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March 2015

Up S--- Creek Without a Paddle

OriginalJackson Lake, March 29, 2015, normally full and frozen over at this time of year, now nearly dry as the California drought drags on.

Earthweek, a diary of the planet, reports March 27 that climate change is causing thin ice in the Arctic, firestorms in drought-stricken southern Chile, a slowing Gulf Stream, and the world with a 40 percent shortfall of water supply. What a time for Al Gore to give up his doomsday predictions and to become an optimist about the future of Earth and mankind. Now if only anyone will follow his lead. Don't bet on it. Keep visiting earthweek.com and prepare to get really worried.

John Maybury, Editor & Publisher


Opinion: Council Must Listen or Face Recall

1-Transparency!-
By Jean Headley Darmody, Special to Riptide

Anyone who has followed City Council elections in Pacifica knows that if you don't have a recognizable name, you have a slim chance of being elected to council. That John Keener (a virtual unknown before the November election) was elected to council, running mainly against Caltrans' Highway 1 widening project, should be a clear indication to council how opposed so many Pacificans are to this project that would make that portion of Highway 1 wider than Interstate 280.

To me, that is simply absurd! Council should realize that if it votes to go forward with the project, I truly believe there will be a recall petition circulating in no time at all, and I believe it would be successful. This is a much bigger issue than the Landscape & Lighting Assessment issue that was the impetus for the last recall, for those of you who were here then and can remember how terribly it divided the community.

To my knowledge, there has not been even one public meeting on this issue, and the Chamber of Commerce and Caltrans seem to be ramrodding this project down our throats, when it's NOT the best alternative, and without hearing citizens' input. I'm not an engineer and know nothing about highway widening, but it seems to me that there is plenty of room to put a frontage road on one side or the other of that stretch of Highway 1 to accommodate emergency vehicles during heavy traffic.

So there, I brought up the "R" word. I think this issue is that important. 


Marine Wildlife

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_DSC6555PR(top to bottom) pelicans at Point Lobos State Park; porpoises south of Pacifica Pier; harbor seal at Point Lobos; young sea lion stranded on Sharp Park Beach near the pier; fishermen on Sharp Park Beach. Photographer Leo Leon says that sea lions come from Southern California and are having a tough time; the mothers have to go farther out to sea to find food and are forced to leave their young behind on the beach. The Marine Mammal Center has been rescuing stranded sea lions from Pacifica beaches, but on the other hand, Leo says, Northern California harbor seals are faring much better.


PSC & PH1A Take Legal Action v. Caltrans

By Peter Loeb

On March 5, 2015, Pacificans for a Scenic Coast (PSC) and Pacificans for Highway 1 Alternatives (PH1A) sent letters of intent to sue Caltrans for violations of the federal Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act for the Highway 1 widening project. These notices are about a federal lawsuit, not the state lawsuit awaiting final judgment.

The notices were prompted by a notice that Caltrans published in the Federal Register in December 2014, which said that if there would be be a federal lawsuit on the highway widening project, the suit would have to be filed by May 8, 2015, or PSC/PH1A would be forever barred from filing a federal lawsuit.

This forced our hand. We had to look at whether there were grounds for a federal lawsuit, and then filing if there were grounds. If we didn’t, the door would be permanently closed to this option. We determined that there were grounds.

Then it turns out that to file a federal lawsuit, there has to be a 60-day notice of intent to sue or the federal suit can’t go forward. To keep our option open, we were required to send notices so that they were received by March 8. We had to put a placeholder down or we would forever lose the opportunity to file a federal suit if one was warranted.

If Caltrans had not published its notice in the Federal Register, we may never have considered a federal suit. The Federal Register notice made us look at whether there was a reason that Caltrans would want to bar us from filing a federal suit. Our research showed that there are some very good reasons why it wouldn’t want us to do that — Caltrans has violated federal laws.

The 60-day notice of intent to sue for violations of the Endangered Species Act was sent to Caltrans, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, GGNRA, and Army Corps of Engineers.

The 60-day notice of intent to sue for violations of the Clean Water Act was sent to Caltrans, San Mateo County Transportation Authority, and the City of Pacifica because the city is legally a “necessary and indispensable party” to any decision in that lawsuit.

The two notices of intent to sue (click links below for downloadable/printable PDFs) explain the violations of federal law:

CWA Notice

ESA Notice


Gray Whales Cavort @ Gray Whale Cove

By Joe Devlin, Special to Riptide

Twenty years on the coast and I finally got to film live whales from the beach. I was driving north on Highway 1 just south of Devil's Slide Tunnel when I caught a glimpse of what I thought might be a whale spout. I turned the car around, pulled to the side of the road, and there they were.

At first I was not sure what I was seeing. Was that a flash of a tail fin slapping the water next to a roll of an arching back? The next second I saw what I thought were two pectoral flukes and a bit of a whale belly right next to a spout. Then one leaped and I could see the striations on its throat. I quickly realized I was looking at a small pod of three or four gray whales cavorting and tumbling over one another in the water.

How many whales passed by during that half an hour I spent looking down on the water? Dozens at least. With all of them tumbling and twisting around and around it was impossible to get a good count. Watch the video above and you will see what I mean. X_15_3_17_Three Grey_Whales