Save Our Groundwater!

June 6, 2018

The Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) filed a comment in March of 2017 on the Sacramento Central Groundwater Authority’s (SCGA) petition to be deemed an acceptable “alternative plan” under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The purpose of our June 6, 2018 letter is to reiterate our opposition to that petition and to urge the Department of Water Resources (DWR) again to find that SCGA is not in compliance with SGMA.

Some highlights:

  • groundwater levels continue to fall in the portions of the basin that most affect the important ecological resources of the lower Cosumnes watershed
  • SCGA continues to make little effort to encourage or facilitate public engagement in its ongoing deliberations
  • SCGA does no targeted outreach, apparently maintains no list of interested parties, and has a web site that is of very limited usefulness
  • SCGA needs to recognize that public engagement is a key component of SGMA compliance
  • SCGA is currently reassessing its rate structure and could adjust its rates to account for costs of both plan preparation and projects/programs to which they have committed and to date ignored

Click here to see the letter in full (PDF).

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Letter from ECOS to Caltrans re HOV lane settlement

April 30, 2018

Amarjeet Benipal, District Director
California Department of Transportation, District 3
703 B Street, Marysville, CA 95901

Re: Support for reprogramming funds from the Sacramento-Folsom Limited Stop Service and Hazel Frequency Enhancement Project settlement

Dear Director Benipal:

The Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) supports Sacramento Regional Transit District’s (SacRT) proposal for late night service on their light rail Gold Line to Folsom.

On November 16, 2009, following settlement of a lawsuit between Caltrans and the Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS), SacRT and Caltrans entered into an agreement to provide funding for the Sacramento-Folsom Limited Stop Service to operate 15-minute frequency service between Hazel and Sunrise light rail stations after completion of the double-tracking project.

Due to financial limitations, SacRT has yet to complete enhancements that would allow for 15-minute service and no construction is imminent. The last train to Folsom departs downtown Sacramento at 6:18 p.m. Because of this limited evening service, many residents along the Highway 50 corridor do not use light rail service for fear of being stranded after work without a transit option. Later service would benefit residents of the eastern part of the county, while reducing congestion and airborne pollutants.

Therefore, ECOS supports reprogramming the 2009 settlement funds to allow SacRT to provide late night service. We ask Caltrans and SacRT to sign the concurrence letter that would allow for this money to be used for that purpose.

Sincerely,

Ralph Propper, President
Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS)

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Letter from ECOS Requesting that LAFCo Reconsider Approval of “Kammerer 99 SOIA” Amendment

May 1, 2018

Patrick Hume, Chair
Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission
1112 I Street, Sacramento, CA, 95814
Via email to commissionclerk [at] saclafco [dot] org

RE: Request to Reconsider LAFCo approval of Kammerer/99 SOIA amendment

Dear Mr. Hume and fellow Commissioners:

I would like to focus on two concerns that ECOS and Habitat 2020 believe were not adequately addressed by LAFCo Commissioners in their deliberations on the Kammerer/99 SOIA Amendment: 1) Cumulative Traffic impacts and 2) County policy regarding changes to the urban service boundary established in the 1993 Sacramento County General Plan and included in the 2011 update of that plan.

1. Traffic Impacts on the SE Connector. On or about February 29, 2018 the Southeast Connector JPA released a Mitigated Negative Declaration for review and comment. The information contained in this document was not available prior to the LAFCo hearing on February 7, 2018. Among other things the document contained a comprehensive analysis of cumulative traffic impacts both with and without the proposed improvements to Kammerer Road.

Most instructive is Table 45, which shows cumulative and cumulative plus project (the road improvement project) Level of Service (LOS) on a segment by segment basis between Interstate 5 and Highway 99 (See Attachment 1). The cumulative conditions for the analysis are based on full buildout within Elk Grove City (although not taking into account casino development) and MTP/SCS traffic forecasts based on projected 2036 development outside of Elk Grove City. This table reveals a number of important points:

• The cumulative conditions for the various segments are based on a minimum of 4 lanes of traffic, rather than the 2 lanes in the LAFCo RDEIR. Our understanding is that the JPA’s intent is to build the 4 lanes with the proposed project, but if funding is short, the project may be phased with just two lanes at first. If so, the expansion to 4 lanes would occur with funding from impact fees on new development collected by the city of Elk Grove (communication from Matt Satow, project engineer)/

• The daily traffic volume for the segments between Bruceville and Promenade Parkway range between 13,740 and 38,300. This compares to an estimated 29,719 vt/d in the RDEIR for Kammerer/99 SOIA.

• The Cumulative Plus Project conditions in Table 45 yield considerably higher daily volumes along the same stretch of roadway. This is largely the induced traffic demand that connecting Kammerer Road to Interstate 5 will generate.

• The segments west of Bruceville are projected to accommodate 28,000 to 32,000 vt/d. Some of these vehicle trips will originate and end from the north on Bruceville; others will continue eastward toward Highway 99.

• Traffic volume in the Cumulative Plus Project scenario for the segments east of Bruceville are projected to increase between 6,300 and 18,240 vt/d, with the amount of increase decreasing from west to east.

• The level of service with the Cumulative Plus Project actually declines along all segments except one. For one segment, the decline is to LOS E.

