The incumbent slate

Gene Ratcliffe, Chuck Baughman, and John Hayes make up the incumbent slate, up for election for three positions on the board of directors of the SLVWD. 

The race for three open seats on the board of directors of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District is shaping up as a contest between two, three-candidate slates- dubbed the “Incumbent Slate” vs.  “Challenging Slate.”  The Press Banner sat down with the “Incumbent Slate” of candidates- Chuck Baughman, Gene Ratcliffe, and newly appointed board member John Hayes for a wide-ranging conversation on what they have accomplished in the last four years, and what they hope to do in the next four years.

John Hayes, who served on the district’s Finance and Budget Committee for the last two and half years before his appointment to the board in June to fill Eric Hammer’s seat, sums up the “Incumbent Slate’s” accomplishments with a familiar metaphor.

“In terms of the district’s financial situation four years ago, and I don’t think people realize it and it went mostly unreported, is that we were sailing the Titanic…and we saw the iceberg coming and we managed to turn the ship to avoid it,” Hayes said.  

According to district financial reports, the three-year drought, which reduced revenues by 27 percent due to mandatory conservation, combined with a spike in expenses for emergency repairs after the 2017 storm damage, created the “iceberg” that could have resulted in financial disaster. All three candidates, who served together on the district’s Budget and Finance Committee, take credit for turning the district around from a trajectory of exhausting the district’s reserves to putting the district on sound financial footing.

Hayes credits the board-directed “cost of service study” completed in 2016, subsequently coordinated with a customer “rate study” completed in early 2017 that provided the financial justification for the district’s rate increase, an average of a 37 percent rate increase approved by rate-payers last year.  Hayes and the other candidates emphasize it was careful cost-cutting and financial management between 2015 and 2017, while simultaneously laying the groundwork for the critically necessary rate hike, that allowed the board to “engineer a soft landing out of a potentially disastrous financial situation,” Hayes said.

Gene Ratcliffe, 59, who has a B.S. in Geology and a Master’s from Cornell in Plant Science, says she has always been a “water person, always interested in how we get our water.” Before her term on the SLVWD board beginning in 2014, Radcliffe served as a Planning Commissioner in San Juan Capistrano and engaged in several years of community education about water conservation in many forums.  “We’ve built a lot of momentum, and I’m anxious to keep going with the projects we’ve initiated”, Radcliffe said.

Chuck Baughman, 64, who has an undergraduate degree in physics and another B.A. in chemistry and math, decided against a career as a professor of theoretical physics while in a Ph.D. program at Stanford, and settled into a career in electrical engineering, from which he is now retired.  

Baughman emphasizes the importance of the district’s participation with the Santa Margarita Groundwater Management Agency (SMGMA), for which he serves as vice chair on the board of directors. Long-range, Baughman considers the groundwater sustainability plan that SMGMA is state-mandated to complete by 2022 as one of the most important projects of the “Incumbent Board”.  The plan is required to show how the Santa Margarita aquifer, with various projects in cooperation with the SLVWD and the Scotts Valley Water District, will achieve sustainability by 2040. 

“We’re setting up a structure for managing our aquifer that’s going to address our issues much longer than any of the capital improvements we are now putting in place,” Baughman said. “I want to see that plan through---and, for the rest of my life, watch how well the sustainability plan works,” Baughman added.

John Hayes, 59, studied chemistry at GrinnellCollege in Iowa and currently works as a finance manager for Hewlett Packard, helping with the financing of technology related projects. As an unpaid volunteer on the Budget & Finance Committee beginning early in 2016, working with Ratcliffe and Baughman, Hayes said he is most proud of ending the Lompico surcharge three and half years early, saving Lompico ratepayers a total of $164,000, or about $330 per household.  That was in addition to the overall “financial re-set” that put the district on a financially firm foundation that now allows the funding of capital improvement projects, long in the planning and set-up stages,  that were delayed by the storm damage projects. 

