly rides from Mace Ranch or some other peripheral areas to Downtown for a coffee or beer - sort of the most normal thing in the Universe in a bicycle-branded cycling city.

SurveyCycling
UCD Campus Travel Survey 2019-2020 (pg. 30) - By bike, DISC is just over four miles from ARC, a central point on campus when considering agricultural facilities. This distance has about a 10% modal share for cycling, and includes mostly students, many who don't have their own cars.



However, as we can see from the example above, the faster type of e-bikes are quite expensive. I've seen nothing lower than just over $3,000. Though important - or all - major arteries in Davis - should be optimized for this type of bike - the idea is not only to optimize for them but make safe for all users, including on acoustic bikes - it cannot mean that this type of bike should be essentially required to live here and enjoy the purported high quality of life. Infrastructure optimized for fast bikes is also a significant improvement for all bikes, as it's direct, requires a minimum of stops, is not shared with motor vehicles... or pedestrians and dogs.

To be more precise, the goal should be the 15-Minute City. This is a relatively new standard or classification of a very, very old sometimes organic strategy to make key locations in a city within 15 min from anywhere else, for all means of transportation. This seems to also serve as a kind of proof of the bicycle modal share results in the Campus Travel Survey. It's definitely something that should be part of our new General Plan, or even worked on earlier by a joint Commission process (BTSSC, Planning... perhaps Natural Resources and Social Services...). I would argue that it should also be about effort, so a 5 or perhaps 7-minute walk is the equivalent of a 15 min bike ride. I've said that if kids can't walk unaccompanied 5-minutes from where they live to buy ice cream cones, it's a failure (and that's just one example, a single ice cream place or a truck at DISC doesn't make it sustainable.)

It's also quite important to be reminded that the City of Davis has for over four years not had a senior civil engineer with a transportation focus. Many projects have gone forward - sometimes to completion, often with significant flaws - without the benefit of this experienced and wise counsel.

 

Last Night

At the Planning Commission review of Disc 2022 last night - and early this morning - I was actually quite impressed by the comments from multiple Commissioners regarding negative transportation issues of the planned project, and even the general discussion about its unavoidable impacts and uncertainly of benefits from transportation demand management... well, at least earlier in the discussion. Commissioner Shandy was particularly right on with her criticism of planned widening of Mace - presented by the developer as a kind of unquestioned religious observance - contradicts claimed benefits for people cycling and walking. There were other positive and thoughtful comments by a majority of Commissioners.

I knew that the grade-separated crossing of Mace was a kind of sneakily-hidden prize and tried to point out in my sort of sloppy recorded comment that that a safer crossing of Mace would not on its own make DISC 2020 excellent for cycling (this is better than "cycle-friendly"), because of distance from Downtown and places further west, and besides that, safe crossings directly to the south along Mace across 80 would cost many millions and be very complicated (and at least in my head I know that Caltrans District 3 and the Yolo County Transportation District have withdrawn the earlier plan - it was supposed to be built first! - of a new bike and ped bridge across the Bypass as part of the I-80 Managed Lanes Project.)

Screenshot from 2022-01-13 02-14-21
Just an aside about the bandied about "globally-known sustainability of Davis": This was the air quality last night shortly after the meeting was over (via Purple Air)

 

 

The Trap is Sprung

Though it was fully-intended to be a positive thing and I will give credit to Commissioner Shandy, the discussion and lead-up to a vote turned sour when she proposed that a grade-separated crossing of Mace and a Class I trail across the undeveloped land south of Harper Junior High would make her feel better about the planned Mace widening and other traffic impacts. She suggested nothing about safe cycling and walking connections to other places, such as the Nugget and popular restaurants across 80. But the problem is that, for example, the area planned for housing at DISC 2022, on the north and eastern side of the project area, is more than 15 minutes away by bike from Downtown and at leat 20 to 25 minutes away from the UC Davis campus that is the raison d'être for DISC 2022! Moreover, the route has almost no optimized cycling infrastructure the whole way (varied from local streets to arteries, no protected bike paths, lack of priority at stops, etc... there is no proposal for any of this in any proposed development agreement or baseline features). But mainly it's too far by bike... never mind walking! Most of the time people - with free or with un-bundled parking - will take I-80 between campus and DISC, even more so to many facilities etc on the west side of campus related to agriculture. I-80 is such a fantastic route much of the day that nothing can compete with it, including shuttles and express buses, which I am sure will at best have a tiny modal share.  This creates huge challenges for any development more than 15 min away from key locations, and it means simply that they should not even be considered. (Oh, wouldn't it have been great if staff were directed to work on the General Plan and told the developers that there was no capacity to work on stuff that would very likely be in violation of a progressive outcome for it?)

