Looking back on 2013: Environmental issues in the headlines

By Betsy Herbert

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Posted: 01/23/14, 12:00 AM PST

With 2013 declared the driest year on record in California, water supply and drought top last year's list of environmental issues affecting Santa Cruz County. Below I list some of the milestones of environmental change for 2013:


  • A dwindling number of great white sharks off the coast of California become official candidates for protection under the state's Endangered Species Act. The state will conduct a one-year study to see if this shark population qualifies for state protection.


  • Single-use plastic bag ban goes into effect in Santa Cruz and Capitola, following earlier bans by the city of Watsonville and Santa Cruz County
  • A federal court rules that the Bureau of Land Management violated the law when it failed to consider the environmental impacts of fracking before auctioning off some 2,500 acres in Monterey County to oil companies.
  • Local videographers Lois Robin and Ed Schehl release their film "Liquid Assets: Protecting Our Creeks, Streams and Rivers," featuring local watershed experts (vimeo.com/64674879).


  • Some 300 Santa Cruz protesters joined approximately 2 million worldwide in the March Against Monsanto, the biotechnology corporation driving the increase in crops with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
  • City of Santa Cruz releases the desal project Draft Environmental Impact Report for public review.


  • Center for Biological Diversity files suit over a new management plan for Big Basin State Park, requesting State Parks to better protect the marbled murrelet, an endangered seabird that nests in old-growth redwoods.
  • Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District restores bus service to Big Basin State Park, after a substantial showing of public support.


  • The federal government announces that it will conduct a major analysis of the risks of fracking on California's public lands.
  • The Rim Fire burns approximately 280 square miles in the Sierra, threatening Hetch Hetchy reservoir and burning portions of Yosemite National Park.
  • Save the Redwoods League hosts a redwood and climate symposium in Berkeley entitled, "Past, Present and Future of Redwoods." New research shows that old-growth redwoods sequester more carbon from the atmosphere than any other living thing.
  • Santa Cruz City Council puts desalination on hold due to public pressure to consider alternatives.


  • Gov. Jerry Brown signs AB 904 -- a controversial state forestry bill -- into law, but only after local environmental groups successfully lobbied key state lawmakers to exclude Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Mateo and Marin counties from the bill. The new law relaxes timber harvest rules and reduces public review for non-industrial timber harvesting in less populated parts of the state.
  • The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors approves a moratorium on fracking as Supervisor John Leopold seeks a permanent amendment to the county's general plan to ban the practice.
  • The 27th Annual San Lorenzo River and Road Cleanup draws a crowd of active volunteers.
  • Water level at the city of Santa Cruz reservoir Loch Lomond drops to a 16-year low.


  • California legalizes industrial hemp; federal law still prohibits hemp production
  • More than 400 public comments on the desal draft EIR demonstrate wide opposition to the project.


  • Santa Cruz City Council votes to form a 14-member advisory panel to examine alternatives to desal and make recommendations for managing a water supply impacted by severe drought and mandated fish habitat restoration.
  • Typhoon Haiyan, the largest tropical cyclone ever recorded, hits the Philippines, killing approximately 10,000 people and causing massive destruction.
  • Local water agencies meet to discuss the possibility of using the old Hansen Quarry in Scotts Valley as a water recharge site for regional groundwater aquifers.


  • CalFire suspends backyard brush burning throughout the county, due to wildfire risk.