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.

Food Distribution at MPC Friday, 5/15, 9:30-11:30 am

The Food Bank for Monterey County to Offer Drive-thru Community Food Distribution on Friday, May 15th at Monterey Peninsula College  At the request of Fifth District Supervisor Mary Adams, The Food Bank for Monterey County will conduct a drive-thru community food distribution this Friday, May 15, 2020 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Monterey Peninsula College. “I can’t thank the Food Bank enough for responding so quickly to my request for assistance,” said Supervisor Adams. “People throughout Monterey County, including Fifth District residents, are experiencing unprecedented levels of food insecurity as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. We are fortunate to have such a willing and able partner as the Food Bank for Monterey County.” “In normal times, The Food Bank serves over 1 in 4 children in Monterey County; these are not normal times. In April alone, we served 60,000 Monterey County families,” said Melissa Kendrick, Food Bank for Monterey County Executive Director. “We have created numerous drive-thru distributions throughout the county since this crisis began. We go where we are needed.”  “Monterey Peninsula College is pleased to be supporting this community food distribution,” said David Martin, MPC Interim Superintendent/President. “While we have transitioned to distance learning during this crisis, our campus remains a place where the needs of our community are met.”  Any person experiencing food insecurity is able to access this distribution. You are asked to access the campus via Fishnet Road off of Fremont Street. Food will be placed by Food Bank personnel and National Guard members into your empty trunk.  The Food Bank will evaluate if it can continue offering a distribution at this site based on utilization this week. Information on other drive-thru distributions organized by The Food Bank can be found on their website at https://foodbankformontereycounty.org/food-assistance/.

Los Padres Forest, Monterey Division to open day use areas

Starting Saturday, May 16, Los Padres will re-open the day use sites at Sand Dollar, Willow Creek and Pfeiffer Beach to provide additional outdoor recreation spots for nearby residents. Coastal campgrounds, trails, and trailheads will remain closed until June 1, as will South Coast Ridge Road, Plaskett Ridge Road, North Coast Ridge Road and Los Burros (Willow Creek) Road. Hikers are encouraged to access the Ventana backcountry using the east side of the Monterey Ranger District.

CABS Financial Assistance for Independent Contractors

Good morning everyone,
This notification will go out over the CABS email server list today: (Please note that CABS is still working with Employers & Employees.)

Financial Assistance from CABS for Independent Contractors (Gig Economy Workers)
Due to the generosity of the Community Foundation for Monterey County, Jack Dorsey, and a number of anonymous Big Sur resident donors, CABS has established a modest COVID Relief Fund. If you live and work in Big Sur, and you are an independent contractor and have applied for PPP, EIDL and/or unemployment benefits and have been declined, or were unable to apply for these benefits, please contact us for an application for financial assistance. We will require the following with your application:a.     Proof of rejection from SBA (PPP and EIDL) and EDD; orb.     An explanation for why you were not able to apply for PPP, EIDL and/or EDD.
If you have had difficulty making an application for EDD Unemployment benefits, please contact Senator Monningʻs offce at 831-425-0401. They are providing assistance and can help you complete your application.
For a nice concise guide to the CARES Act Relief, please visit this site: https://www.uschamber.com/report/independent-contractors-guide-cares-act-relief
If you believe you qualify for financial assistance based on the above, please send a request for the application form to info@CABigsur.org

Patte KronlundSecretary, CABS

Big Sur COVID-19 Response Meeting Notes

COVID-19 Community Response Group Meeting Notes

May 11th, 2020

Attendees (via Zoom):

State Senate District 17, Cal State Parks, US Forest Service, Parks Management Company, Ventana Wilderness Alliance, Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, Big Sur Health Center, Big Sur Fire, Big Sur CERT, and the Community Association of Big Sur 

Big Sur Health Center:

Executive Director Sharen Carey reports:• There are still no known cases of COVID-19 in the Big Sur planning area.• It appears that transmission of the virus is enhanced by close conditions in enclosed spaces over a prolonged exposure time frame.• There is less risk of transmission in open air settings.• There is evidence that Llamas produce more effective anti-bodies of the COVID-19 virus than humans. Research is ongoing.• Bottom line defense against contracting the virus: Assume it is in Big Sur and take all precautions recommended : wearing facemasks in public, social distancing, frequent handwashing.

Big Sur Fire, Chief Matt Harris:

Chief Matt Harris reports:• Big Sur Fire is prepared for fire season which will officially begin on May 18th.• Reported fires are now receiving a “wildland response”.• Big Sur Fire expects to respond to calls reporting illegal campfires, supporting the USFS and MOCO SO.• BSF is resuming fire, rescue and medical training.• Muster and other event dates are in flux pending Local and State SIP updated guidance.

Big Sur Chamber of Commerce,

Kirk Gafill reports:• There is a noticeable shift in momentum to begin reopening California with each County in various stages of preparedness to facilitate that reopening.• Supervisors Adams and Phillips are working with the Monterey County Hospitality Association to establish guidelines the hospitality industry will implement in order to safely reopen.• Rick Aldinger adds, establishing these guidelines is a collaborative process, bringing in public health experts and industry experts as well as lessons learned from businesses already open in countries ahead of California on the epidemiological curve.• As SIP guidance transitions in California, traffic in and out of Big Sur will continue to increase, putting pressure on closed trails and day use areas to reopen.

