Judge Frank Roesch issued the order in response to a lawsuit filed last week by the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, an environmental watchdog group that pressures regulatory agencies to follow the letter of the law when it comes to monitoring potential degradation of waterways.
In this case, the CSPA set its sights on Corral Hollow Creek, a seasonal creek that runs through Carnegie and out to the valley floor. The creek channel, which is dry for most of the year, ends in farmland south of Tracy. Except in the heaviest rainy seasons, water from Corral Hollow Canyon is absorbed into the ground before it reaches the San Joaquin River.
In addition to regular weekend use, Carnegie is host to two American Motorcyclist Association hill climb events this fall, including the third round of the 2009 California AMA series on Oct. 3 and 4. Those events are still on while lawyers from the parks department, the CSPA and the Regional Water Quality Control Board decide what to do next.
The CSPA says the increased sediment caused by motorcycle use at the park has the potential to degrade water quality in the canyon’s watershed. According to the lawsuit, the California Department of Parks and Recreation is obligated to take out a permit to allow addition of soil and sediment to the creek, or take out a waiver in lieu of a permit.
In any event, the state would have to determine how much soil is added to the creek and test water samples to determine if off-road vehicle use causes water pollution, then file a report on that study.
Roesch’s order requires that, by Wednesday, the parks department provide that report to the Regional Water Quality Control Board. In the meantime, it must halt all off-road vehicle use at the park.
Bob Williamson, district superintendent for Carnegie SVRA, said the matter must go through Department of Parks and Recreation lawyers before any changes are made at the park. In the meantime, next weekend’s hill climb will go on as planned.
“From what I understand, operations will continue,” Williamson said. “I don’t expect that there will be any effect on the hill climb.”
Skip Horne, organizer of the Carnegie hill climbs, said he will meet with parks officials to find out what needs to be done to keep the events on the calendar. Meanwhile, folks in the off-road vehicle community are trying to understand how water quality could be harmed in a creek that is dry most of the year.
“This whole thing is absolutely
ludicrous,” Horne said. “It’s another ploy by the environmental world to get rid of us.”
Horne added that he has always been under pressure to take care of hillsides and make sure hill climb trails don’t get overused.
“(The issue) was there when we got here, and it will be here for eternity,” he said, adding that he has seen the state take water samples in the spring, but they can’t take samples for most of the year.
“My thinking is this judge hasn’t a clue that there isn’t any water in there for most of the year.”
Bill Jennings, executive director of the CSPA, said his group has monitored water quality during the rainy season when the creek flows.
“During the fall storms, we monitored water coming into the park and water leaving the park. What we found were prodigious amounts of heavy metals and sediment,” he said, adding that the parks department should have similar results from its own tests.
“Every time it rains, there is a sediment load washing down. They knew about that and ignored it.”
Jennings added that the CSPA’s goal is not to shut down the park, but to make sure that sediment from the canyon’s slopes is kept out of the creek bed and that the creek bed is protected from off-road vehicles.
“We want them to comply with the law, and they’ve known for a long time that they haven’t followed their own regulations in protecting habitat up there.”
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.