No place for a mine

Next Tuesday (Jan. 8) at 1:30 p.m., when the Butte County Board of Supervisors takes up the matter of Baldwin Contracting Co.'s proposed gravel mine on the M&T Ranch west of Chico, it will have plenty of good reasons to deny the project. Simply put, the location is all wrong.

It’s good farm land, for one thing. It makes no sense to unnecessarily eliminate 235 acres—that’s twice the size of Chico State University—from production. Of those 235 acres, 195 acres ultimately will become a massive open gravel pit.

And the site is right next to the Sacramento River corridor, a region filled with protected lands and riparian habitat. A gravel mine doesn’t belong there.

The area is vulnerable to flooding, too. Little Chico Creek runs right through the site, and a couple of sloughs feed into it. Downstream neighbors—including the owners of the 18,000-acre Llano Seco Ranch, most of which is preserved as wildlife habitat—have good reason to worry about pollution drift.

But most of all, the location is wrong from a transportation standpoint. Most of the gravel will go either to Baldwin Contracting Co.'s plant on the lower Skyway or to construction sites in the Chico area. Either way, trucks will have to pass through Chico.

Lots of trucks—according to its environmental-impact report, the mine will generate 16,500 truck round trips annually, or 33,000 trips altogether. That’s more than 90 truck trips a day, and these trucks weigh more than 40 tons. As the EIR states, this will have “significant and unavoidable impacts” on city streets and intersections.

Clearly, it will make them less safe, and all those trucks will take a tremendous toll on the roads. River Road and Durham-Dayton Highway, the two arteries nearest the mine, were not built to handle such traffic, and neither were Chico’s city streets. They’ll take a beating, and fixing them will be expensive—especially for the city, which already faces a budget deficit and can’t keep up with road maintenance needs.

Baldwin has acknowledged that it has access to plenty of gravel. The M&T site is more convenient and slightly less expensive, that’s all. But that’s hardly sufficient reason to burden the city and county—let alone residents—with such a costly project.