City recommends full EIR for recycling facility

Diana Jorgenson
Portola Editor

    Intermountain Disposal’s materials recovery facility has begun the county’s permitting process with an application to building and planning services requesting a special use permit for the MRF.
    Rebecca Herrin, senior planner for the county, in turn, has solicited comment and recommendations from a number of interested parties and agencies, including the city of Portola, regarding whether “an environmental impact report or a negative declaration should be prepared.”
    The city held a special meeting Dec. 22 to discuss the subject and to agree on a response in time to meet the county’s Jan. 5 deadline for responses.
    The application for a special use permit requests approval to construct the project at two locations: 73836 Delleker Rd., where IMD’s maintenance shop is also located, and 74260 Humbug Lane.
    The parcels are near, but not adjacent to, the present transfer station. Plans are to locate the MRF on Delleker Road and an outdoor storage area for large appliances and other items on Humbug Lane. Both parcels are already zoned heavy industrial.
    Owners of Intermountain Disposal, Ricky and Candice Ross, propose to build a facility that is open to the public and processes solid waste to remove recyclable materials, such as cardboard, metals, mixed newspapers, plastics and wood, from the waste stream and reduce the amount going to landfills. The remainder would be hauled to Lockwood, Nev., as is currently the case.
    The Rosses anticipate the facility will process material seven days per week, 24 hours per day. They expect to require three employment shifts, each with 12 person crews.
    The 53,000-square-foot building will house elevated conveyor lines where recyclables will be processed and baled for the commodities market.
    The application points out there is a 100-year floodplain associated with Humbug Creek, but the storage area does not occupy that portion of the property.
    Other activities on that parcel will include sorting metals and wood, particularly construction debris.
    IMD intends to close the current transfer station when the project is complete, as the MRF will replace the facility. Accordingly, the company does not anticipate an increase in public traffic, estimated to be 17 trips per day.
    However, since the facility hopes to process solid waste from all parts of the county, IMD anticipates vehicles using the roads to the MRF will increase to 24 trips per day when the facility is complete.
    At the special meeting of the city council, planner Karen Downs and City Attorney Steve Gross led the discussion and narrated the history of the project.
    John Kolb, Plumas County Department of Public Works, also attended to offer comments from the county’s perspective.
    “The main thrust (of the MRF) is to meet the state of California’s demands that we increase our amount of diversion from the solid waste stream,” he said.
    Council member Bill Kennedy wanted to know whether Quincy’s solid waste would be re-routed through the Delleker MRF and long-hauled to Lockwood from there.
    “Yes,” Kolb answered. “A lot of agreements must be made first, but that is the hope.”
    Council member William Weaver asked if there were any health hazards.
    Kolb replied, “I don’t expect anything different than what it is right now.”
    Weaver countered, “It’s a mess right now. It’s filthy out there. Have you ever been out there?”
    Kolb said he had. “I have to do inspections out there. It’s garbage,” he added, saying a certain amount of flies and odor were expected. He also pointed out the facility would create quite a few more jobs in the Portola area.
    City Manager Jim Murphy expressed concern about traffic impacts and cited a previous traffic study that had been done when a grocery store and strip mall were contemplated on the corner of Highway 70 and Delleker Road. That study recommended a new turning lane be constructed.
    Gross said that, although the application packet referred to an environmental initial study and mitigated negative declaration as included, they had not been received.
    Karen Downs was told the county felt they were insufficient and wasn’t circulating them with the rest of the application.
    In the absence of knowing what already concerned the county, Gross said city staff had looked at everything.
    Gross began his recitation of city concerns with future growth in Delleker at the top concern. There has been a building moratorium in Delleker Park due to insufficient water flows.
    Rectifying that deficiency requires the installation of a 10-inch water line and finding the money to do that has stymied Grizzly Lake Resort Improvement District for many years.
    “As part of this project (MRF), I understand that this 10-inch water line would be constructed and that would open the door to further growth and development in that area.
    “Further growth and development in that area just to the west of the city is an issue that we’ve talked about for some time,” Gross said.
    He added that the city had just hired consultant and planner Tom Jacobson, a department head at Sonoma State, to help identify core areas of concern to the city.
    “We’re hoping to develop a strategy (for development) with Mr. Jacobson’s help, that we can take to the county, who is the planning agent for that area,” Gross said.
    “Should this project go forward, one of the requirements of CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), when you look at potential environmental impacts are cumulative impacts.
    “In this case, one of the cumulative impacts from the approval of the construction of a water line is increased development in that area. We, the city, are concerned about that kind of growth and development. I’m not saying we’re against it, just concerned about it,” Gross said.
    Murphy added that if the building moratorium were lifted, traffic impacts would be greater than just the MRF.
    Mayor John Larrieu wanted to know if the MRF project was a public or private enterprise.
    Kolb replied, “It’s a private concern under a franchise agreement with the county.”
    After further discussion about traffic issues, commodity trucks and long-haul trucks, Weaver asked who would pay for the new water line.
    Kolb replied IMD, with a loan, would install the line and collect back from the businesses that would benefit from it.
    Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wilson asked who determined whether the environmental reports were a full EIR, a mitigated declaration or a negative declaration.
    Gross said it was the county’s decision. Kolb added the county was looking for guidance as to the scope of the environmental studies.
    Wilson thought the report should look into as many areas as possible to prevent any problems. He also wanted to know how long ago it was zoned heavy industrial and whether in the current climate of environmental concerns, it would be given the same zoning in 2009.
    Kolb did not know, which led to questions as to when the new General Plan would be ready. Council members expressed other concerns about seepage, protection of the Feather River and ground water, and containment measures.
    The council unanimously approved of a draft letter to the county and directed Gross to add a paragraph regarding other studies possibly added if the scope of the project were to change significantly.
    The three-page letter also raised concerns about other checklist points that are part of CEQA review: aesthetics (24-hour operation creating a new source of substantial light); air quality, greenhouse gasses and odor; hazards and hazardous material; biological resources; hydrology and water quality; noise; transportation and traffic; utilities and service systems; along with cumulative impacts of an increase in growth and development.
    At the end of the critical discussion, Supervisor Terry Swofford asked the council not to lose sight of the fact the state is requiring ever higher diversion rates. “The MRF will help the county and it will help the city to do this.”
    He said he understood the city’s concerns regarding development, but he doubted the state was going to back off on these requirements. The city may end up being fined for noncompliance, Swofford warned the council.
    Murphy responded, “Terry is absolutely right. For years, the city has been under a 50 percent reduction requirement and we’ve never been able to meet it. The best we’re able to do is about a 35 percent reduction and right now we’re averaging 28 percent.”
    He added that in the past two years, new bills have been introduced to change the diversion requirement to 75 percent.
    “The MRF is a very important facility,” Murphy said.
    Larrieu said, “The project itself makes sense, but we want to make sure that it’s done right.”
    Kennedy expressed his concerns, as he has before, about building along Highway 70, with industrial facilities like the MRF visible to passersby. “It’s a scenic highway, but it won’t be a scenic highway much longer, and the MRF isn’t going to help it be a scenic highway, either.”

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