With regard to the lawsuits pending against the district, the candidates noted they were limited in what they could say, but were unanimous in their desire to bring them to bring them to an end.  Early in their term, after a competitive selection process, Baughman and Ratcliffe supported replacing the district’s legal representation. “If the district had as good legal advice in 2010 as we have now, these lawsuits probably wouldn’t have happened,” Baughman said.    

 From working together putting the district’s financial house in order, the “Incumbent Slate” emphasizes their ability to collaborate and work together, and, despite differences they may have on policy details, they believe they have a proven track record of complementing each other’s skills. “I get excited about the environmental policies, John gets excited about the financing, and Chuck gets excited about the engineering details,” said Radcliffe.

“We are an environmentally oriented triplet ….I think we have a stronger commitment to environmental protection than maybe others who are running for the board,” Baughman said. “I want to see us handle our aquifer in a way that is sustainable well into the future, and not just the bare minimum, through the SMGMA process,” Baughman said.

All three candidates want to bring more community involvement and support into board discussions and decisions than the board has had in the past.  All three candidates of the “Incumbent Slate” expressed different ideas on community outreach and watershed education, including publicized workshops, events and moving the location of board meetings closer to where some rate payers live.

According to Radcliffe, one of the key ways to get people to support the work of the district is to show capital improvement projects, like water tank and water main pipe replacement, are actually getting done. “Now that we have our finances in order, and we actually have the money to do them, there’s nothing to stop us from getting them done,” Radcliffe said.

(An interview with the “Challenging Slate” for the SLVWD Board was published by the Press Banner on June 22, 2018)

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(14) comments

Bill Smallman

I think this email exchange shows the difference between the viewpoints of the two slates, although I'm only speaking from my viewpoint, as is Jenni for herself.

Jenni did say that the SM Groundwater Basin Committee would be very open to new ideas, but this has not been the track record of the incumbents. To be open to ideas, you must listen and study them, and then come back with concerns, as Jenni did. Although I disagree, I applaud her for this discussion. I simply want the Reservoirs/Sand Quarry idea put on the table, vetted, and ultimately let the people decide, Either closed space/injection wells vs. open space/reservoirs. I've been very open to the injection well idea, and have explained why it won't work.

The incumbents have a long track record of not being, "open" to new ideas. When that happens, public comment is pretty much meaningless, and Boards are driven by their own agenda. Here are some example of the incumbents not discussing my ideas:

1.Instead of using Glyphosate, I submitted manual pulling plan with biological monitoring in small areas at a time, with no response. I'm going to propose an outright ban on herbicides, and won't do it now, because they will obviously vote No. The good thing about this issue, is that is really sunk in that there is a large group of people making money by calling themselves Environmentalists, and really not doing work to help save the planet whatsoever.
2. Bear Creek Estates people wanted to hear more about my ideas on a STEP/Recycle system + find out if that was done, would the County take over. Now, we decided, and still working on it, to look at the numbers more carefully and possible do the Engineering work sooner to apply for grants. No comments from incumbents, they simply kept Brian running the show.
3. Lompico, I kept, and keep showing to take the money Lompicans are paying to fix up Lompico, because it is costing more money to operate. The most blatant Brian screw up is not replacing the blown out pressure relief valves which cause increases of over 100 psi, causing blowouts wasting water and costly emergency repairs. No reasons from incumbents not to do this.
4. Terry Vierra is guilty of the most basic ethics law, and to date I never heard a valid argument that we could of had him plead guilty, pay a fine, and move on instead of this insane expenditure of your money to lawyers.
5. They excluded me from all participation on the Engineering Committee. I suppose they had to put me on one committee, but first, they schedule meeting when I could not attend, then allowed Brian to cancel six meetings, Brian stopped my items to be discussed, and Chuck Baughman refused to allow a vote on recommendations.
6. When the County threatened the Fish Monitoring contract with Don Alley, I explained why I thought the data was the "bread and butter", of this work. After 6 months of arguing, the County bowed down and got the money to create a website which uses the data, which Don works so hard to collect. Clearly a big mistake was made, but the incumbents would not agree that they made a mistake, and no apologies.

