Wednesday, September 15, 2004

News roundup- Santa Clara County

A news roundup, with our comments.

In the Mercury News:

Plan to clean up mercury contamination in the Bay reaches the Water Board today.
These plans rarely get to that level without having the political path paved in advance, so it will likely go ahead. CGF follows this issue, but we are careful to remain an open-space/natural resource protection group. If we tried to become a toxics-control organization as well, the effect would be to lose our focus and efficiency.

Morgan Hill Times:

A proposal to expand the San Martin airport is in the works.
Proponents say it will help bring jobs to the bedroom communities of South County, while opponents say its just another effort that will promote development of the North County, which lacks housing and will ultimately result in sprawl. This echoes a similar argument over Coyote Valley. Proponents have a somewhat better argument here than is the case in Coyote Valley, but we are reserving our judgment for now.

Morgan Hill ponders expanding the city limits in the southeastern area. We have written about this before, indicating that we have some doubts about the process. I am quoted as saying a compromise between developers and environmentalists would be a good thing, but I certainly intended to say it could be a good thing. The devil is in the details.

The Pinnacle News:

Gilroy supports a southern alignment of the proposed bullet train to Los Angeles. We have no final position on the best alignment, but the southern alignment could harm wetlands in the Pajaro River watershed. We would like to see the Altamont route studied. Left unmentioned in the article is the financial problems this project is encountering. Rumors suggest it is a very long way from ever happening.

The Gilroy Dispatch:

Both the local Native American tribe and members of the local community are opposed to a $300 million casino proposed by a five-member tribe that does not live here. Interestingly, a prominent opponent of a failed measure that would have stopped sprawl in San Benito County is now opposing the casino, which could cause sprawl in San Benito and Santa Clara Counties. They say politics makes for strange bedfellows....



  1. Did CGF submit comments on the EIR/EIS for the high-speed rail proposal? The Rail Authority is meeting in closed session towards the end of this month to discuss "possible litigation." I assume this refers to the array of organizations ready to sue if the Altamont alternative is now evaluated. My guess is that their attorneys are going to tell them that they should provide the evaluation, which means another draft EIR in perhaps six months to a year, followed by another commenting period.

    As for the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, we submitted some brief comments and made sure that the SCV Water District did as well. Our conservation committee is currently skeptical about the whole high-speed rail project. It may not be worth the money; it appears to be overly influenced by individuals seeking profit or notoriety (see the Sacramento Bee editorials and articles); it may encourage even greater sprawl in the central valley, and the resulting loss of farmland.


  2. Hello, anonymous poster with the initials "CKB" from the Audubon Society:

    We did submit brief EIR comments, referring to Sierra Club's extensive comments for more details. Here is our letter:

    August 31, 2004

    California High-Speed Rail Authority
    Draft Program EIR/EIS Comments
    925 L Street, Suite 1425
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    Fax: (916) 322-0827

    Re: Comments submitted on the CAHSR Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement

    Dear Board of Directors;

    The Committee for Green Foothills submits this comment letter to request that the Authority reverse its prior decision and consider the Altamont Pass route alternative in a revised DEIR/DEIS (“DEIR”). The failure to do so would result in environmental documentation that does not consider a reasonable range of alternatives, and would constitute a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

    For all the reasons discussed in the comment letter from the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Altamont route alternative is a feasible alternative alignment for the rail line. In addition to all the environmental and legal arguments discussed at length elsewhere, the political reality is that none of the routes through or to the immediate north of Henry Coe State Park have any chance of being used. This leaves the DEIR with only one real alternative being analyzed, the Pacheco Pass route, resulting in fatally flawed planning that gives no real alternatives to decision-makers or the public. The Pacheco Pass route has the potential for significant environmental impacts on wetlands and on promoting sprawl in relatively undeveloped areas. This route should not be the only serious route under consideration.

    The Committee for Green Foothills does not endorse any particular alignment for the rail line. We only seek adequate environmental planning that allows the best possible choice. Excluding Altamont for inadequate reasons does not constitute adequate planning.

    In addition to the failure to include Altamont, the DEIR has a number of flaws discussed in the Loma Prieta Chapter comment letter and in other comment letters. These flaws constitute independent reasons for revising the DEIR. A DEIR revised for these independent reasons should take advantage of the opportunity and include the Altamont route alternative.

    For the reasons discussed above, we request that the Authority reissue a revised DEIR before proceeding to a decision on high speed rail. Please contact us if you have any questions.


    Brian A. Schmidt
    Legislative Advocate, Santa Clara County


    I think funding is a critical issue, and the best lever enviros have. If we enviros come out against this project, it won't get funding. We just have to remember the alternative - more air traffic - is also not a good idea.