Board memo to Dolan: So what?

Supervisor majority ignores her first-hand report in upholding original mine permit

When the New Era Mine got its original permit, back in 1982, Jane Dolan was in the house, sitting on the Board of Supervisors. Indeed, she was the only current supervisor in office at the time.

So when the much-expanded mine came before the supervisors in recent weeks, she was able to say, based on first-hand knowledge, that the original permit was not meant for and did not allow an operation of its size. Nevertheless, three supervisors—Curt Josiassen, Bill Connelly and Kim Yamaguchi—voted on Aug. 5 to uphold the original permit. They danced around the issue, offering all kinds of explanations for their actions, but what they were really saying to Dolan was: So what if you were there? We don’t care.

And Dolan wasn’t alone back in ‘82. Steve Streeter, the planner who worked on the original permit, also told the board it was for a small operation, not the grandiose facility that’s in Dry Creek Canyon now.

But the three supervisors weren’t listening—or, if they were listening, it made no difference. They were going to approve the mine come hell or high water, even if it meant insulting Dolan and Streeter, ignoring reality and twisting the facts. It was the most brazen display of imperiousness at County Center since 2001, when Josiassen, Yamaguchi and then-Supervisor Bob Beeler approved Yamaguchi’s infamous “Plan 5,” which unabashedly sought to redistrict Dolan and the late Mary Anne Houx right out of office. (It was subsequently, and resoundingly, overturned by referendum.)

This is not to say the New Era Mine is a bad project. We don’t know—and probably won’t ever know, given the lack of environmental review. What we do know is that, if someone today sought a permit to operate a mine of that size on a Butte County creek, full review would be required and strict operational guidelines would be established.

This may not be over yet. The state Office of Mine Reclamation has filed a notice of violation with the county. And neighbors of the mine, organized as the Dry Creek Coalition, are waiting to learn the outcome of the OMR’s action before deciding whether to sue.

We hope they do so, and that others help them financially. Because this isn’t about just the mine; it’s also about assuring that potentially harmful projects aren’t approved capriciously and without proper review.