These reasons, and others, I urge voters to consider electing Bob Fultz, Lois Henry and Stephen Swan for one heck of a Board for 2019.

Jenni Gomez

If you look at the Habitat Conservation Plan you will find that the habitat in Olympia is fragmented and degraded by recreational use and invasive non natives. The endangered and threatened species (which include more than just the Mount Hermon June beetle) are highly restricted by soil type, and they cant simply move somewhere else. If they could, they wouldnt be endangered. What seems like simple common sense to an engineer may in fact, be completely wrong from a biological perspective. I am not a biologist either, but their findings deserve consideration and respect, and should be incorporated into our decision making process. They should also not be ridiculed (as I have seen you do on multiple occasions) and called "fake environmentalists" because their findings do not fit your plans.
So to be clear, more quarrying and a reservoir would destroy, not displace, lots of endangered species and imported habitat. And now we are building a pay parking lot too? Nevermind that everyone parks for free at zayante fire and nevermind that in no conceivable universe will parking fees cover the operating costs of such a facility as you are proposing.

Bill Smallman

You may recall we had a long exchange on "Next-door" about Lompico. I complained that they should have replaced all 9 of the PRV's which are completely blown out and increasing the water pressure over 100 PSI, because this happened just after, yet again, over one hundred emergency replacement of a service lateral pipeline. This has caused well over $100 K of waste of both water and money. Brian was not going to replace them in 10 years! You said Lompico is going along fine, and the reason why is the bad pipe on the service laterals, which, BTW we could of easily had that done.

I accept me winning that argument, because Rick agrees with me and is going to replace all 9.

Calling out all the phony Enviros, they are a reality. Easy to spot. First, how much money are the on the take for. and 2. Look at their contribution, the studies and data and determine the value in terms of protecting the environment. Simple cost/benefit analysis.

Accurate cost/benefit analysis need to be done on all proposed plans, and mine, I believe blows the doors off what ever the incumbents will come up with. They have no ideas, except for this dumb idea of using the groundwater basin as a storage tank, when the main goal is to sustainable keep the level constant. Reservoirs to costly with no benefit? I suppose you would support removing Loch Lomond. Everybody is so miserable when they go there. The City is not making enough money, and is really not the worth $8. Sandy beach swimming, boating and fishing anyone? It was originally called "Ley Meadow" after it was gouged out as a quarry. It also had species which lived in Newell Creek before the dam. There are Red Legged Frogs, and the "Center of Biological Diversity" yes, filled with fake enviros, sued the State, for planting trout. Lawsuit died, was frivolous waste of time and millions. Without Loch Lomond, after the last drought, Santa Cruz would of been in an economic meltdown. Again, well designed reservoirs with restoration of the native habitat, will be a vast improvement, in the minds of real environmentalists, vs. the direction the incumbents are taking us.

Jenni Gomez

Please provide documentation or any study that supports your claim that excavating and drowning a large portion of our rare and threatened sandhills parkland habitat will improve the environment. All the studies and information that I have indicate that building a reservoir (that we would have serious difficulty filling) in Olympia would represent significant unavoidable negative impacts. There would be a large take of endangered and threatened species. This is also why there are no longer quarrying operations.
Please also explain how a reservoir (which would require an ongoing significant increase in dedicated staff and wages and benefits) would be cheaper than an injection well.
I think everyone on SMGMA(board and staff) is open and welcoming of new ideas. Personal attacks unfair accusations are more difficult to deal with. I am trying to stick with the issues and not get personal. I would appreciate it if you would too.

Bill Smallman

It's simple common sense. Yes these are quarries, and if this list of endangered species, the June Beetle et. al., have repopulated this area, that tells me they have no problem existing above the reservoir. Water is essential to all life, and these bugs have adapted to live in dryer environments, but the other 90% of all other lifeforms, including us need water. The two reservoir are on either side of Bean Creek and close to where Bean, Zayante creeks join the SL river. This will insure a high water level in a key area for the fish. My plan calls to fill these reservoirs with heavy storm flow from the SL river, which at times flow over 1000 CFS, and floods the houses near the bridge. It would have a side benefit of flood control in this area. There is an expense to remove the silt from this water, but it has zero impact on the fish habitat. There is additional water from Loch Lomond during winter to also fill these reservoirs.

