|Description||The Coastal Commission met in Fort Bragg on Wednesday, July 13 through Friday, July 15. The Commission heard several important informational updates including a progress report on CalTrans Eureka-Arcata Hwy 101 Corridor Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan and a planning briefing from the City of Fort Bragg. The Commission also found substantial issue with two noteworthy local permits involving shoreline armoring in Oceanside and Laguna Beach and approved a controversial cease and desist order involving Reservation Ranch in Del Norte County. The Reservation Ranch item resulted in a vote chart.|
Issues voted on at this Meeting
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|Reservation Ranch Restoration - Del Norte County||On Thursday, the Commission’s enforcement division brought forth a consent cease and desist order regarding unpermitted development in and around tidal sloughs that flow through a property near the mouth of the Smith River known as Reservation Ranch in Del Norte County. The property occupies over 1,600 acres of land and approximately 3.5 miles of riverfront in Del Norte County, four miles from the Oregon border. The Smith River is the largest undammed river in California and is a crown jewel of the national Wild and Scenic River program.
Reservation Ranch was once sacred tribal territory of California Native Americans including the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, stolen as colonization and genocide was carried out in this part of the world. Sacred tribal resources continue to exist there. In 1908, this farm was deeded to the Westbrook family who managed it as a cattle and dairy operation for several generations. In the 1960’s levees were built that destroyed the extensive wetlands and slough on the property.
The list of offenses at Reservation Ranch have been accused of is lengthy and involves, among other things, dumping manure, trash and cow carcasses into the Smith River estuary. They've also been cited for diverting water from the Smith without a permit or regard for the creatures dependent upon the area's habitats including Roosevelt Elk, waterfowl and endangered Coho Salmon. Further violations pertain to blocking public access to the ocean and sloughs adjacent to the Smith.
The approved consent cease and desist orders address these violations and include:
Representatives from the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation requested additional mitigation measures. Several of those requests include:
These requests were not included in the final approved orders. Commissioners, including Kristina Kunkel and Sara Aminzadeh, expressed reluctance with moving forward with the Orders given the outstanding concerns by Tribal representatives. After several hours of deliberations, the Commission unanimously approved the Orders and restoration plan with an additional 17 acre forest conservation easement and a cultural survey of Tillas Island negotiated from the dias.
The Orders represent one of the largest restoration projects in Northern California and will greatly enhance water quality for recreational use at the Smith River Mouth and improve public access to the coast and river. While these Orders are a very small step towards justice for Tribal Nations, true restorative justice for the atrocities committed towards the Native Nations and their ancestors would include resolutions beyond the scope of staff and the Coastal Act. The state, at the highest levels, must proactively support land-back efforts here and throughout California.