Revisiting Measure CC three years and counting, by Mary Millman

In this article we revisit Measure CC and its impact on Claremont Canyon. For our members and friends who may not recall, in November 2004 Measure CC garnered approval from a little over the required two thirds of voters in the East Bay Regional Park District’s Zone 1 (western Alameda and Contra Costa counties). The Measure imposed a $12 annual parcel tax on single-family units ($8.28 on multi-family units) in order to produce—at about $3 million per year—a $46 million supplemental fund for “park access, wildfire protection, public safety, and environmental maintenance” within 21 parks and recreation areas, specifically including Claremont Canyon.

To administer the fund over its 15-year life, the Park District adopted a line item budget format with 79 specific projects. Topping the list of projects is the overarching management plan and environmental impact report that will set guidelines for the other 78 projects. The Plan and EIR, called the East Bay Hills Wildfire Hazard Reduction and Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Report, was contracted out in 2005 to a team of consultants headed by LSA Associates Inc. and Amphion Environmental, Inc. The team is employing state-of-the-art analytic mapping tools to model and assess wildfire hazards in the target parks. They then will recommend environmentally sound methods of mitigation. “The recommendations will be very specific and tied to types of hazards—eucalyptus removal, for example,” said Cheryl Miller of Amphion. “After the approval of the Plan and EIR in 2009, the recommendations will be incorporated into all the projects so that the environment will be protected.”

In the meantime, some Measure CC monies are already going toward projects associated with previously approved programs. In the Claremont Canyon Preserve, for example, Measure CC funds are earmarked for further reduction of the eucalyptus grove at the Stonewall Road trailhead, a program that has been underway for several years. According to Dave Collins of the Park District, this work will continue in each of the 15 years of Measure CC with the goal of creating “a stable, low maintenance landscape that promotes native plant communities.”

Allocations of funds for Claremont Canyon are listed in three line items of the Measure CC budget: $418,060 for completion of the trail system; $120,000 for research for Whipsnake habitat enhancement; and for Sibley and Claremont Canyon combined, $1,175,000 for vegetation management and fuels reduction. The precise allocation of these sums has yet to be determined.
Completion of the trail system in Claremont Canyon is tentatively scheduled for 2010 so that Whipsnake habitat and the EIR policies can be accommodated. Interestingly, the Alameda Whipsnake, a rare and endangered species, is now hard or even impossible to find in Claremont Canyon but is known to exist in neighboring Tilden in numbers sufficient to justify study of its habitat. When the studies are concluded, the Claremont Canyon appropriation will likely be applied to better manage Canyon vegetation for Whipsnake habitat, according to Mr. Collins.

The Park District and its consultants have held two public meetings in 2006 and 2007 detailing the analysis and progress on the Plan and EIR and requesting public input and comment. Their next meeting will be sometime in 2008, but the team is eager to hear from individuals and groups before then. “This is the time to get involved,” said Amphion’s Cheryl Miller, “as the plan is being generated— especially between now and next summer when they are finishing the scoping of how fuel management will be done.”

At this point Conservancy members have a rare opportunity to participate directly in the wedded issues of native environmental protection and wildfire hazard reduction. Measure CC requires at least 10% per year be held back for future unforeseen needs. The 2008 budget retains almost half of the annual $3 million allotment—until the Plan and EIR are adopted. When the Plan and EIR are adopted as a blueprint for policy, the funds for implementation will be available. The Conservancy looks forward to a period of “Canyon advocacy” this fall and winter with the hope and belief that next year at this time we will have not only a plan and a policy to address the wildfire hazard, but also the means at hand to carry it out.