North Coast Journal bannerCOVER STORY



BY HER OWN ASSESSMENT, Andrea Tuttle isn't particularly well-known, even here at home in Humboldt County. When the California Coastal Commission met in Eureka in September, for instance, the Times-Standard erroneously reported that the North Coast's only regular commissioner on the panel was Eureka Mayor Nancy Flemming.

With the election last month of Gray Davis, the first Democratic governor in 16 years, Tuttle's low profile may soon change. She is not only throwing her name into the hat of those eager to serve on Davis' transition team, she says she is ready, if asked, to join the new administration.

"It's a true honor to have people say, 'Would you put your name in for such-and-such a positions. I'm really very flattered," she said in an interview last week in her Arcata home.

But Tuttle said she's "not high enough on the political radar screen" at this time to get the job she would really covet someday - secretary of resources for the state.

"I'd like to have some piece of this administration because I think there are still some things in state government that are worth doing - that can be done - that will set some policy going in the right direction."

If not the top job, she said, "There may be something below that that I could do."

And if she is tapped, her husband Don Tuttle, environmental services manager for the county, knows she will be packing her bags again for Sacramento.

Andrea Tuttle laughed at the thought and said, "We've had a wonderful commuter marriage for more than 27 years. Don is very supportive."

People in science don't have résumés when they go job hunting. They have "curriculum vitaes" - CVs, for short. At age 52, Tuttle's CV is five pages long with small type. It includes her education and work history, an impressive list of appointments to public service positions and a page and a half of publications she has written and legislation she has helped draft.

Whether she is working on various boards and commissions or as a professional consultant these days, Tuttle said the primary "mission" of her work is to get good scientific information into the political, decision-making process of government.

But Tuttle didn't start out to pursue a career in either science or politics. Her father had suggested key punching as a vocation so she might join him in the exciting, emerging world of computers. But after she graduated from Berkeley High in 1964 she picked French as a major at UC Berkeley.

At the end of her sophomore year in a biology class, Tuttle had two weeks exposure to a relatively new field called ecology.

"It was the beginning of the environmental movement. Things were happening nationally, the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club magazine was strong on the need to save special places. I thought, 'Wow, this is it."

Tuttle switched majors, graduated with a degree in biology and headed for graduate school at the University of Washington. She had intended to get a doctorate in marine biology but settled for a master's degree.

"I was out in the mudflats of Puget Sound in the early morning with buckets and wet boots, sampling worms, bringing them back to a cold, wet lab and counting worms all day under a microscope.

"What I really wanted to be doing was saving the mudflats," she said.

"I was so impatient at that time that the pure research was not strong enough to hold me, so I left Washington."

Tuttle moved to Humboldt County and taught environmental science at Humboldt State University and at College of the Redwoods in the early 1970s and eventually began working on her doctorate at Berkeley. In 1971 she also turned what had been a commuter relationship with Don Tuttle into a commuter marriage. ("When I was in Seattle and he was in Walnut Creek, we would meet at Bunny's Motel in Grants Pass.")

She served as a planning commissioner for Arcata in 1974 and in 1976 was appointed by newly elected Gov. Jerry Brown to serve on the California Regional Water Quality Control Board for the North Coast region.

During her eight years on the water board, there were a number of "hot-button" issues - aerial spraying of herbicides, water board approval of timber harvest plans and Arcata's battle against the Humboldt Bay Wastewater Authority. Arcata wanted to pull out of the HBWA, a group of local government entities that was planning to build an expensive ocean-discharge sewage disposal system. Instead, Arcata wanted to build its own cheaper, innovative plant that recycled wastewater through the marsh before it flowed into the bay.

"I voted against Arcata the first time around," she said, because the law specifically required Arcata to prove bay enhancement, not just lack of harm. Eventually the city did demonstrate bay enhancement, Tuttle was able to switch her vote, the system was built and HBWA was disbanded.

Tuttle said she remembers water board hearings lasting until midnight over herbicides.

"Those were horrendous. The foresters felt they really needed herbicides to get the young trees up out of the brush in order to get a spurt of growth and then there were opponents who were worried about their drinking water and water quality for fisheries.

"The standards for aerial spraying are much stronger now, and we were setting those early standards," Tuttle said.

Through it all, she said, she most appreciated when someone "from either side of an issue would come forward with good, hard information."

Tuttle earned her doctorate in environmental planning in 1985 and taught for a year at UC Santa Cruz. In 1987 her foray into the political arena began in earnest: She went to work for state Sen. Barry Keene as a legislative consultant.