So the Planning Commission has recommended the two elements mentioned above that are supposed to address problems on Mace to the City Council. My conclusion is that the developers will signal their intention to accept them - perhaps with a little drama - and the Council will praise them for doing so. But again, even with everything promised (e.g. shuttles, TDM) and not promised (e.g. e-bike-optimized infrastructure) there's still no place for DISC. Still no way to successfully do something better than I-80 via private vehicle for anything but a minority. There's really nowhere to walk to from DISC. Hopefully the voters will see through this ruse and others and reject DISC 2020.

Galadrieltempted
In the ALTERNATIVE timeline, Lady Galadriel was tempted by but in the end did not succumb to the Power of the Grade-Separation ring

 

Denethor
In the REAL timeline, Lord Denethor, Steward of Gondor, was consumed by the Grade Separation Ring and driven mad.

 

 

Question

Last night I was quite surprised when the developer said with much conviction that baseline features were not necessary to enforce the creation of certain designs and programs at DISC 2022, as these would be required by CEQA. Then why have baseline features as a solution for any of these things, in all the discussion for years up until now? If a reader could enlighten me I would truly appreciate it.

Afterword

I am all for more housing - for all income levels, but with a significant proportion below market and lower income - and workplace and related development in Davis. I have never said I was against these things in any local discussions, for example in the Davis Vanguard. But they have to be infill, they have to be on greyfields such as parking lots, industrial areas along 5th St - not only the PG&E yard - and in the eastern side of South Davis and other areas much closer to Downtown and especially for what DISC 2022 purports to be about much closer also to campus. With electric shuttles on fixed routes, optimized cycling infrastructure, a new connection across 80 around L St., mixed-use above (existing) parking lots and so on many if not close to all of the actual benefits of a project like DISC 2022 can be realized. It's not impossible, it's not rocket science, it simply requires conviction, creativity and less b.s. and false claims about sustainability. Hopefully Council, Commissions... local media... and organizations such as Bike Davis and Cool Davis re-direct the citizenry towards an alternative to DISC or a truly sustainable version of it... closer to and integrated with the City of Davis and the UC Davis campus.


No DiSC Baseline Features to Reduce Traffic and Related GHG Emissions will Produce even Greater Adverse Environmental Impacts than Those Projected in the EIR

The following email was sent to the Planning Commission this afternoon.

Dear Planning Commissioners:

Firstly, I sincerely apologize for the late hour at which these these comments are delivered to you.

I understand you have received a letter yesterday from Roberta Millstein discussing how the Baseline Features have been throttled back at DiSC 2022 relative to DISC 1.0. However, her communication only discussed the Baseline Features which were originally proposed for DISC 1.0 and then materially weakened or removed entirely in DiSC 2022.

There were a number of other important recommended Baseline Features proposed by various Commissions which never saw the light of day in either DISC 1.0 OR DiSC 2022. This communication focuses only on those unaccepted Baseline Features recommended by the Natural Resources Commission that could have profoundly beneficial impacts in terms of reducing expected traffic problems and reducing GHG emissions otherwise associated the project

According to the EIR, transportation represents 78% of the 55 million lbs of new GHGs projected to be produced by the DiSC project. In fulfilling their project review objectives, among many worthwhile suggestions, the NRC in particular recommended 3 very clearly identified Baseline Features for the project to reduce adverse traffic impacts and associated GHG emissions from the project. All were rejected by the Developer of the project.

We recommend that the approvals for this project not be granted until the Developer has agreed to the NRC-recommended Baseline Features identified below.

Respectfully submitted,

Alan Pryor

Continue reading "No DiSC Baseline Features to Reduce Traffic and Related GHG Emissions will Produce even Greater Adverse Environmental Impacts than Those Projected in the EIR" »


Dramatic reduction in Baseline Features in DiSC 2022

Screen Shot 2022-01-11 at 9.10.17 PM
The following email was sent to the Planning Commission in the evening of Jan 11, 2022.  (The agenda for the meeting can be found here):

Dear members of the Planning Commission,

I am writing concerning item 6A of your meeting tomorrow (Jan 12), the public hearing on the DiSC 2022 project.

As you may recall, for a project that will be facing a Measure J/R/D vote, the Baseline Features (BFs) are key.  The BFs are the only features that are guaranteed parts of the project.  In contrast, any features that are part of the Development Agreement can be changed by the City Council.  So, in terms of what the project is, and what the voters will be voting on, it is extremely important to know what the BFs are.

