Land and Sea

The 3/6 announcement that a pair of bald eagles laid an egg in a nest on Santa Cruz Island has some biologists hoping the species may yet make a comeback in the Channel Islands. The same mating pair successfully reared a hatchling last year, the first naturally born baby bald eagle in the islands in more than 50 years. Those studying the eagles blame DDT released into the ocean south of Los Angeles for contaminating the food supply on the Channel Islands and causing the eagles to lay thin-shelled, nonviable eggs.

The worst fears of opponents of the BHP Billiton Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal proposed for the Santa Barbara Channel were confirmed this week. An investigation spearheaded by Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, found that the EPA’s 2005 reversal of opinion on the smog offset requirements for the project were tainted by political maneuvering and BHP lobbying efforts. In a letter to the federal EPA administrator, Waxman concluded that long-serving EPA officials opposed the reversalwhich would exempt the LNG plant from air quality requirementsand that the analysis the EPA cited to justify the reversed decision appeared to “not exist.” Waxman’s inquiry was partly motivated by the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center.

This winter ranks as the fourth driest in the past 40 years for the City of Santa Barbara, with reported rainfall about 12.5 inches short of the annual average of 21 inches. (By contrast, the City of Los Angeles reported that this was the driest year since it began keeping precipitation records.) Even so, Santa Barbara city water czar Steve Mack said the city’s water supplies are more than adequate, adding that the city’s reservoirs have spilled in each of the prior four years. Two years ago, he said, there was an especially wet year, with the city posting 63 inches of rainfall.

The county Board of Supervisors on 3/6 created a new planning position intended to strengthen the role of agriculturalists in the county’s planning process, despite prominent misgivings from some that the move would have the opposite effect. Some in that sector fear their clout would be diminished if the agricultural planner had to rub shoulders with the urban environmentalists who predominantly staff planning offices. Supervisors reassured members of the Agricultural Advisory Committee that the new planner would continue to work out of the Ag Commissioner’s office and would report directly to interim Planning Director John Baker.

A recent survey of downtown Santa Barbara workers indicates that 71 percent drive to work alone. This stands in dramatic contrast to a City Hall survey conducted in 2005 by prominent political consultant John Davies, who concluded that only 46 percent drove to work alone. Out of frustration, city transportation planners conducted their own survey with Davies, who they claimed produced unreliable results. Not only were his figures out of line with those of most cities, but transportation planners contend he failed to poll individual businesses and workers the way his contract demanded. Davies, who was reportedly paid $96,000 for his work, has blasted city officials for mismanaging the contract. It remains uncertain whether City Hall will try to get any of its money back from Davies.

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