THE ADMINISTRATION'S NEUTRALITY
DURING THE BODEGA HEAD CONTROVERSY
In 1957, the University of California
abandoned plans set in motion the previous year for a marine biological laboratory at
Bodega Head. On May 23, 1958, Pacific Gas and Electric Company confirmed rumors that it
planned to build a power plant at Bodega Head. But while the University's withdrawal
lasted officially through 1960, a faculty committee, told to search for another site,
recommended on November 29, 1960, that Bodega Head remain at the top of the list of
possible sites. In 1961, the University announced plans to return to Bodega Head even with
Pacific Gas and Electric as a future neighbor.
Both the decision to withdraw and the
decision to return to Bodega Head seemed to be based on information furnished the
administration, information which analyzed the probable effects of the proposed
neighboring power plant on the biological integrity of the area. Apparently, the
administration never considered opposing P. G. & E.'s plans, but acted as if it had no
preference as to the disposition of the adjoining property, thus relegating itself to
By selecting Bodega Head as the most
economically feasible site, P. G. & E. took over land previously earmarked by the
Division of Beaches and Parks as a recreational area. When it became known that P. G.
& E. planned to build an atomic-powered plant, there were further questions as to the
desirability of locating a plant so close to the San Andreas fault, and the Atomic Energy
Commission has thus far refused to issue a construction permit because of earthquake
hazards. P. G. & E. has now abandoned plans for a nuclear power plant at the site.
Since a strong statement by the University might very well have forced P. G. & E. to
move elsewhere earlier, the official neutrality of the University was interpreted by many
as tacit approval.
We are concerned with the University's
reasons for its neutrality. Obviously, the power plant would have some effects on the
University's plans, since the facility's projected cooling system involved a discharge of
hot water and possibly radioactive elements into the ocean near the proposed laboratory.
The University's own interest -- the biological integrity of the area -- was therefore
directly involved. However, Chancellor Strong took the position, in May 1962, that it was
"not appropriate... for the University to take an official position on operations or
developments on adjoining lands that do not specifically impair the scientific usefulness
of University property." Strong maintained that "It has been the policy of the
University to defend with vigor the biological integrity of the lab site itself."1The University's neutrality, then, was based on the
degree to which the power plant would damage the scientific interests of the University,
and the University's opinion was that the damage would not be significant.
The amount of damage is not merely a matter
of opinion, but of hypotheses based on scientific analyses. The University's neutrality
rests ultimately on the scientific data analyzing the potential effects from the power
plant. During the Bodega controversy, it became clear that the University reserved to
itself the right to maintain neutrality whatever the scientific data showed. The
University's opinion that the power plant would not seriously damage the biological
integrity of the area was stated often and publicly, but the full scientific case for that
opinion was never published.
Moreover, even when the University had judged
that the power plant might damage the usefulness of the marine laboratory, the
administration refused to oppose P. G. & E.'s plans. Such an unfavorable judgement is
revealed in two letters written by Chancellor Glenn Seaborg in 1960. One letter, written
to Philip S. Flint of the Sierra Club, dated June 28, 1960, reads: "The fact that the
ecological future of Bodega Head was unpredictable made it undesirable to locate a marine
laboratory at Horseshoe Cove, in view of the plans for the power station." The second
letter is even more explicit:
There seems to be general agreement that the discharge of warm water from the power
plant might have substantial ecological effects upon the shore life, and though such
effects are nearly impossible to predict accurately, they constitute a potential risk
which we cannot justifiably take. Since there are suitable alternative sites available not
involving this potential risk, we therefore have felt obliged to drop the Bodega site from
At no time did the administration feel it
necessary to further its own interests by objecting to the power plant, and to P. G. &
E. Although Bodega Head had long been admitted to be a unique site, the faculty committee
in charge of the lab was told to search for alternate sites.
The result of the search was the Emerson
Report of November 29, 1960, submitted to the Chancellor by a faculty committee headed by
Professor Ralph Emerson and representing several fields of biology. The report found
serious shortcomings in every alternative site, and urged a return to Bodega Head.
