The Environmental Committee works to protect the watershed and to educate the public on forestry issues, erosion control, hazardous waste, recycling, and other issues. We also monitor government policies and procedures.
PG&E is a high priority for the Environmental Committee due to its massive and destructive felling of trees to prevent wildfires when unsafe, unreliable, antiquated equipment is the fundamental cause of the fires. From working on legislation and a new Franchise Agreement for PG&E in the County to in-depth research and analysis to support work with agencies affecting PG&E and helping folks protect their trees from PG&E’s contractors, this keeps the group busy. We work with a State-wide Utility Wildfire Prevention Taskforce on these issues.
Your help is needed.
Visit https://endpowerlinefires.com for more information.
River & Road Clean Up
with Save Our Shores
Annual Environmental Town Hall
Felton Community Hall
First Saturday of the month
Second Saturday if the first Saturday is a holiday weekend.
10:30 am at VWC Office at Highlands Park Senior Center
On Zoom and in-person. Email for Zoom info.
Meetings are open to the public.
Call 338-6578 or email for information.
By Nancy Macy, Environmental Committee Chair
The reservoirs are full, and the seasonal and year-round creeks and the River are running high (and flooding). The good news is, we can be relieved and happy that the forests and wildlife surviving the storms will be healthier and stronger, and the reservoirs are full. AND, we can all finally breathe a sigh of relief. But dare we let down our guard?
No – not as it affects our long-term behavior. So — don’t take off your restrictor shower head, and don’t make plans to modify your low-water landscaping. Do buy that new low-flow toilet and do remove that lawn, and replace those sprinklers with a drip system.
Drought will return, dryer and longer than ever, and we must be prepared for that. It’s Climate Change, and it’s not going away. A depleted groundwater aquifer cannot be restored by one wet winter, nor will a fishery be regenerated in one year of flooded waterways. Most of the surface water overflow will end up in the ocean. So, it’s necessary to help Mother Nature recharge her aquifers.
In 2013, the County of Santa Cruz began a formal study of the potential impacts of climate change and how to plan for it – how to mitigate the anticipated changes. The basic situation for Santa Cruz County — and really for all of California and the entire West Coast — is expected to be years (even decades) of drought, with irregularly recurring severe, wet winters. We are experiencing the benefits of more rain along with the disastrous impacts of “atmospheric rivers” as they return again and again.
The call for more dams to capture the extra flow is heard loud and clear. It had been a local issue in the past – but we’ve learned that the most effective solution is underground storage (i.e., aquifer restoration), not dams that have enduring negative impacts on creeks and rivers, fish, and wildlife. Dams can fail, or they fill up with sediment and become useless. The California State Legislature actually understood that in 2014 when it passed a law requiring long-term restoration planning for every aquifer in the State – Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)
Our local effort is The Santa Margarita Groundwater Agency (www.smgwa.org), and its conclusions are already impacting local decisions. Due to renewed research, we have a greater understanding of our surface waters (seasonal and year-round creeks and the River) and how they interact with the Santa Margarita and Lompico Aquifers. Retaining well-maintained septic systems is crucial to maintaining groundwater levels. SMGWA planning is in place, and changes are being implemented as the City of Santa Cruz enlarges the overburdened Lompico Reservoir by reinforcing and raising the dam to hold more wet-years’ water. The SLV Water District is planning on how to access, treat and use its legal right to a certain amount of that Lompico Reservoir water. In addition, the SLVWD has sought legal authority to send well water from the north end of the Valley to the south end when things are dry and to send surface water north from the south in wet years, with pipelines in place — and restrictions to maintain stream flow and other environmental needs defined.
This is all somewhat controversial because of the environmental impacts and the costs involved, but with public oversight — those problems may be overcome and the benefits realized to provide enough water while protecting and enhancing the viability of the Watershed and its endangered riparian inhabitants. This compounds the importance of conserving water, so the high levels of a wet year can be used to restore groundwater levels, so rainfall benefits will last long into anticipated drought years. In the meantime, is important to continue to respect the limitations that this fluctuating water supply imposes when planning for the future.
Our actions to prioritize water conservation and the actions we demand of our local decision-makers – the Water District, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the entire Board of Supervisors (not just the 5th District Supervisor) — can all have an impact on how soon and how well we can prepare for the looming periods of drought and the impacts of wet years to come.