A Message from Coastal Champion Jim Peugh

With World Ocean’s Day and Coastal Champion Awards right around the corner, there could not be a better time to hear from our 2013 Lighthouse Lifetime Achievement award winner Jim Peugh. The following message from Jim lists and describes his active involvement in some of his favorite environmental work, as well as many different environmental groups and advisory boards he has had the pleasure to work with:

Famosa Slough

My favorite project has been working with Friends of Famosa Slough on the restoration of Famosa Slough. Twenty-five years ago it looked like an unmanaged dump, and now it is a productive wildlife habitat and natural park. The project evolved from getting agencies to realize its potential wildlife value, getting the City to buy it, helping get a good Enhancement Plan developed and adopted, implementing the projects in the Plan through volunteer efforts and grants, observing and adjusting to keep things working well, and helping students and visitors understand its value for wildlife and water quality. But, if anyone wants to help, there is plenty left to do.

Mariner’s Point least tern nesting area

In the very early 1990s, the Fish and Wildlife Service encouraged the San Diego Audubon Society, to help the City of San Diego maintain the Least Tern nesting area at Mariner’s Point in Mission Bay as a volunteer project. The site was beginning to be taken over by weeds which would have prevented nesting there. We have continued to maintain it each year, and it is normally the most productive site in Mission Bay. This has now evolved into a joint process among SD Audubon, San Diego State University, SANDAG, and the City to try the vegetation management approach that we have used in sections of the three other least tern nesting areas in Mission Bay to see if they can increase the productivity of those sites.

X Games

The 1997 X Games were planned to be on Mariner’s Point, not far from the least tern nesting area. It was to be done with minimal analysis of the impact of the Games on the least tern nesting area. San Diego Audubon, in conjunction with National Audubon, filed suit to either substantially improve the protections for the terns, or to have the event canceled due to the lack of required environmental review. After a lot of very intense negotiations, a very protective set of measures was agreed upon. The conflict was widely publicized in the media and many of the people who attended the Games also developed an interest in the success of the least terns. The terns did very well. When the Games returned in 1998 the X Games and the City agreed to implement all of the measures again and the terns again did well.

Tijuana River Valley Flood Damage

In 1993 there was a lot of serious flooding in the Tijuana River Valley. There was a lot of pressure to channelize the River through the valley and into the Estuary. A Tijuana River Valley Flood Damage Task Force was formed. I represented SD Audubon in efforts to find better solutions. A study was done and some of the recommendations were implemented, such as the Pilot Channel and a 100-year berm, but pressure for development projects that would degrade the River’s wildlife value continued to surface for years. More recently the Tijuana River Valley Recovery Team was formed to provide a more comprehensive approach.

South San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge

As a representative of San Diego Audubon Society, I worked with Laura Hunter from EHC and Mike McCoy from SWIA to encourage the establishment of the South San Diego Bay Unit of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. When we started in the late 1980s there was opposition from many directions from those did not seem to realize, or be interested in, the potential wildlife value and quality of life value of protecting and restoring southern tip of the Bay. Over a ten year period of intense effort, some of the opposition gradually turned to support, and we got a few breaks. In 1999 the Refuge was established. The Fish and Wildlife Service has made great progress with restoration and is moving ahead with much more. Being a part of that has been very rewarding.

Least Tern 5-year report

In 2007 the US Fish and Wildlife Service distributed a 5-year report about California least terns, recommending that the species be downlisted from Endangered to Threatened. The Audobon Society and I did not think that was an appropriate recommendation based on what we knew. We did a Freedom of Information request and reviewed previous drafts of the plan and email correspondence leading up to it. From these documents it was clear that the original drafts recommended that the species remain on the Endangered List and justified that recommendation with good information. In the next draft, the conclusion was changed by management, even though the information in the body still supported leaving the species as Endangered. The final document was modified to attempt to support the conclusion that the species should be downlisted to Threatened. We presented this information to the Fish and Wildlife Service and urged that they not attempt to move forward with the recommended downlisting on the basis of such an unscientific process. They did not. Last we heard they are writing the next 5-year report for them.

Border Triple Fence

San Diego Audubon worked with a broad coalition to try to get the Triple Border Fence designed and constructed in ways that would minimize the negative impacts of the project on the wildlife rich upland, canyon, and wetland habitat areas of the border region. The Coastal Commission determined that the project was not consistent with our Coastal Act. There were a number of modifications to the project that could have minimized cost and the environmental impacts of the project as required by Federal law. Unfortunately the Federal Government decided to waive all environmental laws instead of improving the design. We will suffer from the impacts of that sort-sighted decision for at least a century.