"Then for the third time," the report reads, "weighing all relevant
aspects, we agreed unanimously that there was not a single one of these alternative sites
that was equal to Bodega Head as it now stands. Bluntly stated, a unique Class A site for
a marine facility is being exploited for power production." The strength of this
language, even though it urged no direct opposition to P. G. & E. by the University,
was somewhat mitigated by the report's final decision. 3The
committee noted that expert opinion "had revealed the likelihood that periodic
inundations of heated waters from the power plant might seriously affect the rich natural
biota in the immediate vicinity of the proposed laboratory." The committee concluded,
however, that one of the less favorable features of many second class sites "was the
necessity for driving out from the laboratory various distances in order to reach good
collecting grounds.... We accepted this as a need that probably exists to a degree with
many marine laboratories anyway." 4The University
returned to Bodega Head.
By May of 1962, the University's position had
become critical because of the impending Public Utilities Commission public hearings on P.
G. & E.'s application for a construction license. Berkeley Biochemistry Professor J.
B. Neilands circulated among the faculty a petition protesting the P. G. & E. plant.
The petition failed to gain much faculty support, but even Neilands agreed, according to
the Daily Californian, that "publishing the petition before the Chancellor had seen
it was in bad taste." 5It was at this time that
Chancellor Strong, as a rebuke of the petition, declared that it was "not
appropriate" for the University to take an official position on developments that did
not "specifically impair" the usefulness of the marine station.
The administration, meanwhile, continued to
staunchly defend the insignificance of the power plant's effects on the area. The Daily
Californian reported Strong as saying, on May 11, 1962, that it had been determined
that the discharge of warm water from the proposed P. G. & E. plant would "not
adversely affect shore life" in the area. At the Public Utility Commission hearings
in late May, 1962, a University representative, A. Starker Leopold, testified as follows:
We... decided on the basis of all the evidence available to us, as scientists, and when
I say `us' I am speaking now of a faculty committee drawn from both the Berkeley and Davis
campuses of the University, and involving principally biologists, able to weigh scientific
evidence of this sort. The evidence, as we saw it, indicated that the installation of that
power site beyond us and out on the Head would not render the Horseshoe Cove area
unusuable (sic) for a biological station. 6
As biologists we did not feel that any developments that directly related to the power
plant on the Head would render our site unusuable (sic) nor even materially alter it as a
point, as a site for biological studies. 7
Leopold steadily refused to take a position on either his or the University's
preference of neighbors for the marine laboratory.
MR. KORTUM: Would you say that the summation of the testimony you have given indicates
it would be better if the P. G. & E. were not there?
THE WITNESS: [Mr. Leopold] I couldn't answer that. 8
Leopold's testimony in May was made public.
The scientific data, including the Emerson Report, on which the University had based its
decision had not been publicly released. In November, Professor Neilands submitted a
petition to the P.U.C. for a rehearing and charged that the Emerson Report called for the
ouster of P. G. & E. from Bodega Head. According to the Daily Californian of November
29, 1962, a "University spokesman" replied that "The report gives unanimous
support to allowing construction of the power station at the site, and adds there will be
no detrimental effect upon the proposed marine biological station." But an
"informed University source" quoted the famous sentence, "a unique class A
site for a marine facility is being exploited for power production." Professor
Emerson himself admitted that the "warmed water which will be discharged into the
ocean could definitely affect the ecological life in the area." He added, however,
that he could not release his report since it was a communication to the Chancellor's
office. Strong's office, according to the Daily Californian, said it had made no plans to
release it. 9
Two weeks later, at the request of the
faculty committee, the Emerson report was released. The working papers of which the
Emerson Report was a part were not released. Nor, at this time, was the report of the
"oceanographers," which sustained the University's original withdrawal, released
or even substantially described by the University. The oceanographers were J. D. Frauschy,
Associate Research Engineer, and D. L. Inman, Associate Professor of Marine Geology, from
Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Their report, dated June 14, 1960, deals with the
probable effects of P. G. & E.'s operations upon the specific area of Bodega Head,
particularly regarding volume of flow and temperature differential. The report concludes:
It seems probable that Horseshoe Cove will from time to time be bathed for periods of
some hours in the unmixed effluent at near discharge temperatures. In addition the
sedimentation regime within Bodega Bay and its entrance channel may be modified as a
result of pumping from the Bay. 10
A letter written to Professor Inman after his investigation at Bodega, but before the
report, by Professor Stanier of Berkeley reads:
After my return to Berkeley, I discussed the general picture, as I had understood it
from our conversations, with a number of the marine biologists here; and their reaction
was so generally unfavorable that for the time being we have halted all further
exploration of the possibilities of acquiring land and putting up a station at Bodega
A statement by Cadet Hand, Acting Director of
the Marine Laboratory, December 19, 1962, mentions this report but maintains that the
questions which it raised were answered by the Emerson Report, presumably, by the
unavoidable necessity of collecting specimens at a distance. Hand's statement also
mentions that Professor Robert L. Wiegel of Berkeley had analyzed data available from P.
