It’s become a familiar experience for Mark Lovelace — being on the short end of 4-1 votes — and in the first Board of Supervisors meeting of 2014 the 3rd district supervisor was again the lone dissenter on two contentious decisions...
The Halvorsen Quarry appeal issue has been convoluted, full of acronym-laden discussions of state agencies, permits, mining law and the like. In a nutshell, the deal is this: The owner of the roughly 70-year-old quarry, Ryan Schneider (who’s usually represented by his father, Dave), has been trying to renew the reclamation plan for the site — that is, the rules governing what must be done once the mine is shut down (in 2025 or later). The application was approved by the county Planning Commission last year, but local environmental groups Humboldt Baykeeper and California Trout objected, arguing that the plan has insufficient protections for coho in the neighboring Rocky Creek as well as osprey, peregrine falcons, bald eagles (the Humboldt Bay Eagle Cam nest is nearby) and other wildlife.
At a board of supes meeting last month, Regional Manager of the North Coast Region of CalTrout President Darren Mierau (who lives near the quarry) argued that the Schneiders should be required to get an industrial general permit and a storm-water pollution prevention plan (SWPPP).
The Schneiders say the SWPPP (pronounced “swip”) isn’t necessary because the quarry isn’t being used for commercial purposes, though Jen Kalt of Humboldt Baykeeper says she’s seen commercial trucks leaving the site loaded with rock. (Following all this?)
At last month’s meeting, county staff agreed with two of the enviro groups’ objections and recommended that independent water quality testing be included as a condition of approval. In its report for today’s meeting, staff added another suggestion — asking the Schneiders to indemnify the county against legal action. With all the controversy surrounding the project, staff said it would be smart to ask the Schneiders to be responsible for any legal fees that may arise in the future.
This type of lawsuit ass-covering is far from standard in reclamation plan approvals — at least in Humboldt County. And Dave Schneider took to the lectern to oppose the idea. Lovelace admitted that the county should develop a policy for such situations, and the rest of the board agreed. But they ultimately agreed with staff that indemnification was a wise move in this particular case.
Lovelace argued to have additional conditional use requirements spelled out — namely documentation of water quality permits and independent water quality testing. But 1st District Supervisor Rex Bohn, who has consistently been dismissive of the appellants’ concerns, countered that those requirements are covered by the state’s Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (or SMARA), so it didn’t need to be spelled out.
Ultimately the majority agreed. Fennell moved that the appeal be denied outright and the Schneiders be required to sign an indemnification agreement. Fourth District Supervisor Virginia Bass seconded, despite some confusion, and after some back-and-forth discussion the board voted 4-1, with Lovelace again the odd man out.