Thursday, December 18, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Potrero Hills Landfill relocating rare salamanders

salamander, 12/21/12

Jim Dunbar shows off one of the traps for California tiger salamanders at the Potrero Hills Landfill. Biologists are collecting the salamanders and moving them to another location because of planned expansion of the landfill. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | January 13, 2013 |

FAIRFIELD — A nighttime storm pounds the grassy, rural hills containing Potrero Hills Landfill and a creature seldom seen emerges from burrows and crevices for a rare journey.

That’s when it’s California tiger salamander time. That’s when the 8-inch-long black salamander with white or yellow stripes travels through dark fields for up to a mile looking for its breeding pond.

“They’ve been co-existing 30 years with the current landfill,” said Jim Dunbar of Potrero Hills Landfill.

But Potrero Hill Landfill wants to expand its active operations into a 215-acre field that contains the salamanders. A five-year quest is under way to remove California tiger salamanders from the field and bring them to another part of the landfill property.

Dunbar on a recent rainy morning drove a van across a muddy, hilly road to reach the trapping area. He had to hike the last quarter-mile because the road became treacherous and he didn’t want the van to slip down an embankment.

The traps are far from elaborate. Dunbar stopped near a small, white bucket buried in the ground with wood over the top. A gap between the wood and the top of the bucket allows a wandering salamander to fall inside.

Biologists with LSA Associates are doing the trapping. They had found no salamanders this particular morning because the rain had arrived after daylight, somewhat later than the previous day’s weather reports predicted. The salamander shuns the daylight for its treks.

Virtually anytime a substantial chance of rain is forecast at night, the biologists come out the next morning. They check 540 buckets containing sponges to keep any trapped salamanders moist.

These traps are designed to catch salamanders, but not other creatures. A string extending from the top to the bottom of the bucket allows beetles and spiders to crawl out and escape. It’s a lifeline for insects and arachnids that does the salamanders no good, given that they can’t climb string.

A plastic-mesh fence around the 215 acres prevents relocated salamanders from returning. Potrero Hills Landfill is creating what is designed to be a new salamander homeland on its property, an area that will remain preserved for the rare creatures, complete with breeding ponds.

Dunbar’s expertise is landfills. He can also recite quite a few facts about the California tiger salamander. That’s because the landfill business and the salamander have become somewhat intertwined for him.

Potrero Hills Landfill has had to address the presence of the California tiger salamander since it proposed expanding the landfill in 2003. At the time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service classified the salamander as a candidate for threatened or endangered status. It has since declared the salamander as endangered.

“The tiger salamander is a cryptic species that spends the majority of its life underground in rodent burrows and cracks in the soil,” the November 2003 draft environmental report for the project said. “Adults are typically observable for only a very short time each year as they move to aquatic breeding sites.”

California tiger salamanders may be rare in general, but not at Potrero Hills Landfill. Researchers found adults in much of the proposed expansion area and salamander larvae in ponds.

All mitigation steps for California tiger salamander loss must take place within the salamander’s known range in southern Solano County, as opposed to another county where the creature is found, the 2003 report said. That southern Solano County range is from Potrero Hills in Suisun Marsh to the Jepson Prairie in the flatlands near Highway 113.

In subsequent years, the California tiger salamander issue came up repeatedly as various federal, state and regional agencies had their say. A major issue was how much land to preserve to make up for the wildlife habitat lost to landfill expansion.

In October 2010, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission issued a permit requiring the landfill to preserve six properties totaling 993 acres for various rare creatures, including the California tiger salamander.

A Solano County Superior Court judge in December 2013 called for BCDC to vacate its permit for the Potrero Hills Landfill expansion because of another issue related to a creek. It remains to be seen how that matter will turn out.

But the salamander hunt goes on as the rainy season continues. This is year two of the effort and Dunbar said more than 200 salamanders have been relocated.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or beberling@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • JoseJanuary 13, 2013 - 5:18 pm

    This is why government agencies are important. If it hadn't been for the EPA or other conservationist organizations the landfill would have been expanded without giving these beautiful creatures a second thought. I'm glad to hear that even the smallest life forms are being considered in the face of progress. This story made me happy.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Recent Articles

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .

    Solano News

    Solano College trustees move back ‘home’

    By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Needs of small dog give Solano man life’s mission

    By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1, 3 Comments | Gallery

     
    Christmas comes early for prenatal program participants

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Police chief: Suisun crime up 3 percent in 2014

    By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3, 2 Comments | Gallery

     
    Council OKs $65,730 pact to advocate for Travis base

    By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

    Fairfield pays $42,500 to settle soil suit

    By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

     
    Jury convicts teen for role in 2012 DeBartolo’s heist

    By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3, 2 Comments | Gallery

     
     
    Fairfield police log: Dec. 15, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

    Suisun City police log: Dec. 16, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

     
    Suisun City police log: Dec. 15, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

    Fairfield police log: Dec. 16, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

     
    .

    US / World

     
    Fears fanned by hackers bring down Sony film

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    Like Iran, secret diplomacy leads to US-Cuba thaw

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Pope played crucial role in US-Cuba rapprochement

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    US travel industry carefully eyeing Cuba tourism

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    US-Cuba thaw could benefit farmers, energy and travel firms

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    Cubans cheer historic renewal of US relations

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 2 Comments

     
    Freed American endured years of declining health

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    US, Cuba patch torn relations in historic accord

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Bay Bridge light sculpture to keep on shining

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

    Study: Huge wildfire supports need for controlled burns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    A fresh setback for efforts to cure HIV infection

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    14 charged in deadly 2012 meningitis outbreak

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Study: Alcatraz inmates could have survived escape

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Nigerian court sentences 54 soldiers to death

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

     
    Colombian rebels announce unilateral cease-fire

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

    Russians flock to stores to pre-empt price rises

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

     
    Pakistan buries victims of school massacre

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

    .

    Opinion

    Asia needs to prepare for a possible China crash

    By William Pesek | From Page: A7

     
    Tortured roots of enhanced interrogations

    By Walter Pincus | From Page: A7

    Editorial Cartoons: Dec. 18, 2014

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

     
    Crime Witness Protocol 101

    By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Living

    Today in History: Dec. 18, 2014

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Community Calendar: Dec. 18, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

    Horoscopes: Dec. 18, 2014

    By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

     
    My siblings don’t want to replace abusive mother’s pacemaker

    By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

    .

    Entertainment

    25 movies chosen for the National Film Registry

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

     
    Saving Private Ryan’ among films being preserved

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

    TVGrid

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    .

    Sports

    Falcons cruise by crushers in girls basketball

    By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    49ers release McDonald amid further legal trouble

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

    Carr faces another tough test in rookie season

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    For MLB, changes in Cuba will take time to sort out

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

    Garcia resigns as FIFA prosecutor

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Chattanooga women stun No. 7 Stanford 54-46

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Track coach Drummond gets 8-year doping suspension

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Warriors’ Bogut out with knee injury vs. Thunder

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    AP source: Romo close to $15M, 2-year deal with Giants

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Baseball monitoring White House Cuba decision

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    APNewsBreak: Judge rejects NCAA concussions deal

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Painkillers lawsuit against NFL dismissed; may be appealed

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    This date in sports history for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

    .

    Business

    McDonald’s in Japan limits orders of fries

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

     
    Amid scrutiny, Uber says it will focus more on safety

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

    Health care exchange sign-ups exceeding last year

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

     
    Fed to be ‘patient’ about a rate hike; stocks soar

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

    .

    Obituaries

    Jennie Ponce Reyes

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Patricia “Pat” Anne Stringfield-Pierre

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    Marian L. “Chicki” Downs

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Ernest “Ernie” Moretti

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Frank and Ernest

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Zits

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Sally Forth

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Garfield

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Peanuts

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Dilbert

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Get Fuzzy

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    For Better or Worse

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    B.C.

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Rose is Rose

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Blondie

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Pickles

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Baldo

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Baby Blues

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Wizard of Id

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Beetle Bailey

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Crossword

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

     
    Cryptoquote

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

    Sudoku

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

     
    Bridge

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

    Word Sleuth

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9