Leona Quarry/Alameda Whipsnake History

September 24, 2001:  Karen Swaim, considered to be the most qualified authority on Alameda whipsnakes (AWS), delivers Site Assessment for the Alameda Whipsnake (Masticophis lateralis euryxanthus) at the Proposed Leona Quarry Project Site to Environmental Science Associates (ESA).  Page 4 of the reports states, “there is a very high potential for the Alameda whipsnake to be present on the property.” 

(Assumed:  ESA transmits Swaim report to Desilva.  DeSilva contacts Wetland Research Associates (WRA) to do an AWS assessment.)

September 28, 2001: WRA sends URGENT fax to ESA with the Assessment of Potential for Occurrence of the Alameda Whipsnake at the Leona Quarry, Oakland dated Sept. 24, 2001.    The first paragraph of the report states “it is highly unlikely that the Alameda whipsnake occurs within or adjacent to the quarry.”  The report fails to state the date of the site visit for the assessment or who authored the report. 

November 7, 2001:  Claudia Cappio’s hand-written notes of meeting:  “Whipsnake “Threshold of significance-- Incidental take—Conflicting Reports Swaim/Roberts/Josselyn—F&W Informal Contact/consultation—Quality of Habitat—Areas Outside of Critical Habitat-Relationship.”  The notes do not state who was in attendance at the meeting. Roberts is Tom Roberts the head of the biological group at ESA, and Josselyn is Mike Josselyn the head of WRA.

November 15, 2001:  Memo from ESA to City.  “Significance threshold for impacts to potential habitat:  Because of similar issues at other sites and locations throughout Oakland’s hill and foothill areas, the City of Oakland will need to establish a significance threshold that addresses the quality of habitat for candidate, sensitive or special status species.  In the case of Leona Quarry, a potential whip snake habitat area in the northeast portion of the site has been determined to be part of a larger potential habitat.  The biologist for the project sponsor, using a quantitative scale to determine the quality of potential habitat, has determined that the northeast portion of the site is no likely habitat for the whip snake.” 

November 28, 2001:  Claudia Cappio’s hand-written notes:  “Mtg w/ Robert Mosier (McCutcheon Doyle) Whipsnake  Endangered Sp. Act—Obligation not to take   If Fed Permit Req.—Would need to do Consult. and Review   Oblig. Under CEQA –City concludes not likely to be any take-Measures to protect snakes in any event.”  Attending meeting:  D. Chapman, H. Lee, T. O’Hare, Pat McG.” 

February 7, 2002:  First draft of EIR sent to City. 

Feb. 13, 2002:  Email from Karen Swaim to Christine O’Rourke, a biologist at ESA detailing recent trapping of AWS at a site in Martinez.  ‘The most interesting thing about the site was that my initial habitat assessment for my clients before the trapping survey (on file at DFG and FWS) said that it was a highly marginal situation for the AWS due to the presence of only very small patches of core type scrub, the near isolation of the site, and the level of disturbance of the site.”  A one month trapping survey at the Martinez site “documented a healthy breeding population and captured 11 individual AWS 20 different times.” 

February 13, 2002:  Claudia Cappio hand-written notes.  “Tom Roberts-tel. Call—Interpret. of info. is problem—Presumption of not mitig. Low qual. Habitat is not—Surveys in Martinez have been entered in DB—Habitat looks even worse-more support—Option 1-Trap site prove absence—Option 2-Don’t trap-presume presence—Current written protocol 4/101/02-30 days—F&G/F&W have not accepted presumption of absence after survey as”  Note at top of page “No trapping prior to construct/or approval”  

February 13, 2002:  Claudia Cappio hand-written meeting notes.  “Bio. Meeting—2. Whipsnake-Correctly cites scientific record-jumps to conclusion of LTS (long term significant) impacts to whipsnake or its habitat—3. Still potential of Impact-2 Options: 1.Trap-Establish absence, if found need a 10A Permit.  2.  Since low probability-still PS-need to protect.  Josselyn-Likelihood of disturbed area nil.-pre-construction survey might be superior to trapping.  TR-Trapping suggestion was made to see if you could determine absence.” 

February ?? 2002:  Memo from Claudia Cappio to ESA.  “ Identification of ‘Potential Low Quality Habitat’ as Less than Significant: The agreed upon term for the low quality habitat is ‘potential low quality habitat.’  Please also call this out in the key to the aerial diagram.  Although we are identifying this potential low quality habitat as less than significant, please call out specific mitigation measures-both as part of project construction and beyond in the long term management of the site and the development.”  Later bullet point: “Presentation of Mitigation Measures: Please reorganize the mitigation measures to establish a management/mitigation program based on actual site conditions and preconstruction surveys-with an emphasis on performance based requirements and actions rather that an absolute set of standards/requirements.  Examples of this approach can be found in the construction noise section and construction impact section.” 

In late 2002 early 2003 I attempted to get a copy of the Roberts report referenced in the November 7, 2001 notes from Claudia Cappio.  I made numerous requests to the City for the documents and could not get anywhere.  Cappio claims that the report was in fact an administrative draft to the DEIR.  I cannot find any reference to any administrative draft of the DEIR prior to February 7, 2002.   Because the Public Records Act only applies to records in the City’s possession I was never able to get what I asked for.  DeSilva was allowed access to those documents through the process.  Tom Roberts wrote something different than what appeared in the DEIR, and the City had it on November 7, 2001.  Claudia Cappio’s notes of February 13, 2002 reflect the problems the “Roberts Report” created. 

Compiled by Ralph Kanz