The idea of using the basin as some sort of storage tank, came from mostly some of the people who I worked with involved with Desal Alternatives and the City. They are not Civil Engineers, and they are anti build anything. It's actually a completely ridiculous idea, which will never happen. Here's why. When we pump water out of the ground, we then treat it taking out mostly iron an manganese. If you want to inject RO treated waste water into the quarry, you have to be 2 miles away from a well. Yes, this is a bad regulation, because this water is very clean, and very expensive to treat. Lets say they change that rule, and now you build a very expensive RO plant in SV, when it is it far more cost effective to build on big RO plant in Santa Cruz, and let them have that water. OK, but now you then spent all this money and energy to treat that water and inject it at the Hanson Quarry. Cleary you can see this water should go to above ground storage. You now have to pay again to pump it out of the ground, and now it has to be treated again!. Reservoirs would be like Loch Lomond, where you could charge the public to park there. This would pay for staff. Injection wells would look like little pump house, and I'm assuming the land would only be used by hikers and or just be fenced off. Quarrying stopped because they took away all the sand per their mining permit- Had nothing to do with endangered species. For the record, I have not made any personal attacks. On the contrary I have been attacked every since I sat on the SLVWD Board, and/or not had any meaningful conversation on this and other issues. These are my recommendations, and I do believe this is in the best interest of the entire community. You insinuated below that I lack experience, by stating that you prefer the incumbents as having more. Ground water injection does make sense for the Soquel Creek WD, and if interested I composed several pages of comments on their recent DEIR. I'm sure I will be able to work well with the SMGMA Board, if I am so honored to serve. I know several of the SVWD Board members, including being in the same Toastmasters group with Ruth Stiles. I will have to attack the incumbents, in civil discussion of course, because that's politics. I try to stay positive, but clearly the challengers are far more qualified to be on the Board.

Jenni Gomez

Reopening the Olympia quarry to further excavation is an environmental non-starter. With the parkland habitats and the list of endangered and threatened species on this site, I also cant imagine a reservoir and more damaging recreation. A reservoir would preclude the current equestrian useage, which would also be very unpopular.
Further, it is unlikely we would be able to divert 5000 acre feet per year to these reservoirs, based on rainfall, water rights and other requirements.
Why build two expensive new reservoirs (assuming it's even feasible) when there is more capacity in our groundwater basins?Groundwater recharge also provides it's own water treatment, and preventing their depletion increases surface flows, protecting our salmonids and many other species.
Using Olympia and Hansen as groundwater recharge areas makes sense. Having good and accurate information about our water system is vital for efficient and responsible resource management. Having diverse water sources and an interconnected system also ensures resiliency for changing climate conditions. In short, conjunctive use makes sense. Flippantly poo-pooing the idea is very concerning to me.
There is no magic bullet to solve our water issues.

Bill Smallman

In order for SGWMA, in must be open to new ideas for find the most effective solution. Building reservoirs in the sand quarries improves the environment, so selling to these so-called environmentalists, which impose regulations which do nothing to protect the environment, will be easy. Ultimately the public will decide.

1. You: Scarred rock quarry lands, fenced with no trespassing signs, Injection wells, no close location for helicopter to scoop up water in the event of a fire near SV or SLV, far less amount of water using electricity on high pressure pumps running 24/7. Water has to be treated, and you are not allowed to inject polluted water there- too close to a lot of wells, (need to be 6 miles away), French Broom stumps sprayed with Glyphosate. Wonder what a June Beetle feels like after eating Glyphosate covered plant material?

2. Me: Awesome public hiking area, possible swimming, fishing and or boating. Much more water perocolating into the basin, using no energy. All the fish and wildlife benefit, except the bugs which will still thrive in the upper and nearby areas. Scott Valley can pump out water to a treatment plant to cover their water needs with new development instead of using wells. You plan double the energy and cost to use water by pumping in and pumping out, twice the number of expensive wells to maintain, I use none. Your plan, or lack of there of, is a non-starter because it will die in the DEIR process.

