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On 19 February 2016, our organization participated in an Environmental Advisory Council hosted by Assemblywoman Catharine Baker. About thirty representatives from other conservation and land management organizations, park districts, municipalities, and nonprofits around the East Bay Area attended to represent our top important issues to Baker over a two hour period. I represented our chapter by reiterating our stance on the value of the Tesla area. Most of the others also used this council gathering as a platform to state that Tesla contains many more possibilities than an off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation park expansion. Additionally, many agreed that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) did not appropriately address extensive evidence submitted that OHV use is inappropriate for an area containing so many biological and botanical treasures. I delivered copies of the letter we delivered to the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Commission on 05 February 2016, plus a map and description of our Corral Hollow Botanical Priority Protection Area (BPPA).

The Tesla debate is not news to our readers. In fact, this issue was not news to Ms. Baker, either. She supports keeping open space for varied recreation, especially in support of healthy lifestyle education. She responded to many points, and spoke briefly to us on her engagement with the Carnegie park employees. As of this date since the meeting, we have not heard her take a public, political stance on the Tesla expansion.

In related news, the OHMVR Commission has further delayed deciding on the Tesla expansion. The Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) General Plan Team emailed a project update on 18 March 2016, to those who signed up for that free service on their website. The team is incorporating feedback received from the 05 February 2016 meeting in Tracy, CA, which will then be published as the Draft General Plan and Final EIR to the project website. The OHMVR Commission will set a date to meet again and consider approval. The meeting will be public, and preceded by a 30-day public notice. This is great news, because it indicates that the 60 speakers and large volume of submitted written comments inspired the Commission to wait to vote on approval until another round of revisions could be assimilated into the document. We look forward to investigating these revisions when it is published sometime in Summer 2016.

Baker represents California’s Assembly District 16, which stretches from Orinda over to Walnut Creek, to Livermore and further South. The Carnegie SVRA falls neatly within her constituency boundary. Baker plans to convene Environmental Advisory Council meetings every six months or so, throughout her elected term.

Our organization’s mission declares important goals for promoting and protecting native California plants. We primarily do this by increasing understanding among the public of the importance of our native plants, and providing reliable information in support of their conservation. I enjoyed the opportunity to engage with our elected official to present reliable information on Tesla, for the possibility of influencing public policy and opinion.

We encourage you to engage, as well. Attend a city council or utility district public meeting to learn about your local projects and issues. Elected officials want to hear from the people they represent, and these days, many host informal hikes or coffee groups to inspire candid conversation. Share native plant news or events with us as you hear about them, we will spread the word, and we may see each other at a meeting!

Karen Whitestone

 

Upcoming Events:

04/23/2016: Walk and Talk with Assemblywoman Baker

05/22/2016: Pelican Dreams fundraiser benefiting Save Tesla Park

 

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A brief update on the Meeting of the Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Commission, taking place at Tracy City Hall, regarding planned expansion project into the Tesla area, as proposed by Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA):

On Friday, February 5th, 2016, many local organizations and members of the public stood up with EBCNPS at the OHMVR Commission Meeting. We spoke out on the Carnegie SVRA General Plan and proposed expansion into the Tesla area. Passion was high at this event, the last opportunity for public comment on this project. Sticker badges of “I Own Carnegie” contrasted with “Save Tesla Park” around the room. Most importantly, a majority of speakers remained adamantly opposed, and submitted succinct opposition comments into public record.

Please read EBCNPS’ submitted comments from the Commission Meeting, stating that this Proposed Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) lacks appropriate consideration of important evidence previously submitted in full. The true effects of the General Plan and Final EIR on botanical resources continue to be misjudged, to the point of failing to satisfy California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements. We asserted, yet again, that these Proposed Final EIR  and General Plan documents should not be certified or approved.

As Conservation Analyst, I represented EBCNPS at this meeting. I spoke to summarize important points from our submitted comment letter. We attached our Corral Hollow Botanical Priority Protection Areas (BPPA) map with description, and a Special- Status Species and Habitat Occurrences on Tesla Expansion Area map, which specifically illustrates a talking point on curly blue grass grassland, a rare natural community. This grassland is recognized by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and depicted as up to 175 acres in size on the special- status map. It is unclear why the coarse vegetation mapping used for their impact analysis overlooks these and other botanical and cultural resources.

In fact, we recommended that the Tesla area is so very significant as to merit a “sensitive area” recognition as defined by Public Resources Code, to serve as permanent mitigation for ongoing impacts of OHV use at the existing Carnegie SVRA. I also reinforced in comments that EBCNPS thinks Tesla should be permanently preserved with no OHV use.

As you analyze these documents for yourself, please keep in mind that delaying the planning of smaller projects as part of a program- level planning process is an over- generalized approach in this case, inadequately accounting for the summary impact of small projects on the whole Tesla area. Where there could be significant impacts to resources requiring legal protection, appropriate steps to analyze those impacts must be taken, and definitely were not taken by this Proposed Final EIR. Any small project would undeniably effect the whole. Steps to ensure complete analysis is performed before action would be taken on the expansion plan are also not outlined. The only impact deemed significant and unavoidable by this Proposed Final EIR is that on air quality, which is not supported by the evidence we and many other groups submitted. We are thrilled that so many others agreed with us.