San Diego River

In the mid-1990s plans were developed for constructing trolley infrastructure and the Fashion Valley Parking structures in the midst of the floodplain of the San Diego River. SDAS and other organizations urged that the plans be revised to better protect the River, to no avail. So, we are stuck with the loss of wildlife value, wet weather safety, water quality, and compromise of infrastructure resulting from these short-sighted decisions. Since then a much broader appreciation of the River has evolved. Evidence are the thriving San Diego River Park Foundation’s conservation and restoration efforts, the work of the San Diego River Conservancy, and the soon to be developed San Diego River Park Master Plan. Based on this new appreciation, I have real hope that future development decisions in the San Diego River Valley will be made much more wisely and with much more public attention.

Enviornmental groups that I have worked with:

FRIENDS OF FAMOSA SLOUGH: Chairman 1988 to present. Board member since 1986. Conduct interpretive walks, cleanups, maintenance, habitat restoration, apply for and manage grants, manage projects, monitor watershed, and coordinate with City departments and regulatory agencies. Provide educational field trips. Assisted City and consultants in development of the Famosa Slough Enhancement Plan in 1994 and have been incrementally implementing it since then.

SAN DIEGO AUDUBON SOCIETY: Chapter president from 1993 to 1996. Board member since 1988. Currently Chair of Conservation Committee. Review environmental documents, meet with regulators, consultants, and project proponents, and develop Chapter positions on issues. Serve as Chapter spokesperson on wildlife conservation and water quality issues.

SAN DIEGO BAY COUNCIL: Have represented San Diego Audubon on this coalition of environmental organizations, and its predecessor coalition, since about 1985.

SAN DIEGO RIVER PARK FOUNDATION: Board member, since 2002.

Advisory Boards and Committees I have served on:

CITY OF SAN DIEGO INDEPENDENT RATES OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Advises Mayor and Council about Water and Wastewater Department issues. Member since 2007 and Chair from 2009 to 2011. Current chair of Infrastructure and Operations subcommittee.

CHULA VISTA BAYFRONT WILDLIFE ADVISORY GROUP: Member since start in May 2011. Advises Port of SD and City of Chula Vista on environmental issues related to the Chula Vista Bayfront Development

SAN DIEGO CITY WETLANDS ADVISORY BOARD: Previous Chairman. Member from 1992 to 2010. Advises Mayor, City Council, and City staff on wetland issues.

SAN DIEGO HARBOR SAFETY COMMITTEE: Represent environmental organizations, since 2003.

CALTRANS EXTERNAL ADVISORY LIAISON COMMITTEE: Member since 2003.

RESTORATION ADVISORY BOARD FOR NAVY POINT LOMA PROJECTS: Member since formation, 2010

SAN DIEGO RIVER CONSERVANCY: Appointed by Senator John Burton. Board of Governor’s member. May 2003 – March 2008.

PORT OF SAN DIEGO ENVIRONMENTAL COMMITTEE: Member from 2006 to 2009.

U.S. NAVY INTEGRATED NATURAL RESOURCES MANAGEMENT PROGRAM FOR SAN DIEGO BAY: Represented the environmental community on the Technical Advisory Committee, 1997-2008.

CHULA VISTA BAYFRONT MASTER PLAN CITIZENS ADVISORY COMMITTEE: 2003 to 2008.

SAN DIEGO CITY/COUNTY TIJUANA RIVER VALLEY FLOOD DAMAGE TASK FORCE: Represented San Diego City Wetlands Advisory Board and San Diego Audubon from 1994 to 2008.

CHULA VISTA BAYFRONT MASTER PLAN WILDLIFE ADVISORY BOARD: Member since 2011

CITY OF SAN DIEGO PUBLIC UTILITIES ADVISORY COMMISSION (PUAC): Advised Mayor and Council on Water and Wastewater and Stormwater Department issues. April 2002 to June 2007. Chair of Stormwater Subcommittee.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY PARKS ADVISORY BOARD: Appointed by Supervisor Ron Roberts, March 1995 to June 2008. .

INTERNATIONAL BOUNDARY AND WATER COMMISSION CITIZEN COMMITTEE: Member 2002 to 2008.

OFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLE PARK, SD COUNTY STAKEHOLDER GROUP: Member 2003 to 2007.

OTAY RIVER WATERSHED MANAGEMENT PLAN WORKING GROUP: Member 2004 to 2006.

SAN DIEGO CANYON SEWER ACCESS TASK FORCE: Member, 2000-2001.

INTERAGENCY PANEL ON SAN DIEGO BAY WATER QUALITY: Represented San Diego Audubon Society, 1994 to 1997. Was on supercomputer, Fish and Wildlife, and Recreation Subcommittees.

Published in Marine Conservation

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