December 22, 2016
City of Morro Bay
955 Shasta Avenue
Morro Bay, CA 93442
Re: Case No. UPO-440, CPO-500. Demolition of Jet Fuel Storage Tanks at 3300 Panorama Dr.
Dear Planning Commissioners,
The Morro Coast Audubon Society, MCAS, appreciates this opportunity to provide written comments regarding the demolition project at 3300 Panorama Dr. On the whole, MCAS is not opposed to this project. However, one component of the project causes us concern – as that component conflicts with the MCAS Mission Statement “to promote the appreciation, conservation, and restoration of ecosystems focusing on the biological diversity of birds, other wildlife, and their habitats.”
The mature Monterey cypress and pine trees throughout the project site offer valuable canopy and structure for nesting raptors including the Coopers Hawk, a California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife ‘watch list species’.
As stated in the Terra-Verde Biological Assessment letter dated November 17, 2016 – impacts to nesting birds, including those protected by Fish and Game Code and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act may occur if demolition and removal, ground disturbance, or vegetation removal occur during the typical nesting period (February 1 to September 15).
Mitigation measures are recommended in the Biological Assessment, and required in the City’s Staff Report to the Planning Commission, to avoid both direct and indirect impacts to special-status and nesting bird resources. Mitigation Measure BR-6 states that demolition and removal activities, earth disturbance, and vegetation clearing shall be avoided during the typical nesting season (February 1 to September 15) . . . to the extent feasible.
MCAS urges you to focus on the words “shall be avoided”, and remove the following four words in the mitigation measure “to the extent feasible”. The term “feasible” invites opening up a loophole that may tip the scale in favor of the applicant at the expense of the City’s nesting bird resources.
In Mitigation Measure BR-6, the wording “shall be avoided” adds some teeth to this measure to lessen environmental impacts from this project, while the words “to the extent feasible” considerably weakens this mitigation, and again, may create a loophole for the applicant to disregard the city’s sensitive natural resources.
We respectfully request that you deny any variance that the applicant may apply for to start demolition, earth disturbance, and vegetation clearing during the nesting season at the project site. Working outside this nesting period runs less risk of destroying active nests – but care is needed at all times to avoid harm.
In conclusion we would hope that the City of Morro Bay would place a high priority on its environmental resource policy that avoids implementing activities that result in the loss of active birds’ nests, including both direct loss and indirect loss through abandonment.
MCAS asks that you, as decision makers, consider the wildlife on site when making planning decisions.
Doug Tait, Conservation Chair
Morro Coast Audubon Society