Reporting on this event included The Independent’s article summary of the “sharp criticism” for the Tesla expansion plan, and, an article on how to understand the fuel tax allocation source of funding for the purchase of Tesla property by Carnegie SVRA in the 1990s.

Small victory that the OHMVR Commission did not vote on the General Plan and Proposed Final EIR at this meeting! What can we do now? Within 6 months, the Commission will decide whether to approve the General Plan and EIR. Hopefully, they will take extensive time to consider the resources needing protection on the Tesla property. Please continue to show your support by keeping your ears open about Tesla topics.

If you have the time, read through the FEIR, comments, or appendices. Many groups also made important opposition points backed by valid evidence.

We will await the Commission’s decision, and report back to you.

Karen Whitestone

 

 

View of Mt. Diablo from Tesla Park

View of Mt. Diablo from Tesla Park  photo: Mack Casterman

On June 29th, EBCNPS submitted a comment letter in response to the Preliminary General Plan and accompanying Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area in Eastern Alameda County. This letter is a major step in a multi year process that will continue into the future.

EBCNPS’s concern regarding this plan is that it proposes to expand motorized off road vehicle recreation into a 3,000 acre parcel that is known as Tesla Park. This area is listed as a Botanical Priority Protection Area by EBCNPS, and the plan and its DEIR fail to consider and address the major environmental impacts that would occur if such an expansion was to take place.

Our letter can be viewed here: EBCNPS General Plan_DEIR letter FINAL June 2015 with attachments

We need your help now to SAVE Tesla Park! This is your inspiration…Tesla Park West Ridge to Mount Diablo

Please email your comments on the Carnegie SVRA Preliminary General Plan/Draft EIR (General Plan /DEIR) before the June 29, 2015 deadline.

Your comments can be emailed to CarnegieDEIRcomments@gmail.com .

You can view the documents at www.CarnegieGeneralPlan.com .

Following is a sample comment letter that you can use to prepare your personal email:

To OHMVR Carnegie SVRA General Plan:

The Carnegie SVRA Preliminary General Plan and Draft EIR do not protect the sensitive resources in the expansion area, also referred to as the Alameda-Tesla property or Tesla.  The General Plan and DEIR may provide Carnegie SVRA the maximum flexibility to develop OHV use in the existing DEIR and expansion area anyway that they desire, but it deprives the public of needed specific information about the proposed plan and its impacts. It makes a mockery of the CEQA process.

The General Plan and DEIR do not describe the project in sufficient detail; this deficiency is significant because the General Plan and DEIR specifically state that further environmental review is not required if future projects are found to be consistent with the General Plan and DEIR.  (GP 1-7; DEIR 1-2)  The General Plan does not accurately describe Existing Conditions (Chapter 2); there is no mention that a Critical Linkage Habitat Corridor runs directly through Tesla and there are no pictures of the extensive damage from OHV use in Carnegie SVRA.  (GP Chapter 2) The DEIR concludes there will be no significant impacts from converting 3,100 acres of agricultural grazing and natural resource conservation land to OHV use is not supported by evidence or analysis (DEIR Chapter 3); you only need to compare the damaging impacts from OHV use at the existing Carnegie SVRA to prove that DEIR is not credible.  The General Plan and DEIR attempt to substitute vague and un-measureable guidelines for required mitigation; the DEIR states that no mitigation beyond best management practices and unenforceable guidelines is required (DEIR Chapter 3). The DEIR does not consider any non-OHV use alternatives and the cumulative impacts from the existing Carnegie SVRA on the unique Corral Hollow ecosystem. (DEIR Chapter 4 and 6)

Opening the 3,100 acre Tesla expansion area to OHV use will result in irreparable damage its sensitive resources which include several rare plant communities and species, California Red-Legged Frog, California Tiger Salamander, Western Pond Turtle, Yellow-legged Frog, Western Spadefoot Toad, Golden Eagle, Tule Elk, Alameda Whipsnake, Townsends Big-eared Bat the historic Tesla town site and coal mine, significant features from indigenous cultures, and much more.  The Tesla expansion area is not suitable for damaging OHV use.  I oppose the expansion of Carnegie SVRA into the Tesla expansion area.  The General Plan and Draft EIR should not be approved or certified as written and need to be revised and recirculated for public review with the entire expansion area designated as a permanent preserve area with No-OHV use allowed.

(Name, address, email)

Chaparral in the hills of Tesla Park - photo Mack Casterman

California sagebrush scrub and a stand of desert olive scrub (a sensitive natural community) in the hills of Tesla Park – photo Mack Casterman

On December 13, EBCNPS submitted comments in response to the Preferred Concept Public Workshop held on November 12, 2013 which presented the draft preferred concept for the Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) General Plan. These comments come in advance of the State’s publication of the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Carnegie General Plan Revision which will consider whether to open the State’s 3,400 acre Alameda-Tesla property (Tesla Park) to off road vehicles for recreation.

The property in question is of concern to EBCNPS because it makes up the core of our Corral Hollow Botanical Priority Protection Area due to the migration corridor and habitat it provides for several valuable plant species and communities.

Our letter can be viewed here: FINAL_EBCNPS Response to Preferred Concept Public Workshop 12_13_13

The presentation packet from the Preferred Concept Meeting can be viewed here: http://carnegiegeneralplan.com/system/assets/57/original/preferred_concept_public_workshop_infopacket_final_20131108_web.pdf

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