Community Emergency Response Team, Martha Karstens:• That the residents SIP survey is ongoing.• CERT successfully conducted two ZOOM training classes.

USFS, LPNF Monterey District Ranger Tim Short:• The Forest Order closing the Monterey District expires May 15th and that order will be reinstated with some modifications and exceptions. The new Order may reopen some Day Use areas, the Nacimiento Rd and some roads and trails on the east side of the Monterey District of the LPNF. Remaining closed will be the developed campgrounds, dispersed camping areas and roads and trails on the coast side of the Monterey District.• Fire restrictions will go into effect on May 13th. This will result in no campfires outside of developed campsites. Camp stoves with a permit will be allowed.• Butch Kronlund requested that gates at the intersection of Highway 1 and Nacimiento Rd and Nacimiento Rd and the South Coast Ridge Rd need maintenance as they are nearly inoperable. Tim pledged to get them on the list of resources needing attention.

Ca. State Parks, Superintendent Brent Marshall:• State Parks personnel extremely busy enforcing the ongoing SIP order.• The public is confused by the State softening of restrictions and the more restrictive County SIP order.• Relatively good news regarding California flattening the curve of the rate of infection.• Opening of Day Use areas will precede opening of campgrounds.• Brent appreciative of valuable input the stakeholder group provides on the weekly calls.  This input helping to drive reopening policy and procedure. Between Saturday and Sunday, Parksissued over 35 citations. Verbal warnings were also issued (10 verbal warnings for each citation).

Parks Management Company, Brian Cushman, CEO:• All Campgrounds and Day Use Areas remain closed.• Seeing an increase in vehicle traffic and is in agreement that trails need to be reopened to give an outlet for people to go to.• PMC is seeing more public disregard for the closures.• Employees are here and ready and anxious to open once the SIP order is lifted.

Ventana Wilderness Alliance, Mike Splain, ED:• VWA continues working on trails and campsites in the back country. • 17 campsites restored.• 41 lbs of trash packed out.• 0 hikers encountered on the Big Sur Trail.• 20 hikers advised to obey the Forest Order closing the Salmon Creek Trail.

17th State Senate District, Colleen Courtney for Senator Bill Monning:• For clarification on DMV license/registration extensions, see dmv.ca.gov for more information. 

              If anyone has specific questions, feel free to contact Senator Monning’s office (831) 657-6315.• Department of Motor Vehicles is extending Driver License renewal and vehicle registration renewal in consideration of the pandemic. Go to California Department of Motor Vehicles website to request an extension. Late fees may be waived.• Most DMV offices are closed but Salinas DMV is open.

Community Association of Big Sur, Butch Kronlund. ED:• CABS, working with the Big Sur business HR departments, will be making a second distribution of financial assistance to those most financially vulnerable due to employment disruptions brought on by COVID-19.

LPNF Fire Restrictions go into effect tomorrow, 5/12

Los Padres National Forest officials raise fire restrictions

GOLETA, Calif. – Los Padres National Forest officials announced that fire restrictions will be raised throughout the Forest effective tomorrow, May 12.These restrictions will affect the use of campfires, stoves, smoking materials and internal combustion engines, and will remain in effect until the end of fire season in late autumn. 

These restrictions are in response to the increasing potential for a wildland fire start in areas where significant late season rainfall produced a large grass crop and an abundance of fine fuels. 

Effective May 12, the following restrictions will be in effect:

·         No open fires, campfires or charcoal fires will be permitted outside of developed recreation sites or designated Campfire Use Sites (list attached), even with a valid California Campfire Permit. Lanterns and portable stoves using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel will be permitted, but only with a valid California Campfire Permit, which is available free-of-charge on the Forest website and at any U.S. Forest Service office. Forest visitors must clear all flammable material for five feet in all directions from their camp stove, have a shovel available, and ensure that a responsible person attends the stove at all times during use.

·         Smoking is prohibited, except within an enclosed vehicle, building, or a designated Campfire Use Site, or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material. 

·         Internal combustion engines may be operated only on roads or designated trails. This restriction is in effect year-round. Please make sure your engine is tuned, operating properly, and has an approved spark arrester. 

·         Fireworks – even the “safe and sane” variety – are not permitted at any time or in any location within the Forest.

For a list of Developed Recreation Sites and Campfire Use Sites in Los Padres National Forest, or further information regarding Fire-Safe Camping, visitwww.fs.usda.gov/lpnf or contact the U.S. Forest Service district office nearest you.

Monterey County Health Dept Supplemental Order, 5/8

Monterey County Health Department Stage 2 Opening Order
The Monterey County Department of Health released a Supplemental Order today, May 8, 2020. The new order continues sheltering in place, but now relaxes restrictions on certain lower risk businesses in Stage 2 of opening California.
Download a copy of this order HERE.  (PDF, 2 Pages, 447 KB)
You may also visit the California Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response web site to read more detailed information from the state.