Supervisors wary of supporting massive dune study

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – Criticism of invasive beach grass removal projects is affecting a dune ecology partnership’s effort to gain the Board of Supervisors’ support for a grant proposal.

The debate over the effectiveness of removing invasive beach grass again emerged at the March 10 board meeting. Supervisors considered a letter of support for a $500,000 state grant application for studying dune processes from Trinidad to Centerville over a five-year period.

The application’s sponsor is the Friends of the Dunes group, which is working with the Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge and a variety of state and federal agencies.

European beach grass in the Manila dunes at sunset. JD | Union

European beach grass in the Manila dunes at sunset. JD | Union

The proposed study’s scope would include analysis of dune restoration efforts that have been controversial.

In the Clam Beach County Park area, equestrians have objected to loss of public access; they question whether replacing invasive beach grass with native species stabilizes dunes.

During a public comment session, equestrian Uri Driscoll said dune restoration advocates have not been responsive to requests for information

“We’ve been asking for peer-reviewed studies on the process that has been going on with these projects for years and we can’t seem to get them,” he told supervisors. “The dune [cooperative] has been extremely resistant to sharing any kind of information.”facebook-like-button

Driscoll suggested that supervisors only give “conditional support” for the grant proposal.

Also during public comment, equestrian Karen Brooks described the grant proposal as a “public land manager welfare project” and said restoration efforts at Clam Beach have been “devastating that environment.”

Equestrian Dennis Mayo spoke as a representative of the California Beach Fishermen’s Association and described the dune restorers as being financially motivated.

“We oppose this group’s request and the continuation of public waste, permit abuses, and loss of public access and participation,” he said. “This group that has been charged with important environmental and public trusts in the past has failed us.”

In response, Andrea Pickart, an ecologist for the Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge, said there have been annual public meetings on dune projects and restoration efforts have been unfairly blamed for naturally-occurring dune drift.

Most supervisors had doubts about the proposal’s goals. Board Chair Estelle Fennell said she questions whether the study will be “open-minded enough” to address the equestrians’ concerns. Supervisor Virginia Bass said the belief that the study will promote “foregone conclusions” makes it difficult to lend complete support.

Pickart emphasized that the grant would pay for study of dune processes in relation to sea level rise, not for further restoration projects.subscribebutton

“Many of the issues that were brought up today have nothing to do with the proposal you have in front of you, which really is just to study,” she said. “All of the scientists involved with this project have scientific integrity – they’re professionals who are at the top of their field, internationally, and I don’t think they’re going to go into this with their minds already made up.”

Supervisor Mark Lovelace said he was “baffled” by the reluctance to approve the support letter, as the proposed study would “create a systematic way of gathering data” that would ultimately gauge the effectiveness of restoration efforts.

The grant application was due to the state’s Coastal Conservancy on March 13 but Pickart said the conservancy’s board will not make a decision on it until June.

Given the timeline, supervisors decided to hold off on approving the letter.

They unanimously voted to have Fennell and Lovelace work on rewording the support letter to acknowledge the concerns heard during public comment.

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10 Comments

  1. Pingback: Supes to take another stab at sea level rise study | Mad River Union

  2. Uri said:

    Just 10 years ago they were worth $20,000 bucks.
    I find it interesting that Ms. Savage in another post seems to complain about using public monies to help protect our food supply (in the form of farm land and rebuilding levies) but somehow FOD being worth over $3 mill is fine. Is she going to be their next executive director?
    Good point about What restoration have they actually done? I will say it is fortunate that they did not “restore” their foredune as plovers started using it last year and actually fledged a couple chicks. Telling though, the two mile long stretch of beach to the north of them that have had the beach grass torn out have not made any chicks even though it was consistently suggested that those millions $ would help save the plover. .
    I can’t help but hope the restoration industry rethinks their approach or at least starts being honest that their intentions are to destabilize dunes, causing erosion and native pines to die, cause a loss of wildlife, fill wetlands with sand, bury rare coastal forests and lets not forget spend our hard earned money.
    For a “non-profit” they sure have cost us a lot.

  3. Warner and Lambert said:

    why is anyone supporting grant whores the likes of Friends of the Dunes anyway. They are worth over 3 million dollars already and have zero restoration to show anyone after decades of paychecks.

