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Action for Abuse in Wetlands

Re: The June 2008 trenching incident in the Atascadero Wetlands — 
RECOMMENDED ACTION (see below)

The property owner of the three parcels at 9170 Occidental Road has completed short-term winterization of areas disturbed by unpermitted trenching and excavation work conducted by him in June 2008. The short term winterization was completed under the supervision of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB), the Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department (SCPRMD), and the Department of Fish and Game (DFG). As the result of numerous violations on the property, the agencies also required a biotic resource assessment and a long-term restoration plan. These documents were submitted to the agencies by the property owner. 

Having reviewed the documents submitted by the property owner, we have concerns regarding the accuracy and adequacy of both the biological assessment and the long-term restoration and management plan. Some of our concerns are detailed in comments prepared by FAW member Anna Ransome; a copy of her comments is attached to this email as an rtf file. 

ACTION NEEDED: We are asking people to send public comment to local, state and federal agencies and public officials. 
A sample comment letter, which you may copy and paste into your email, follows. 
Or, you may choose to review the above-mentioned materials and write your own critique. If you wish to read the NCRWQCB Cleanup & Abatement Order, go to: http://www.atascaderogreenvalleywatershed.net/AtascaderoWetlandTrencingJune2008/CAO_R1-2008-0096.pdf
If you wish to read the property owner’s Biological Resource Assessment (dated October 29, 2008) and Long-Term Restoration Plan (dated December 5, 2008), go to: http://www.atascaderogreenvalleywatershed.net/AtascaderoWetlandTrencingJune2008/BRA&LTP.pdf 
These links will take you to downloads of PDF files of the documents. (Thanks to the Atascadero / Green Valley Watershed Council for providing the web downloads.)

Sample comment letter:

Atascadero Creek and its associated wetlands south of Graton contribute significantly to the environmental health, quality of life and beauty of our community. Some of the wetlands form an open space vista along the Joe Rodota Trail where they are daily appreciated by the public. There is great community support to preserve and protect the creek and wetlands south of Graton. 

In June 2008, unpermitted work was performed at 9170 Occidental Road, Sebastopol, CA which caused damage to the creeks and wetlands. I am concerned about the short-term and long-term impacts of the June 2008 trenching work in Walker Creek, a tributary to Atascadero Creek, and the disturbance of the wetland areas. As such, I support careful evaluation of the accuracy and adequacy of the October 29, 2008 biological assessment in order that all potential impacts are identified and addressed. I also question if the short-term and long-term management plans are adequate to restore the creek and wetlands to their pre-excavation condition and whether the monitoring plan is adequate to identify long-term problems as a result of the damage that has taken place. I support a thorough review of the short term and long term management plans by regulatory agencies and outside experts, experienced in restoration of wetland environments.

I also support the enforcement of federal, state and county regulations which apply to this situation, including a full U.S. Army Corps of Engineers delineation of wetlands on all three parcels as required by North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB) Cleanup & Abatement Order (CAO) R1-2008-0096. Without an ACOE delineation, it will be impossible to determine the full extent of wetlands on the property to allow for their long-term management. In addition, I support enforcement of CAO R1-2008-0096 1 through 6, as required by the NCRWQCB. 

I urge complete restoration of the property to its pre-excavation state. Development of a conservation and management plan to ensure the long term health and survival of the Atascadero wetlands is overdue. The Atascadero Wetlands are a valuable community resource which should be preserved and protected for future generations.

Sincerely, 
[Your Name Here], a Friend of Atascadero Wetlands 

Comments may be emailed to any or all of the following. You can copy and paste the addresses into your email address bar. 
Jeff Holtzman, Sonoma County Deputy District Attorney, Environmental & Consumer Affairs <jholtzma@sonoma-county.org>
Catherine Kuhlman, Executive Officer, North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board <ckuhlman@waterboards.ca.gov>
Stephen Bargsten, North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board <sbargsten@waterboards.ca.gov>
Kason Grady, North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board <kgrady@waterboards.ca.gov>
Dan Wilson, Environmental Scientist, California Department of Fish & Game, Bay Delta Region <dwilson@dfg.ca.gov>
Jane Hicks , Regulatory Division Chief, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers <jane.m.hicks@usace.army.mil>
Efren Carrillo, Sonoma County Fifth District Supervisor <ecarrillo@sonoma-county.org>
Pete Parkinson, Director, Sonoma County Permit & Resource Management Department <pparkins@sonoma-county.org>

If you are writing your own comments letter, please support these essential points: 
1. Recognition that Atascadero Creek and its associated wetlands provide important benefits for the public, water quality and quantity, and biological resources; 
2. A complete evaluation of the adequacy and accuracy of the biological assessment and long-term restoration and management plan submitted by the property owner; 
3. A full Army Corps of Engineers wetland delineation as required by NCRWQCB CAO R1-2008-0096; and 
4. Creation of a long-term conservation and management plan to preserve, protect and restore the Atascadero wetlands. 

As always, thank you for your continued support of these important wetlands and creeks.
— Anna Ransome, Jo Bentz, Julia Pollock, John Herrick, Kate Winter, and Margaret Brown, for Friends of Atascadero Wetlands 
The mission of the Friends of Atascadero Wetlands is to preserve, protect, enhance and restore the wetland and riparian areas of Atascadero Creek for present and future generations.