Last night, the Humboldt Community Services District voted 3-1 (with Frank Scolari opposed and Alan Bongio abstaining) to support an appeal by the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District of a zoning change adjacent to the Mad River that would allow a cannabis manufacturing plant near the wells that supply drinking water to 88,000 residents. HCSD purchases drinking water from the HBMWD, and distributes it to customers in Cutten, Mitchell Heights, and other neighborhoods just outside Eureka city limits. HCSD is the fifth drinking water supplier to support the appeal, following Eureka, Arcata, Blue Lake, and the McKinleyville Community Services District.
Manila and Fieldbrook also receive drinking water from the Mad River.
In asking for the letter of support, HBMWD director Bruce Rupp, who represents the Cutten area, said allowing “that kind of zoning next to a water source does not make sense.”
HCSD director Alan Bongio, a building contractor who also sits on the Humboldt County Planning Commission, said he would abstain from voting on the matter with no explanation of his apparent conflict, which may require recusal. Bongio also abstained from the Planning Commission vote on the project, along with At-Large Commissioner Brian Mitchell.
The HCSD vote was less than enthusiastic. HCSD director Gregg Gardiner, who is up for re-election this year, said the applicant - paving contractor and gravel company Mercer-Fraser - is a “community-minded organization” and said he wants to know if there is a history of community water supplies being damaged by heavy industry that would support the HBMWD’s concerns.
HCSD President David Tyson said there will be a lot of projects in the Mad River basin in the future, and said he is concerned the district is on a slippery slope by taking a position. He said it would behoove the district to study uses in the Mad River drainage.