Pondering the future

Does the county’s new general plan point us in the right direction?

The author is advocacy director for the Butte Environmental Council (www.becnet.org). She can be contacted at 891-6424 or rhuffman@becprotects.org.

On Saturday (Sept. 25), I sat in the Western Pacific Brewing and Dining restaurant in the Oroville Depot, near the dammed Feather River, sipping a brewhouse special and pondering the adequacy of the Butte County General Plan 2030. The public-comment period is nearing an end, and the final adoption scheduled for Oct. 26 was heavy on my mind, having participated in the process for several years.

I was parched after watching the Salmon Ceremony, then helping festival-goers make soft scrub at the BEC table on Downer Street. Reading (on the placemat) how the railroad connection between Nevada and California was completed in 1910, I wondered where the celebrations of that centennial were. Merely 60 years after the connection, car culture prevailed, and the Oroville depot began a new and excellent life.

The Maidu dancing reminded me of the recentness of our way of life. The ceremony relayed the ongoing presence of indigenous peoples and the walls they confront, much like the salmon that can’t get past the dam. Our lifestyle is shaped by property lines. Most change issues in the general plan revolve around private-property land-use designations. These paper designations in large part determine the future condition of the land, air and water.

BEC supports agricultural land uses and the Greenline. We would like to see the open-space designation remain for areas that are best suited for seasonal grazing.

We encourage planning for a localized economy, one where resources, production, distribution and use of goods returns to being largely local.

Are our elected officials doing all they can to make the changes we need toward greener, more self-sufficient and sustainable communities? No, they are competing for tax dollars and delaying important decisions.

The Board of Supervisors is planning to change land-use designations and then determine, project by project, if there is enough water to support those changes. There is substantial evidence that more wells would be detrimental to existing well production. The land-use designations should more appropriately reflect the reality of the situation, and supervisors must adequately consider the cumulative effect on water before adopting land-use changes.

County supervisors need to realize that our lifestyle is a large, fragile bubble of recent generations. We can assume that we need to get more serious about planning for a sustainable future.