As it turns out, a number of BFs have changed or been eliminated in the change from the old DISC (rejected by voters in Nov 2020) and the current DiSC 2022 proposal.  Here is my count:

  • 19 BFs essentially unchanged
  • 2 features enhanced
  • 5 BFs changes due to reduction in the size of project (e.g, less housing)
  • 7 BFs that offer a weaker version of feature unrelated to changes in project size
  • 13 features eliminated altogether (appeared in old DISC but not in DiSC 2022).

Of course, whether these changes are important or not is for you and others to determine, but some of them are arguably important.  Indeed, there are changed or eliminated features in each of the main categories, reducing the sustainability, housing, transit, etc., features of the project.

I urge you as Planning Commissioners to query the developer about all of these changes in order to determine if they are justified.

Attached please find a spreadsheet that shows these changes.

The BFs for old DISC can be found online in the following document: http://documents.cityofdavis.org/Media/CommunityDevelopment/Documents/PDF/CDD/Aggie%20Research%20Campus/20-111%20-%20DISC%20Project%20Ballot%20Measure.pdf

Sincerely,

Roberta Millstein
Davis citizen
Former chair, Open Space & Habitat Commission

**** Download Baseline feature comparison *****


Should Davis spend millions of dollars on a ladder fire truck?

This article was originally posted on 5/16/21. It is being reposted today because the City Council will be considering this item at its meeting tomorrow, 1/11/22. The anticipated one-time capital purchase expense for the fire apparatus and associated equipment is approximately $2.15 million.

UC Davis Ladder Fire Truck no 34
UC Davis's Ladder Fire Truck - Truck 34

By Roberta Millstein

Is now the time for the City of Davis to be spending millions of dollars on a ladder fire truck when it currently only needs this type of truck approximately once per month at most, when it can currently borrow UC Davis’s ladder truck for free?

What information do we need to answer this question?  What do we know and what do we need to know?

According to the Davis Enterprise, on March 16 the Davis City Council “expressed unanimous support for acquiring a ladder truck for the Davis Fire Department and directed staff to move forward both on securing a detailed cost estimate for a truck as well as developing plans to modify the downtown fire station to accommodate it.”

The estimated costs discussed thus far are as follows (with the City possibly being able to obtain some grants to offset some of these costs):

Continue reading "Should Davis spend millions of dollars on a ladder fire truck?" »


Effects of Excessive Increases in City of Davis Employee Compensation from 2011 to 2020 on the City's Ongoing Budget Crisis

by Alan Pryor

This author previously published an analysis of annual compensation and raises given to City of Davis employees from 2011-2018 and compared them to a government-calculated inflation rate to determine the impacts these raises had on the City budget (see article here). This article updates those disclosures through the calendar year ending 2020.

I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

a. Summary of Increases in Total Compensation (Pay and Benefits)

The actual average total compensation (Pay and Benefits) in 2020 for City of Davis full-time, year-round (FT) employees was $163,244 (see Appendix B and below). This is a 10.7% increase from 2019 and far exceeds the annual rate of inflation of 1.5% in 2020 as determined by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for Bay Area Urban Wage Earners & Clerical Workers ("Bay Area CPI "- see https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/CWURS49BSA0).

The average increase in total annual compensation (Pay and Benefits) for City of Davis FT employees has been 6.0% per year from 2011 through 2020.  This is more than twice the average annual rate of inflation of 2.7% during the same period as determined by the Bay Area CPI.

If annual total compensation increases to FT employees had been instead limited to the Bay Area CPI rate of inflation from 2011 to 2020 (i.e.2.7%), the average total compensation otherwise received by FT City of Davis employees in 2020 would have otherwise been $124,169 - or about 24% less than the $163,244 in average total compensation actually received.

b. Summary of Increases in Pay Compensation (without Benefits)

Similarly, the actual average annual Pay (without Benefits) paid to City of Davis FT employees in 2018 was $107,683. This is a 7.0% increase from 2019. The average increase in annual Pay (without Benefits) for City of Davis full-time, year-round (FT) employees has been 4.6% per year from 2011 through 2020 compared to the average annual rate of inflation of 2.7% during the same period as determined by the Bay Area CPI.