Seems like you, and clearly the incumbents have shown, only want people on Boards who agree with them on all the issues, and hate brainstorming. Others with different ideas are disruptive. The SMGWB committee must allow the public to vote on this. They do decide on, several ideas, and clearly communicate to the public,, their impacts, benefits and drawbacks, We'll see.

Jenni Gomez

A 5000 acre feet reservoir in Felton? Loch Lomond (if I converted the info correctly from the website) is 8593 acre feet. Please explain.

Bill Smallman

Loch Lomond hold 9200 acre feet, with surface area of 175 acres. Hanson Quarry is 180 acres, and the Olympia Quarry is 85 acres. Exact size of reservoirs requires a lot of engineering work, but the former operator of the Olympia Quarry offered to help build a reservoir if their permit would allow more sand excavation. Price tag on land is highly negotiable. Both heavily scared pieces of land which need to be restored, why not reservoirs? Extremely beneficial to fish and wildlife. A reservoir at each location would also be invaluable to help fight forest fires. Both can be engineered with liners to inject specific amount of water into GW basin.

Bill Smallman

On SMGMA, the groundwater committee the Incompetent Incumbents advocate much of what the City, Soquel Creek, County and others do, and that includes more studies. I agree with more studies, but this all too often gets out of hand. I've invested a ton of my time on this, first being a major player in the Desal controversy, developing alternatives which included a website, do in presentations, participating in the Water Supply Advisory Committee etc.etc.

They see our basin as a storage facility. They see "Conjunctive Use" or taking more water out of Fall Creek as a solution. There is a concern that they will try and take over the fish monitoring in that area to downplay any negative effects. Soquel Creek submitted an $90 Million dollar plan. It does not make full use of the water from the waste water treatment plant, and inferior to my plan, (My comments + plan are on the recent DEIR). If the City and Soquel Creek start having problems with saltwater intrusion, do you think they are going to turn the spigot off Fall Creek for the fish?

We've been trying hard to restore the fish habitat, and have a long way to go. Low ground water levels are devastating. Incumbents also advocate keeping the Sand Quarries off limits, and putting injection wells. I advocate building reservoirs engineered to put more water in basin, using no energy or cost of wells and making great open space areas for the public. I estimated 5000 acre feet per year in a key location near Bean Creek, Zayante and SLV river confluence. Which do you prefer?

They also advocate Jerry Paul's Lochquifer plan, draining Loch Lomond in the winter, which makes sense but we need storage for that water, ie. reservoirs at the quarries.

If the County does try to push Don off Fall Creek, it would be a conflict of interest. County has a vested interest in keeping all the Water.Districts with water.

They also are wasting time talking about building an RO plant for waste water and injecting that at the quarries. One large RO plant is all the County needs, because Scotts Valley can send their surplus wastewater down there already.

Bill Smallman

When are you going to keep coming up with excuses for these people Jenni?

1. There would have been nothing illegal about placing both you and Debbie on LADOC at the meeting. The agenda item should have had 3. All this legal mumbo jumbo is more evidence that Baughman is playing political to get his supporters on that committee.

2. It's OK to use Glyphosate if the manufacturer in not Monsanto? This secret, "Blue Ribbon" panel is wasting time trying to prove that it is benign chemical, which is impossible, rather than accept my manual pulling plan with biological monitoring is the only practical means to do this job. I believe there is an epidemic of fake environmentalists who are only interested in money, not real protection.

3. Brian Lee was heavily supported and praised by the incumbents, and it is also extremely relevant for voters to know this. His performance will be judged by the poor way he handled the law suits, way he treated the public, Lompico, Bear Creek Estates and several other issues. How are voters going to trust them to pick and manage a future DM?