This analysis does not include either the Bilby or Kammerer/99 requests. It is logical to assume that taken together, these projects would cause traffic levels on Kammerer/99 to increase LOS along much of the SE Connector between Highway 99 and Interstate 5 to unacceptable levels.

It is clear from the comments of LAFCo Commissioners that the presence of the proposed Southeast Connector was a significant justification for approving the project. This new information, not available at the time of decision, raises the important question that the Kammerer/99 SOIA, particularly when taken into consideration of the soon to be heard Bilby Ridge SOIA, will create significant congestion and challenge the ability of the Connector Project to meet its primary goal: to provide an alternative means for travelers to circumvent the congestion of the Sacramento Urban Area by travelling around the southeast periphery of the developed urban area.

We recognize that Mitigation Measure 3.24-1a requires traffic studies and plans for improvements to mitigate traffic to acceptable levels prior to approval of annexation. Yet there has been no discussion in the record as to what the scope of those improvements might be and how they relate to the purpose of the Southeast Connector as a regional road designed to move traffic between Interstate 5 and Highway 50. For a threshold decision regarding urban growth, this is a glaring omission.

In this light, reconsideration of the project is warranted. At a minimum, LAFCo commissioners should ask for an analysis and report back from the Southeast Connector JPA on the impacts of the projects before the Commission, with additional traffic analysis as necessary to be funded by the applicants. Moreover, we would recommend that reconsideration should be considered at the same time and with the available analysis of the Bilby Ridge project, so as to better evaluate the full scope of traffic impacts on the Southeast Connector.

2. Consistency with Sacramento County Land Use Policy LU-127. Our second point is not so much a matter of new information as it is a glaring oversight on the part of LAFCo commissioners not only in framing their decision, but in making the overriding considerations for approving the project in light of 22 significant and unavoidable adverse impacts.

The RDEIR for Kammerer/99 SOIA does identify policy LU127, which reads as follows:

Policy LU-127: The County shall not expand the Urban Service Boundary unless:
• There is inadequate vacant land within the USB to accommodate the projected 25 year demand for urban uses; and
• The proposal calling for such expansion can satisfy the requirements of a master water plan as contained in the Conservation Element; and
• The proposal calling for such expansion can satisfy the requirements of the Sacramento County Air Quality Attainment Plan; and
• The area of expansion does not incorporate open space areas for which previously secured open space easements would need to be relinquished; and
• The area of expansion does not include the development of important natural resource areas, aquifer recharge lands or prime agricultural lands;
• The area of expansion does not preclude implementation of a Sacramento County-adopted Habitat Conservation Plan;

OR

• The Board approves such expansion by a 4/5ths vote based upon on finding that the expansion would provide extraordinary environmental, social or economic benefits and opportunities to the County.

If this expansion request was before the County this is the policy that would guide decision-making regarding SOIA. We recognize that the policy does not bind the decisions of the City of Elk Grove, nor does it strictly bind Sacramento LAFCo decisions. Yet in many ways the policy gets to the heart of LAFCo’s mandates to consider the need for expanding jurisdictional spheres, to protect prime agricultural demand and to ensure adequate services.

Yet, surprisingly, the RDEIR finds that the proposed SOIA is consistent with the policy under the self-limiting logic that no land use changes are proposed that would require expanding the USB:

Consistent: The SOIA Area is currently within the jurisdiction of the County of Sacramento and is entirely outside of the County’s General Plan USB. However, no land uses changes are proposed that would require expanding the USB.

That is entirely beside the point. The simple fact is that approval of the SOIA would lead to the inevitable urban development that the USB is designed to limit. The question at hand is whether the proposed SOIA, if implemented, would be consistent with the county’s policy. We believe that we have provided ample evidence that it would not be. Both the RDEIR and the Commissioners’ approval of the project are deficient in not adequately taking this into account.

Note that Policy LU-127 does give guidance on when it would be appropriate, despite the required findings, to approve USB expansion. They can, by a supermajority vote, find that the expansion would provide extraordinary environmental, social or economic benefits and opportunities to the County.

So it would stand to reason, that LAFCo commissioners might want to consider the same context in their decision regarding the Kammerer/99 SOIA’s approval. Yet what we heard at the meeting were the same “business as usual” types of justifications for approving the project: Elk Grove needs to grow, the project will provide jobs, new development will help Elk Grove improve its job’s housing balance and the like. These are reflected in the Findings of Fact and Overriding Concern, which were not made available to the public until just prior to the hearing, without adequate opportunity for public review and consideration. Nowhere can we find, in either the written or the spoken comments at the hearing, that there were any extraordinary benefits for approving the project despite its inconsistency with County Policy, LAFCo mandates and common sense.

Moreover, your Commission’s decision, in starting the process to allow Elk Grove’s expansion beyond the USB, provides justification to not only Folsom in the area south of its current limits, but the County itself, in the huge North Precinct Development, to justify expansion of the Urban Service Boundary, entirely in the absence of any extraordinary justification, thus continuing the cycle of sprawl many citizens in this County are dedicated to ending.

In view of this, and if for no other reason, we ask that you reconsider your justification and your findings in approving the project.

Sincerely,

Robert Burness, Habitat 2020 Co Chair
Attachments


Click here for a PDF of this letter.

Click here for more background on this issue.

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