Conservation Updates

Summer has been quiet, thank goodness, concerning large threats to native plants. The drought and associated water restrictions are smothering a lot of development plans, at least for the moment.

Topaz Solar Plant

CNPS has been included in consultation regarding the conservation lands associated with the Topaz Solar Plant, and an interesting meeting was held out at the plant.

Laetitia Winery Agricultural Cluster

As I write this, the Planning Commission is about to consider, and I hope reject, the Laetitia Winery Agricultural Cluster. But the main driver is concern about local water supplies. County staff has recommended rejection, and also question the number of houses allowable under the agricultural cluster ordinance. The ordinance is a real problem as it allows additional houses into an area as an incentive to clustering. When the cluster is spaced out rather than compact, the whole issue becomes questionable.

Salinas Dam

The drought has renewed the idea of raising the height of Salinas Dam, which would have significant impacts, but nothing solid has been proposed as yet. The loss of trees from the additional capacity has been a major concern. In the area to be flooded there are 1,639 coast live oaks, 633 blue oaks, 198 valley oaks and 469 gray pines, as established in a Draft EIR. Once the Nacimiento pipeline gained acceptance as a source of water, the Salinas Dam proposal was dropped, but at least one supervisor is proposing raising the dead.

Massive Losses Due to Drought

Perhaps the greatest immediate problem with the drought is the death of hundreds, of not thousands, of oaks and pines and also shrubs such as the rare Morro manzanita. CNPS has no strategy in regard to possibly permanent climate change, as there is too much uncertainty in just about every ecological issue. Even with the promise of an El Nino this winter, a mass of warm water in the north Pacific makes the expected rainfall a guessing game. A historic tragedy is embodied in Cambria, where a subdivision was platted out in the pines, which must now be cut down due to fear of fire. We hope homeowners find enough water to at least keep some young tress alive. Grey water works!

❀ David Chipping