Court Orders Closure of State Park

LIVERMORE, CA - In a recent court action, a judge in Alameda County has ordered a closure of one of California's State Parks. Last week, Judge Frank Roesch ordered the closure of Carnegie State Vehicle Recreation Area (SVRA) based on his own interpretation of the appropriate application of water quality standards. 

Despite years of working with regulatory agencies to address issues surrounding water quality in the Corral Hollow Watershed, Judge Roesch ordered the park, located in the hills east of Livermore, closed until State Parks files and receives approval of or a waiver for a report of waste discharge from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. This approval process could take months.

The order stems from a complaint filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.  The group's complaint alleged OHV activities at Carnegie SVRA are causing discharge to enter Corral Hollow Creek, which flows through the park. The creek only runs 4 to 6 weeks a year, and after leaving the park eventually runs out into an agriculture field and   disappears into the ground.

"If  regulatory agencies are satisfied with what the park has been doing, why does this judge in Alameda think he knows better than the environmental professionals?," asked Dave Pickett, President of  American Motorcyclist Association District 36 and member of the Carnegie OHV Taskforce. "This is an attempt by special interests groups to highjack lasting collaborative solutions, and deny family recreation enjoyed by over a 100,000 visitors to this park annually. This is just flat wrong!"

For years, staff from Carnegie has been working with the Regional Water Board and nearby property owners to address water quality issues in Corral Hollow Creek, which runs through the State Park. In 2004, State Parks initiated a watershed assessment, paid for with OHV user fees, to diagnose potential issues in the watershed and design fixes. Regulatory agencies together with State Parks are identifying solutions to address problems.

"We have been working with the park to address the hill climbs in Carnegie, which have been problematic, as well as making sure the vehicles are out of the creek. But we have no control over Hetch Hetchy, who illegally performed work in the creek bed, or the munitions testing facility," said Pickett, referring to the activities of neighbors of the park. "It is troubling when the OHV community wants to work within the system and is now taking all the blame."

According to Don Amador, Western Representative for the BlueRibbon Coalition and fellow member of the Carnegie Taskforce, "If the park is forced to close, more than 100,000 park visitors will be displaced. The closure will impact other OHV recreation areas, causing overcrowding and unanticipated effects from the overload. The closure will not hasten better water quality, but is just another example of the Plaintiffs grandstanding and misusing environmental law to enact a political agenda that is anti-recreation and anti-park."

"Californians would be better served if PEER extended the hand of partnership to legitimately address the issue, rather than using the court system to close a park at a time when residents have been fighting so hard to keep State Parks open. This court decision is deeply troubling on any number of levels," Amador concludes...

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