Supervisors put off decision—again
After 11 years, hours upon hours of public hearings and hundreds of letters and e-mails, a decision has yet to be made on the proposed M&T gravel mine.
Tuesday (Jan. 8) was supposed to be the final chapter in the drawn-out process. Nevertheless, after listening to public testimony for seven hours, the Butte County Board of Supervisors delayed making a decision once more.
“I’ve just got to digest all of this information,” board Chairman Curt Josiassen of Richvale said to the standing-room-only crowd that packed supervisors’ chambers.
At the conclusion of the public portion of the hearing, Josiassen requested that the supervisors wait to deliberate at their Jan. 29 meeting and decide then. The other supervisors agreed.
“There is a serious high level of concern to all citizens involved,” said Paradise-area Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi. “And that requires a high level of concentration.”
The controversial gravel mine, proposed by Chico’s Baldwin Contracting Co., the county’s largest road-builder, has been the target of debate because of its destined location on River Road five miles west of Chico. The mine would be adjacent to almond orchards and rice fields, striking fear in neighboring farmers about water pollution and flooding.
These issues, as well as the traffic increase and noise, were reviewed in an environmental-impact report that the county Planning Commission certified, by a 3-2 vote, despite the report’s acknowledgement that the mine would have significant and unavoidable negative impacts. The commission also approved a use permit for the project by the same vote. The two Chico-area commissioners, Chuck Nelson and Nina Lambert, dissented.
Mine opponents appealed both decisions to the Board of Supervisors. On Tuesday they argued that the data used are out of date, flooding issues are not adequately addressed, and the report fails to consider the impact of gravel trucks on Eighth and Ninth streets in Chico, where much of the truck traffic would take place.
“This EIR is not adequate,” said Catherine Cottle, a River Road resident. “It’s not credible. My neighbors and I would be greatly affected.”
Still, both the Planning Commission and the county’s Department of Development Services have recommended approval of the project—support that Baldwin contends should put the public at ease.
“The process works,” said Rene Vercruyssen, Baldwin’s general manager. “The approval process is working.”
It may work, but it’s also exhausting. Many are looking forward to resolving this issue once and for all, including the supervisors.
“I can be agreeable to postpone this,” said Chico Supervisor Maureen Kirk, “but I wouldn’t want it to be one day later.”