Wildhorse burrowing owls at risk

By From page A6 | February 19, 2013

As many of you know, the 38 acres of open space, the agriculture buffer, around Wildhorse Golf Course has historically supported a small colony of breeding burrowing owls. There has been successful reproduction concentrated primarily on the southeastern side (where the path turns toward Covell) for many years.

The city of Davis needs to fix a sewer trunk that runs along the north edge of the ag buffer and turns south very close to the burrowing owls breeding burrows.

The city has prepared a mitigated negative declaration for the sewer project. The city’s determination that this document is the appropriate level of review under the California Environmental Quality Act is based on the claim that there will be no habitat loss and that project revisions result in “less than significant impact.” Some of the project “revisions” listed are burrowing owl education for construction workers and pre-construction surveys. This is not mitigation.

The initial study describes the construction activities required to rehabilitate the sewer. It requires heavy equipment to dig three “insertion pits” 20 feet deep by 10 feet wide by 30 feet long, and 11 “maintenance holes” 10 feet square by 5 feet deep. A major portion of the work will be within the ag buffer.

City staff tells me the project cannot avoid breeding season — Feb. 1 to Aug. 31 — will not result in habitat loss.

After reading the initial study, I conclude that noise and visual disturbance of heavy equipment will result in significant impact to breeding owls, shelter burrows will be destroyed and foraging habitat will be diminished for breeding pairs trying to feed their young whether nesting on the ag buffer or golf course.

A project revision that legitimately would benefit the owls would be to schedule the project to avoid the breeding area until burrowing owl young disperse, about Aug. 31.

Please contact Terry Jue 757-5686 at Public Works [email protected] for the initial study and submit comments by Thursday. If you should have been noticed, but weren’t, tell Public Works.

You also may contact Paul Hofmann at California Department of Fish and Wildlife, at [email protected].

Catherine Portman


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