  4. Uri said:

    I agree there are far more important ways to spend a half million bucks.
    How about this. Why don’t we put together all the peer reviewed studies that have been done here locally over the last 30 years so we can understand our mistakes BEFORE giving up all this money to the same usual suspects. That way we can know if our money is likely to be well spent. Sound Fair?
    Then we can compare what has been done around the world as far as dune science and see what others have learned. Make sense?
    If this was just about gathering data I might be more inclined to support it but it is not and Ms. Pickart was not truthful when she said no “restoration” would be involved. They are just changing the name of the same grass digging to “adaptation” expecting no one to notice.
    Nor was she truthful when she told the Supervisors that there have been annual meetings. Anyone paying attention to this issue knows that.
    Where is the White Paper the Dune Coop promised us nearly 5 years ago?
    Why did they say they would cause no erosion, topo changes etc when they applied for permits and grant monies and after the stripping of the dunes they say that is what they want?
    Way to many unanswered questions to hand over money more wisely spent elsewhere.

  5. Dan said:

    “This is a chance to learn from our past actions”

    You betcha’ Beel. We’ve learned that when buffers and wetlands are violated they drain,
    wildlife disappears, stability is lost and hydrology is interrupted.
    All impacts that “restorers” promised that would NOT occur.

    “Restoration ecology” is plowing the sea.
    Get real.”
    Sincerely,
    Arthur M. Shapiro
    Distinguished Professor of Evolution and Ecology

    “At a time when public funds are exceedingly scarce and strict prioritization is mandatory, I am frankly appalled that San Francisco is considering major expenditures directed toward so-called “restoration ecology.” “Restoration ecology” is a euphemism for a kind of gardening informed by an almost cultish veneration of the “native” and abhorrence of the naturalized, which is commonly characterized as “invasive.” Let me make this clear: neither “restoration” nor conservation can be mandated by science—only informed by it. The decision of what actions to take may be motivated by many things, including politics, esthetics, economics and even religion, but it cannot be science-driven.”

  6. Brian Murphy said:

    Yes, 500,000 that could be spent in the more beneficial ways. Improvement of habitat at what cost and what gain? I agree that the natural environment COULD possibly benefit imperiled critters, although the landscape on the dune has changed so much I do not see the benefits of restoration to be very significant.(people , cars, infrastructure, Industry). The dunes will never ever be free of the non native plants that make up a huge part of the dunes in this area with without a great deal of financial resources that would be well spent somewhere else. European Beach Grass is here to stay. The property owner on and around the dunes depend on the stabalization for nurmerous reasons as do the wetland that have occurred because of the stabilization. I don’t know if I prefer the aesthetic of native plants on the dunes because there is no where around here except in tiny patches where that actually take place. I have spent alot of time in the dunes. Its is beautiful as it sits now now IMO, homeless camps and garbge, not so much. Homelessness, Drug use and economic stagnation in Humboldt County, not so much.

  7. Beel said:

    Um, there’s an economic benefit to $500,000 of State funding coming into the County. And there could be an environmental benefit if habitat for imperiled critters is improved. This is a chance to learn from our past actions and steer the course of future restoration. Personally, I prefer the aesthetic of native plants that have evolved in the landscape rather than aggressive weeds that change the environment.

  8. Brian Murphy said:

    Restoring the dunes is a pie in the sky dream for those that make a living from grant money. At this point it is totally unrealistic to think that removing or attempting to remove all the non native plants is a realistic venture. The wildlife wont change. The homeless will not stop camping. The Lupine and the European Beach Grass will not stop growing. This county would be doing themselves a favor by leaving the dunes as they are. Stabilized and beautiful. This county has far more important needs that playing with sand. The issues of homelessness, drug use and economic improvements are issues that grants need to be written for. I have been following this for the last 25 years and little has changed, but a lot of money and time has been devoted. With dwellings and infrastructure in and around the dunes, stabilization is important. Our supervisors need to prioritize for the future of Humboldt county and put things that don’t need fixing on the back burner. You don’t have to get that grant just because its there.

    Save tax payers some money and drop the Dunes “thing” No matter what you do the dunes they will never ever be the way they should, and no economic, social, or environmental benefit will come from improving them.

  9. Dan said:

    The issue is Wetlands, Manila’s lands are wetland/wildlife set-asides. When Pickard
    came to work in Manila she promised the town, the State and the Feds that there would be NO erosion-
    NO loss of wetlands and No effect on wildlife. Pickard said that to insure that there would be NO destabilization she would work in a patch-work fashion and re-plant immediately.
    The workers did neither, fore dune blew-out, slip-faces formed, wetlands evaporated at which point Pickard changed her tune and said that they meant to cause erosion and that the trees that died, simply didn’t belong there!
    Manila is to operate in interests of the State Water Boards and FedEPA who bought the land. Through
    dishonesty, lack of requisite monitoring, lack of transparency compounded by ignorance of our Vegetated Treatment System and its needs, we have turned our wetlands to desert and adversely effected our Base Flood Elevation while the oversight was looking the other way.
    It is well past time for “studies.” Time is now for repairs before Salt-Water Intrusion effects our deflation-plane Coastal Act constructed marshes.

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