G. & E.'s plant at Morro Bay, which showed no appreciable increase in water
temperature. "It was Professor Weigel's conclusion that due to physical and climactic
differences between Morro Bay and Bodega Head that mixing, and therefore temperature
decrease, would be more effective at Bodega Head than at Morro Bay." The statement
summarized: "From all of the foregoing it can be concluded that the planned P. G.
& E. plant will not have a significant impact on the marine environment at the
University laboratory site, and that very little risk was involved in selecting Bodega
Head as the site."
The P. G. & E. data mentioned in Hand's
statement would seem to be the same as that cited in a University of California
"Position Statement" received by P. G. & E. on September 19, 1962. According
to the statement, the P. G. & E. studies showed that "there did not appear to be
any appreciable difference in temperature of the receiving water at distances even a
thousand feet from the point of discharge.... No data were given on wind, wave, or current
conditions at the time of measurements." The absence of wind, wave, and current
conditions is a simplification which does not appear in Hand's statement. From a letter by
Cadet Hand, dated January 15, 1963, it seems clear that the faculty were presented with
only two choices: either they could share Bodega Head with P. G. & E., or they could
The lack of public information on the Bodega
controversy became a matter of student discussion in the ASUC Senate for a very short
time. At a meeting of the ASUC Senate, December 13, 1962, the day of the Emerson Report
release, Commuter-Independent Representatives Jerry Miller and Michael Travis moved that
the ASUC establish a committee to report to the campus on the Bodega Head problem. Dr.
Lyman Porter, Faculty Representative, immediately moved to postpone the item indefinitely:
Dr. Porter said that this is a topic which the University has had a number of experts
working on for a number of years. All the reports that have been made are available to the
PUC anytime they want them. He said that he saw no relevance for the Senate to get
involved in this affair. 12 Porter did not say that
the reports were available to the public. Dean Williams said that "Dr. Porter's
explanation covers the University's feelings on establishing another committee."
Miller protested that he was not arguing that the committee should take any action.
"The controversy here is whether or not the University has freely published all the
information on this matter." The motion to postpone indefinitely was carried seven to
The controversy which developed over a road
which P. G. & E. wanted built down the west shore of Bodega Harbor illustrates in
miniature the pattern of administration action, including lack of respect for faculty
opinion. On the basis of scientific objections from the head of the marine laboratory,
Chancellor Strong at first protested the road. In a letter to Col. John Morrison, of the
Army Corps of Engineers in San Francisco (received December 13, 1961), Strong states the
University's opposition to the entire road, including portions not on University property:
The University of California wishes to register a formal protest against the proposed
tidelands road along the West shore of Bodega Harbor.... From the standpoint of the
University an overland route to the Campbell Cove area would be very much preferable....
The University has discussed the routing of the road with Sonoma County officials and
received from them a minor concession in the form of inland routing of a short portion of
the road on what will be part of the Marine Research Station Site. This particular bit of
shoreline which will be preserved is actually atypical... it does not have many of the
faunal elements present elsewhere along the shore.
Cadet Hand, Acting Director of the Marine Laboratory, continued to protest the road in
its entirety at the public hearing before the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers at Bodega Bay
on February 16, 1962. The statement reads in part:
While rerouting protects and saves many organisms, the road throughout the rest of its
length destroys some of the very values which led us to choose this headland as our site
in the first place. It is regrettable that a great University and a great County find
themselves at odds, but the values lost to the University, County, State, Nation, and
World by the presence of such a road far outweigh the short term values such a road might
bring to the County and its users.
Administration support for the objection to
the road seems to have ebbed very quickly, however. It is possible that Hand had been
rebuked for his strong stand at the Army Corps Hearing. In a letter to Strong on February
21, 1962, Hand reveals that his position has not been sustained by the administration:
Since I was there (Army Corps Hearing) with your permission and since Mr. Prather
(Chairman of the Harbor Commission and County Planning Director) used your letter to him
of February 8, 1962, as evidence that the University was satisfied with the present
proposed location of the road, I took the opportunity to make it clear that biologically
we still had to object to any part of the road being in the tidelands.... I trust you
understand my position and feeling in all of this.