If annual Pay increases to FT employees had been limited to the Bay Area CPI rate of inflation from 2011 to 2020 of 2.7%, the average Pay otherwise received by FT City of Davis employees in 2020 would have instead been $92,439 - or about 14.2% less than the $107,683 average Pay actually received.

c. Summary of Impact of the Excessive FT Employee Compensation on the City's Budget

The annual differences (i.e. payroll savings) between the actual total Pay and Benefits paid by the City to all FT employees from 2012 through 2020 and that which would have been paid if annual increases had instead been held to the CPI is very substantial and ranges from $3.645 Million in 2015 to $12.387 Million in 2020.

On a cumulative basis, the City has paid in excess of $54 Million more to FT employees in Pay and Benefits from 2012 through 2020 compared to if annual total compensation increases otherwise been held to increases based on the Bay Area CPI. 

That additional $54 million could have been very beneficially used in the intervening years to resurface many additional miles of the Davis streets and bike paths in most need of repair while still providing adequate and fair annual increases in employee compensation to match inflationary pressures on their costs of living.

The most recent trend in accelerating employee salaries and total compensation is ironic given the current City Council's self-proclaimed fiscal responsibility and laser-focus on cost containment.

Continue reading "Effects of Excessive Increases in City of Davis Employee Compensation from 2011 to 2020 on the City's Ongoing Budget Crisis" »


Sign the Petition: PRESS PAUSE on the Teichert Shifler Mining and Reclamation Project

This is a summary of our longer Petition that can be found and signed at https://chng.it/fJWfym9Gx6

We are Yolo residents concerned about the potential adverse impacts of the Teichert Shifler Mining and Reclamation Project. On Tuesday, 11 January at 1:00 pm the Yolo Board of Supervisors will discuss and vote on the application. We urge the Supervisors to vote NO.

Here we emphasize Risk of Water Contamination, Loss of Prime Farmland, and Liability.

Continue reading "Sign the Petition: PRESS PAUSE on the Teichert Shifler Mining and Reclamation Project " »


1/6 Vigil in remembrance of those who defended our Democracy

LWVFrom the League of Women Voters:

Dear Friends,

Welcome all to a New Year and best wishes for a healthy and peaceful 2022.  

Regrettably, what first comes to our mind this month might be the remembrance of last year and the January 6th terrorist attack on our National Capital. Our Democracy survives, but the actions on that day remind us that we all need to actively protect our Republic and our voting rights. With that in mind, LWVDA leadership joins the National League of Women Voters (LWVUS) by asking our membership to urge Congress and the President to pass federal legislation protecting our right to vote and our democracy.  

January 6th Day of Remembrance and Action: This Thursday Jan 6th at 5:15 pm in Davis Central Park, the Davis League will host a local vigil in remembrance of those who defended our Democracy last year and in support of the League’s 101-year position on voting rights advocacy and representative democracy. In this we join other LWV state and local leagues who will host in-person and virtual events to commemorate the remembrance. We invite you to join this show of unity at the public remembrance event. Register here: https://www.mobilize.us/mobilize/event/434619/

Take Action: As League members, we believe a January 6th remembrance also offers an opportunity for us to take action. We encourage your action this month in supporting passage of 2 federal bills currently stalled in the Senate: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.  

Please take the time this week and join your fellow League members by going to this Action Link to learn more about this legislation and take individual action. By contacting Senators Feinstein and Padilla to push for passage of this important legislation we can truly recognize the heroism of the men and women that protected the Capital and legislators of all political parties in defense of Democracy on January 6th, 2021. 

…..

Happy New Year,
Mary Jo Bryan
President
LWV Davis Area


Mercury Contamination in Cache Creek: We Need More Answers

By Charles B. Salocks, PhD

 Teichert Construction is applying for a Yolo County permit to mine gravel on more than 250 acres of land in lower Cache Creek west of Woodland that is now being used for agriculture.

This proposal is problematic because the Cache Creek watershed naturally contains substantial deposits of mercury ore. It includes a US EPA Superfund site, Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine, located at the east end of Clear Lake.

According to the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), at the end of 30 years the mined property will be reclaimed: approximately two-thirds of the land area will be converted back to agricultural use and one-third will become a permanent water impoundment (or ‘pond’) and turned over to the County. The property will not be restored to its original state, at least not in the foreseeable future.  

A toxic compound called methylmercury is produced by certain types of bacteria that live in water and sediment where the concentration of dissolved oxygen is very low. This condition can occur at the bottom of ponds or lakes, such as the reclaimed water impoundments in lower Cache Creek where open pit mining has already occurred.

Continue reading "Mercury Contamination in Cache Creek: We Need More Answers" »