Tracy — An association representing government scientists and law enforcement personnel and another representing sport fishing interests filed a lawsuit today in Alameda County Superior Court charging the California Department of Parks and Recreation and its Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Division with violating the state’s Water Code and their own regulations by allowing off-road vehicle activities to pollute Corral Hollow Creek at Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area.
The two groups, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA), charge the OHMVR Division violates State law by failing to file required Reports of Waste Discharge for vast amounts of sediment and heavy metals being discharged into the creek from Carnegie’s heavily-used off-road trails and open areas. They also charge the OHMVR Division with failing to comply with its own regulations, which require annual monitoring of soil loss and damage to wildlife habitat.
The Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA), near Tracy, is home to a number of sensitive, endangered and threatened wildlife species, including the Kit fox, California Red-legged frog, Western pond turtle, Alameda whipsnake, California tiger salamander, Golden eagle, Western spadefoot toad and Large flowered fiddlenecks. Corral Canyon is the only place in the world the fiddleneck occupies.
Carnegie’s denuded hillsides, a result of decades of damaging “hillclimbs” by off-road vehicles, stand in stark contrast to the lushly vegetated slopes on adjoining private lands. Inside the park, steep trails are badly eroded and Corral Hollow Creek is used as an off-road play area.
“State Parks is allowing an obscene degradation, not only of a public facility, but of waters of the State,” observed Karen Schambach, California Field Director for PEER. “Off-roaders shouldn’t be getting a free pass to pollute, merely because theirs is a recreational use.”
Bill Jennings, Executive Director of CSPA said, “DPR is failing its duty to protect the water quality of Corral Hollow Creek by allowing its eroded trails to spew sediment into the creek and riders at the park to use the creek as an off-road play area. DPR’s failure is amplified by its effort to evade the California Regional Water Quality Control Board’s authority to regulate and prevent the park’s pollution.”
The groups are demanding the State file Reports of Waste Discharge with the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and obtain the permits required for discharges into state waters. They are also seeking temporary closure of Carnegie until the OHMVR Division complies with the water quality permitting requirement and completes monitoring and restoration in compliance with its own regulations.
The OHMVR Division is responsible for ensuring responsible management of off-road use throughout the state, including on thousands of acres of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land that have received hundreds of millions of dollars over the 38-year old life of the program. Conservation groups have, for years, charged the program with putting recreation interests over environmental protection. The program, the beneficiary of $60 million a year in state fuel tax revenues, is the only Division of State Parks not facing park closures.