4. This website would not have been possible without the great work of Don Alley. His livelihood was threatened by the County, Kirsten and Jen. It made no sense whatsoever that Jen, Kirsten and John Ricker wanted to cancel his contract this year so they could use the money to make this website, and not collect the very data they need. They could have easily made a proposal request the $10K, which they easily obtained, to make this website, without losing Don. Then, to really show how disingenuous people they are, they brag about the website and say absolutely nothing about the mistake they made.

Anybody think these are petty and irrational reasons let me know at

Debra Loewen

This is even crazier, but I think most of Lompico and a greater part of our SLV friends have sussed this out.

The Lompico Oversight Committee (LADOC) has been unable to function due to lack of a quorum, as there are three unfilled vacancies, going back as far as three months. The item brought to the attention of the board on August 16 was a California law stating that vacancies must be filled by a much shorter deadline (I believe post 10-day notice within 5 days, and 5 days to appoint), although the attorney did not address this, but an obscure requirement about posting location that she admitted posed little risk for not knowing. The real issue is that the district posted two vacancies instead of three, received two qualified applicants, and then decided to choose no one and kick this down the road yet again. Any reasonable person would shake their head and ask - what's really going on here?

The board also approved sending their final Grand Jury response to Judge Gallagher, although it did not meet the requirement of collaborating their answer with this committee, which is ironic, as the grand jury found the district deficient in the proper implementation and support this committee to allow them to function correctly, per the terms of the merger agreement.
There is no misinformation, just a major screw up. Again.

Jenni Gomez

There is so much misinformation here regarding the August 16 meeting it is difficult to know where to begin.
The vacant seats on LADOC were not filled because the longest serving member of the LADOC committee brought a legal issue to the boards attention, regarding the proper posting of the available seats. The board wants to comply with all of the legal requirements, as a responsible board would. Also, as the GM is leaving at the end of the month, his performance is irrelevant. LADOC will no longer be working with him.
The SLVWD was not going to use RoundUp, or any Monsanto product. The proposal was for glyphosate made by a different manufacturer. The board is now waiting for a panel of experts to complete a report before this issue is reconsidered. I have not heard any discussion of Roundup or glyphosate the continued use of either.
You stated in this board meeting that you refuse to even look at the "Fish" website. Not only is this a shame because you cant know what it is or what it does, but as a board member you cant make rational and informed decisions if you refuse to consider certain information for petty, irrational reasons.
I hope you change your mind and check it out:
Don Alleys data is now not only available to everyone, but it is organized in such a way that it is accessible and understandable to the public. As opposed to being available only in years and years worth of dusty old technical reports in hardcopy or word processing formats.
With respect to SMGMA, I have attended several meetings and our district has been very well represented by both the board members and staff. There are some high stakes involved, and turning this responsibility over to a less experienced and committed board would be a mistake that would haunt us well into the future.

Bill Smallman

Over a month ago we had 3 vacant seats on the Lompico Oversight committee, which needs to be filled ASAP, because of the Grand Jury report, and they are finally proceeding with some of the work which has been delayed costing all SLVWD more and exposing the District to liability. They put on the agenda for only one, 1, applicant. Two people apply, and we could have put both of them on last night. Instead we talked for over half hour deciding to postpone to next meeting. They are afraid of getting people who are critical about the poor performance of the GM.

They continue to discuss and want to still use Round Up. Yes, a great website was created for the Fish using Don Alley and Associates Data and hard work. Instead of requesting an additional cost of $10K, (actual cost spent), last year, they wanted to use the money to collect data canceling Alley's contract for the whole year. Several meetings, lots of public involvement etc. convinced them to find the $10 K elsewhere, which they did.

SMGMA still does not have anybody to bring effective water production and storage ideas to the table. Conductive use and inter-ties rule the discussion. Why wait till 2040, if your still alive, for a sustainable system?

Not that hard to pass a rate increase and its not hard to see financial problems. We did three of them in Lompico and I'm not proud of them. Not going to find anybody with better financial experience than Lois Henry and Bob Fultz.

I've been discussing putting all the projects, with detailed information on each, including financial reports on the website for over a year. No action, and they don't listen to me. Will you? Vote Fultz/Henry/Swan.

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