Commentary: Clean creeks make good neighbors
by Haig White
Apr 03, 2014 | 4707 views | 5 5 comments | 164 164 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Robert Frost’s iconic poem, Mending Wall, concludes: “Good fences make good neighbors.” I would add that plastic-free creeks also make good neighbors. In early March a local daily newspaper published an article featuring the San Lorenzo River Alliance’s mission of returning the river back to “a community focal point celebrated for its economic development potential, environmental wellness … ”  The success of this plan hinges on cooperation of community-neighbors who share inland waterways and the same values. How about a unified front on plastic bag ordinances?

Currently, 103 California municipalities have plastic bag ordinances while Scotts Valley remains a no-show from a list that includes all of its neighbors. Meanwhile, other statewide communities rush to beat the September 1 deadline to “grandfather in” regulation better than what California’s pending SB270 has to offer.      

Two months ago the SV City Council finally moved to place a discussion of a plastic bag ordinance on their agenda. While we wait for their oracle to arrive, recent postings and letters to The Sentinel and Press-Banner have reflected poorly upon SV. One blogger did not realize that Carbonero Creek which spans the length of SV reaches the Monterey Bay. For anyone who believes this creek is pristine, please visit the photo gallery “Carbonero Creek – A 1000 Points of Grim” at .

The SV council prefers to pre-stage any discussion of an ordinance in context of unknown legal costs that could be brought upon the city if petitioned by outside interests. What they may not want their residents to know is that a rock-solid framework of legal precedents has already been laid by those who labored before them, practically ceding SV “categorically exempt” from the task of conducting an Environmental Impact Report required under the California Environmental Quality Act.    

Two cases in point:

1) Save the Plastic Bag Coalition vs. City of Manhattan Beach lawsuit petitioning the city to complete an EIR. Manhattan Beach was ruled too small in population (37,000 or 3-times that of Scotts Valley) to require an EIR. It was also deemed that the negative environmental impact by an increase in paper bag use as a consequence of a plastic bag ban was insignificant in comparison to the benefits of banning plastic bags.

2) STPBC vs. County of Marin, population 255,000. In this case STPBC tried to leverage Marin’s larger population in comparison to Manhattan Beach’s as a legal precedent that required them to conduct an EIR. Court said, not so fast, plastic bag hugger! Marin County had less business establishments impacted by a ban than Manhattan Beach; therefore, an EIR was not required. By falling in step with the Santa Cruz County’s ordinance — yet another example of a legal precedent when a higher court has already ruled upon similar circumstances — SV protects itself from the risk of industry meddling.    

Scotts Valley has the opportunity to demonstrate that Carbonero Creek, like nature, is not defined by city limits and that the collective actions of all community-neighbors impact the entire marine eco-system for good or ill.  If Scotts Valley cannot muster their own ordinance then maybe for the sake of its neighbors who value the marine environment, perhaps they can make an earnest effort to keep their upstream span of Carbonero Creek clean year round.

- Haig White is a Santa Cruz resident.


Comments-icon Post a Comment
Bigger picture
April 11, 2014
Hardboiled, you really missed the point. The issue is MOnterey Bay and pollution.

The opinion piece claims that a plastic bag ban in Scotts Valley is needed to keep debris from flowing into Monterey Bay, even though a statewide ban appears imminent. The author then cites as evidence a series of photos of litter, taken in a channelized stretch of the creek as it runs behind various parking lots. Only a portion of that litter is plastic, let alone take out shopping bags.

Wouldn't requiring the busineses that border the creek to keep trash out of it be just as or more effective in eliminating this trash? What is more important? Symbolic posturing or actual results?
Bigger Picture
April 06, 2014

Maybe we should be thinking more about this in Santa Cruz as well.

Let's see: Pogonip, the San Lorenzo River, lower Carbonera Creek, Rodeo Gulch - just to name a few - all have documented squatter or transient camps, litter, human feces, drug debris...
Bigger picture
April 06, 2014
In reviewing the photos referenced above, in addition to some plastic bags, I see candy wrappers, tires, bottles, old underwear, food packaging, and numerous other kinds of debris. None of this is good, and none of it should be in the creek. Are we going to ban all these other items as well?

Left unmentioned by Mr. White is that most of the photos were taken in about a 1500 foot stretch where the creek is not much more than a drainage channel between dozens of businesses and their parking lots. None of this makes the litter any nicer or more excusable, but it does speak to the quality of the environment there and how the litter may have ended up in the channel.

Also unmentioned by Mr. White is that below Scotts Valley, Carbonera Creek is plagued by large transient camps, from which tons of litter and filth have been removed. I'd suggest that if folks want to see a cleaner creek running into the river and bay, they focus on getting the city and county of Santa Cruz to permanently eradicate this larger hazard.
April 09, 2014
BP, that's heap load of stinky red herrings you have in your argument. The issue is Scotts Valley not Santa Cruz. I've seen the gallery and the photos of plastic grocery bags and pieces of grocery bags far exceed the average found on beach cleanups. What about the stretch of creek south of Disc Drive? Did this garbage drop out of the sky? It probably floated down from where most the photos were taken. I don't think there are too many homeless people hanging out in the heart of Scotts Valley industrial way. City Council would not have this. But this is besides the point: Scotts Valley needs to keep their creek clean and one way to do this is ban single-use plastic bags. I think your logic may be clouded by your olfactory receptors backing up.
April 12, 2014
What is it with you dummies? Just because we can't ban everything doesn't mean we can't ban plastic bags. That is the worst argument and it is made over and over. "I see all kinds of pesticides in the environment, so why do we need to ban D.D.T.?"


Why why why do you imbeciles insist on fighting a ban on plastic bags? You are driving me nuts!!

We encourage your online comments in this public forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a forum for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Readers may report such inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at