"It was probably one of the most dynamic learning experiences I ever had. I really was learning politics from the feet of the master," she said.

"Barry is extremely intelligent. I respect him for his law background and knowledge" but it was his political adeptness that catapulted him to majority leader of the Senate, she said.

Her years on Keene's staff, 1987-91, were dominated by the timber wars. First there was the statewide Forests Forever initiative "that until 2 o'clock in the morning (following Election Day) was passing." Then there was an attempt called the Sierra Accord by some members of the timber industry and the Sierra Club to address forest practices such as water and stream protection, sustained yield, clearcuts and habitat protection.

That piece of legislation was killed by Gov. Pete Wilson, reborn as the California Accord, and then the Grand Accord ("the blow-by-blow is a book in itself"). The Grand Accord was eventually killed, as well, this time by Assembly Speaker Willie Brown.

"Ultimately, the Board of Forestry said, 'We will do the reform administratively,'" Tuttle said. The end result was weaker from an environmental standpoint, she said, but at least it brought "an end to the timber wars at that time."

"It was a 48-hour-a-day job during which I got to know the industry very well and the environmental community very well," she said. "As a staffer, you have to work with both."

After she left Keene's office in 1991, Tuttle immediately put on her hat as a consultant. Her client list includes the state Board of Forestry, where she helped design programs for monitoring timber operations, protecting sensitive watersheds and habitats and establishing sustained-yield planning.

She worked as a subcontractor on a project for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assisting in a mid-program review of the Klamath River Basin Fisheries Task Force. And from 1992-96 she worked with the government of Malaysia and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation developing sustained yield forest management programs and amendments to improve the country's forest practices act.

Tuttle said she hopes to do even more international work in the future relating to sustained yield forestry.

"One of my long-term goals is to increase management of the rainforests around the world," she said.

In 1997 she was appointed to the California Coastal Commission, the primary regulatory agency charged with planning and regulating development within the 1,100-mile coastal zone, by Assembly Speaker Cruz Bustamante.

"The magic of the Coastal Act (which established the Coastal Commission) is that it set up collaborative planning.

"There are state policies that say we need to protect ... wetlands, scenic views, public access, coastal-dependent uses. (But) it's up to the local coastal planning process to put together plans that meet the state policies," Tuttle said.

The Coastal Commission meets monthly but only once a year in Eureka. It was at the commission's September meeting here that its members voted 12-0 against Eureka's attempt to redesignate a "public facilities" parcel to one that would have allowed a Wal-Mart facility. (Mayor Flemming joined Tuttle in voting no.)

"We accepted 90 percent of what Eureka was asking for in amending its LCP (local coastal plan). It is a good coastal plan, linking the shoreline and the downtown and its corridors.

"But the one sore thumb was the idea of committing this large industrial parcel designed for coastal-dependent use to a retail use that could be placed anywhere," Tuttle said.

"The majority of coastal permits never come before the Coastal Commission. Once a county or city adopts a local coastal plan, they administer it. The only reason it comes to the commission is on appeal or for an LCP amendment."

Tuttle said she sees the science and the politics of her work on a spectrum.

"There is this continuum between people who are technical and people who are political - the two extremes. I've found that to be successful, to make good public policy, you've got to have a mix of the two.

"The true research community needs to make their findings known to the decision makers and then you need to have decision makers there who are knowledgeable, who can understand and appreciate them.

"We have such a disconnect now between what we know scientifically and what we campaign on. Did anybody in any campaign anywhere in the country last month campaign on global warming or sea level rise or population or ozone or air quality or water quality? Certainly not in California.

"Gray Davis staked out education and it is a key issue. But zero was said about much else.

"Water issues in California are some of the biggest fights we have going on right now with the conflict over delta protection, agricultural and urban use.

"And we are armoring the coast with sea walls, we've dammed up the rivers and sediment is building up behind them, the beaches are disappearing in Southern California. We are losing recreation. Fisheries, in-stream flows these are big issues. But they are off the screen of any politician right now."

This week Tuttle is in San Francisco for the monthly Coastal Commission meeting before leaving Saturday for Chile. She is one of two commissioners invited as guests of the government to explore the possibilities of establishing a coastal protection zone similar to California's.

"They want to learn about the California experience in coastal zone management with an eye toward establishing some type of cooperative program," she said.

Comments? E-mail the Journal:

North Coast Journal banner