Federal Surveillance Tower comes to Big Sur

UPDATE: The Monterey County Planning Department today notified Big Sur residents that it will schedule another meeting of the South Coast Big Sur Land Use Advisory Committee on May 26 to discuss the tower proposal. 

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency is building a temporary surveillance tower meant to provide “security and coastal protection” at a remote site in Big Sur.

News of the proposed tower at Lucia Ranch, 50 miles south of Carmel, did not reach Big Sur until last Tuesday, when the South Coast Big Sur Land Use Advisory Committee heard an “informational” presentation about the project.

Neighbors adjacent to Lucia Ranch, including former Rep. Sam Farr, said they weren’t aware of the proposal until after Tuesday’s meeting.

The 80-foot tower would apparently test technology the agency has developed in an effort to capture real-time photographs and video of boats up to 24 miles out to sea. If working correctly, the surveillance would detect packages, people and weapons on the vessels.

Documents presented to the Big Sur committee indicate that the solar-powered tower relies on “maritime radar” and other technology that “automatically detects, tracks and identifies watercraft of various sizes crossing open water between international waters and the U.S. shoreline.”

In a letter to the state Coastal Commission, a CBP representative said the tower is meant to “provide continuing security and coastal protection” and that more of them could be installed in other regions of the coast.

Oddly, after identifying the site, the CBP’s letter notes that “the strategy and actual placement of the system is For Official Use Only and is Law Enforcement Sensitive information.”

For the rest of the article, see: https://voicesofmontereybay.org/2020/05/15/cbp-plans-surveillance-tower-in-big-sur/

Los Padres National Forest-Monterey District Closure update


From the USFS, LPNF PIO: The new closure order will be posted on our public web site….It will take effect Saturday, May 16, and expire June 1. Here’s a rundown on what IS open:

All of the trails closed under the first order will remain closed except for Turner Creek and Sand Dollar/Jade Cove. Roads closed by the first order that will reopen are Sycamore Canyon, Nac-Ferg, Piney Creek, Tassajara, Milpitas, Central Coast/Cone Peak, Baldwin Ranch.

Developed campgrounds will remain closed until June 1.The group campground at Arroyo Seco will reopen June 19. We are permitting Parks Management Company to reopen the day use sites along Hwy. 1 provided they have adequate staffing and measures in place to safely deliver services to the public. The intent with the day use sites is to provide recreation opportunities for nearby residents along the coast. By opening roads on the east side of the district, we are encouraging backcountry access from the inland trails.