It turned out that the tree issue was readily resolved, but the hole was a problem on a Kafkaesque scale. Stevens sent off a $2,500 application fee and prepared the usual richly illustrated and annotated research paper examining the impact of filling the hole, then waited. And waited. In the meantime, he shoveled some of the displaced gravel over some exposed utility lines and put up a temporary fence to prevent campers from falling into the hole.
Then one winter day, more than a year after I had filed the application, I received a certified letter from the Coastal Commission. They had been surreptitiously monitoring the work we had done, or not done, at the site. And we were looking at a fine of $30,000 and up to $15,000 per day for doing the work. Or not doing the work. The letter was a bit vague on that part. But one thing was clear. Whatever it was we had or hadn’t done was wrong and thoroughly illegal. And we were to be punished severely for it.But all's well that ends well. No one was driven into bankruptcy this time, the salmon continue their happy lives uninterrupted, and all the wonders of modern technology were brought to bear on a cavity-mitigation project that's not quite visible from space.