The Times Standard:
Jan., 26 - 2004

   Organic dairyman Cameron Cardoza had Aqua Dam, Inc. install this water-filled coffer dam to hold back an arm of the Mad River Slough from flooding his pastures with saltwater. The design, developed by David Doolaege of Carlotta, employs two water channels inside a bag made of woven geo-textile material.

  By Andrew Bird
 This past summer dairyman Cameron Cardoza walked the levee that holds back a portion of the Mad River Slough from the 200 acres of organic pastureland he leases on Jackson Ranch Road.

“I knew we were headed for some bad times with It,” Cardoza said late last week during a tour of the property he leases from Six Rivers Masonic Lodge In Arcata.

The top of the levee consisted of nothing but ‘biodegradable duff,” as Cardoza described It.

It had piled up over the years from the life and death cycles of the thick brash that thrives on the levee.

He went to the board of directors of Reclamation District No. 768, the people who manage the levee — a 4.9-mile dike that begins near the northwest corner of Arcata Bay.

But the board failed to take any action.

Cardoza said he feared that during a substantial high tide, the levee would pour over the duff-topped levee.

He was right.

On Dec. 23, the same day an extreme high tide caused the bay to invade King Salmon, five miles to the south, the slough breached the levee on the western edge of Cardoza’s organic dairy.

For the next two days Cardoza could only watch as the saltwater nearly covered his pastures.

‘This place used to be clean, it was beautiful,” Cardoza said during the tour last week, pointing to muddy marshes, destroyed troughs and fences and graying grass killed by the saltwater.

Contractor Bob Figas tried to repair as much of the levee as he could, but there was only so much the heavy equipment on the aging dike could do, Cardoza said.

And as Figas was withdrawing his equipment late last week, nighttime vandals drove one of the contra excavators into the slough. Cardoza finally turned to a Ca company, Aqua Dam, Inc..

Company owner David Doolaege installed an innovative fix — a water-filled coffer dam.

Basically it’s a series of giant bags made from woven geo-t material.

Since the dam has been In beginning in early January, 1st held the slough back.

Now Cardoza must assess what to do next.

He has already spent $50,000 on damage control.

His land “Is a mess,” he said, and he knows he will have to spend a substantial sum on organic hay until his pastures come back, if they do, Cardoza said.

What the future costs from the unwanted visit by slough waters will amount to Cardoza said he can’t begin to calculate.

Cardoza, who sells all the organic daily product he can produce to Humboldt Creamery, started the enterprise just two years ago.

He said he doesn’t know if he will last for another two.

But he said he does know he wants those charged with main taming the levee to take some responsibility.

“I feel for him,” said Lois permanently repair the levee will Wallace, one of the three board members who control the finances of Reclamation District No. 768.

Wallace was the only board member who could be reached.

Board Chairman Domingo Santos did not return phone messages.

Wallace said the levee Is 100 years old and is in need of major repair But the district, which assess 20 or so properly owners for operating finds, doesn’t have the money, she said.

Cardoza said that when he first raised concerns In the summer, the board members checked the levee from the back of his house, several hundred yards away.

“It didn’t sound like his was any worse than In any of our other trouble spots,” Wallace said, recalling that thy.

Wallace said the best hope to permanently repair the levee will come when the state Department of Fish and Game begins a dredging project it has planned for the near future.

That will produce enough blue clay mud to rebuild most of the levee, she said.

Kelley Reid, a senior project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, said someone from Reclamation District No. 768 did apply for and was granted maintenance permits for a portion of the levee.

But no permits were requested for the portion that borders the property Cardoza leases, Reid said.

Obtaining permits Involves a number of agencies, including but not limited to the Army Corps, the state Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Coast Guard and Regional Water Quality Control Board, Reid said.