The minutes of the May 10, 1962, meeting of the Sonoma County Harbor Commission reveal
that the University had directed its business officer not to oppose the road:
Mr. Prather replied that Mr. O. W. Campbell, Business and Finance Officer of the
University, has indicated that the institution is in accord with the county's plans of
development including the west shore road at Bodega Harbor; that anything to the contrary,
including some of the scientists, is contrary to the University's position.... He further
reported that the University has indicated that there is no problem insofar as scientific
interests are concerned, and that as soon as their acquisition of 320 acres is concluded
they will deed the necessary right of way to the county.
The lack of respect for the scientifically
based faculty objection to the road was described by Mr. Leopold, at the PUC hearings, as
an "honest disagreement of opinion," and, in this case, the Administration had
apparently decided that even the damage done to the "scientific usefulness" of
University property did not warrant a protest. The official transcript of the PUC hearings
in May, 1962, reads (p. 819):
[Mr. Leopold]: Acting Director Hand felt we should object to more of the road
than the Chancellor himself. This I stated was an honest disagreement of opinion among
Q. So the present position is that the roadway in its entirety is not objectionable?
A. [Mr. Leopold] That is correct.
It should be clear by now that the effects of
the power plant on the marine laboratory were always more hypothetical than certain.
Nevertheless, there is very little evidence that the University made every effort possible
to collect and analyze pertinent data, or to investigate analogous situations fully. More
importantly, however, the University, by withholding all the information which it had,
gave the impression at least that the public -- even the faculty -- should not see all the
evidence for the University's decision, so that while the administration maintained that
"experts" had made the decision, it created an atmosphere of suspicion by not
releasing the evidence which would enable some to question the judgment of those experts.
The suspicions also tended to provoke charges of administration "collusion" with
P. G. &.E.
Moreover, contracts between the University
and the ABC for the fiscal years of 1963 and 1964 belie the University's position that the
power plant would not significantly alter the environment. In 1963, the University
received $22,176 for a "Marine Ecological Survey of the Bodega Region," with
Cadet Hand as investigator, to ascertain the effects of radiation and hot water on the
marine environment. For the fiscal year of 1964, the proposed survey received $39,296. An
effect significant enough to study in this way would seem to be a different kind of effect
from one which Leopold, at the PUC hearing, testified would not "materially
alter" the site.
It seems clear, then, that it was the
administration's refusal to oppose P. G. & E.'s plans, rather than the consideration
of the plant's effect on the biological integrity of the area that determined the
University's neutrality. Such neutrality, however, was interpreted as approval of P. G.
& E.'s plans, and was in fact used as an argument in favor of the power plant before
the Public Utilities Commission. In a reply brief submitted to the Supreme Court of
California (the P. G. & E. decision had been appealed several times), P. G. & E.
took special note, in its own defense, of a passage from the previous PUC decision
(#64537). The brief notes that many of the protestants had seemed to take the position
that a marine laboratory and a power plant were incompatible, but "the record belies
their position. Spokesmen for the University of California's proposed Marine Biological
Station and the State Division of Beaches and Parks made it clear that they are not
opposing the nuclear plant and that it will not interfere with their respective plans for
operations and land use on Bodega Head."13
-- Rena A. Fraboni
Teaching Assistant, English
1. Strong's statement was quoted in part in the Daily Californian
of May 11, 1962, in the Berkeley Daily Gazette of the same date, and in full in
the Daily Californian of November 29, 1962.
2. The letter is dated September 19, 1960, and is addressed to Mr.
Lennart Cederborg of Oakland. Mr. Cederborg is a lawyer who represents Mrs. Rose Gaffney,
previous owner of much of the land on Bodega Head.
3. See below for a discussion of the oceanographers' report.
4. This information was finally released to the press through the
Office of Public Information, December 13, 1962. See below for the circumstances
surrounding the release.
5. Daily Californian, May 11, 1962.
6. Transcript, PUC hearings, p. 796.
7. Op. cit., p. 798.
8. Op. cit., p. 842.
9. All quotations are from the Daily Californian, November 29,
10. The report was compiled by professors J.D. Frautschy and D.L.
Inman of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and is dated June 14, 1960.
11. From Roger Y. Stanier, University of California, Department of
Bacteriology, dated May 25, 1960.
12. All quotations in this paragraph have been taken from the official
ASUC Senate minutes. It is debatable whether all the reports were "available" to
the PUC, since the University did not encourage the PUC to request them for a public
13. See AEC press release, October 23, 1963.