News Roundup – Parks, Lectures, Water and More

In recent years, the California State Park system made headlines for budget crises during the recession, then for concealing a stockpile of money from the public that could have alleviated the aforementioned budget crises. After a change in leadership in 2012 and the balancing of the state budget, the state parks have largely been out of the headlines. For those interested in the current state of the California State Parks Department, KQED Radio hosted a discussion with the director of the park system and the president of the California State Parks Foundation.

On the local level, Humboldt County and the city of Arcata received $2.5 million in state funds for the planning and construction of a trail system around Humboldt Bay. On the San Francisco Bay, the city of Berkeley has withdrawn its plans to trap and exterminate ground squirrels at the Berkeley Marina. The marina’s Caesar Ch├ívez Park lies on top of a capped landfill, and the abundance of burrowing rodents has raised concerns that tunneling activity will break the landfill’s seal and leak toxic substances into the bay. Previous attempts to attract raptors to the park have failed to control the rodent populations, but with water surveys coming up negative for leaked toxins and pressure from the Golden Gate Audubon Society to let the rodents provide burrows for owls and food for other raptors, the city has backed off from extermination.

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A California ground squirrel at the Berkeley Marina

Upcoming lectures in the Humboldt Bay region include one on Spring-blooming flowers on April 5th at the Humboldt Botanical Garden and another on the same day about underwater life at the Eureka Maritime Museum. Bay Area residents can attend a free seminar on April 4th about identifying invasive species and restoring native ecosystems (seats are limited, but reservations can be made in advance).

A wet February and March have improved our water prospects for the upcoming year, but but we’re still below average rainfall for the year. As agricultural producers have increasingly turned to groundwater during the last couple years of scant rainfall and snowpack, the U.S. Geological Survey has found that large swaths of land in California’s central valley are sinking at an unprecedented rate. In a region that already faces flooding threats during periods of intense rainfall, this is an unwelcome development.

The first trucks of highly-basic pulping liquor have left Humboldt County, courtesy of an EPA operation. As reported in an earlier news roundup, the four million gallons of highly toxic solution left in deteriorating tanks could have easily spelled disaster for Humboldt Bay’s ecosystems and fishing/oyster industries if stressed by any number of natural events, and rainfall would have caused an overflow by now had the facilities not been retrofitted with overflow tanks using federal funds. Evergreen Pulp, the company that abandoned the mill site and pulping liquor, is now the subject of a civil investigation.