Process underway to expand Portola mining operation

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles regarding a planned mine expansion near Portola. Reporter Lauren Westmoreland wrote a history of the mine and current plans, to alert the public to a project in the area and to provide a basis for further reporting.

By Lauren Westmoreland

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In 1989, Plumas County issued a permit for the PTL Trans DG Pit, a sand and gravel operation on the property. This operation is located directly to the west of the City of Portola landfill, within the City of Portola sphere of influence, but is not within city limits.

There is no expiration date for the existing operation, and it is considered a vested mine.

The property then went on to be purchased by TLT Enterprises, LLC, who has proposed that Hat Creek Construction and Materials, Inc. operate Portola Aggregates, (File No. MR 11-20/21-01).

Rebecca Herrin, the Plumas County assistant planning director, explained the permitting process and progress made thus far.

“On Nov. 17, 2020, an application was submitted to the county for a Permit to Mine/Reclamation Plan and Special Use Permit to expand the permitted operation,” Herrin said.

“As mining is a permitted use under the Plumas County zoning code, subject to the issuance of a special use permit, the application was received by the County and is currently being processed by Planning and Building Services.”

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The Permit to Mine/Reclamation plan application is processed to ensure compliance with the California Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975 (SMARA) as well as County code requirements under Title 9, Chapter 5.

“It will also undergo a complete environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA),” Herrin added.

According to the proposal, operations at the site will include extraction, processing (washing and crushing), an asphalt plant and lime treatment.

It is anticipated that the site will be used on a part-time basis where equipment will be moved in for specific projects and removed when complete.

Mined material will be processed using a crusher followed by screening and washing the materials to different sizes. The processed material will become available to the local and regional area for use in general construction projects. The property is 715 acres, and the operation is proposed to be phased, lasting 50 years total.

Herrin noted that most of the material would be used for construction of housing and roads.

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“When there was a local paving project for which the operator received a contract, an asphalt plant would be moved in during the time the paving was occurring,” Herrin explained.

Currently, when there are highway paving projects, asphalt paving materials are hauled in from outside the area. Temporary asphalt plants are sometimes located in industrially zoned areas in the County for paving projects.

Herrin went on to say, “For example, the American Valley Community Services District is expanding its sewage disposal facility and an asphalt batch plant is to be located in Quincy during construction.”

Plumas County currently has 15 permitted aggregate mines. There are four mines operating in the Sierra Valley, and one mine located on Rocky Point road across from the Feather River.

All of these operations are inspected yearly, have required state and local permits, and are in compliance with regulations regarding surface mining, water quality, air quality, hazardous materials, etc., Herrin noted.

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“The CEQA process, mitigation requirements, and project conditions of approval were used to permit these mines in compliance with applicable regulations.”

The proposed project is currently in the review phase, with materials having been sent to local and state agencies for review and comment.

The City of Portola will be involved in the review and comment phase, with a draft comment letter to be provided to the county in response to the request for comments at the Wednesday, Jan. 13 regularly held meeting of City Council at Portola City Hall.

“Once all comments are received, the applicant will be notified if there is any additional information needed,” Herrin said.

“Then the County will determine what type of environmental review document is warranted.  When the document is completed, the public will have a chance to review and comment on the document.”

Once that phase is reached, there would then be a hearing before the Plumas County Zoning Administrator. The meetings of the Zoning Administrator are held on the second Wednesday of the month at 10 a.m. in the Permit Center in Quincy.

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The Zoning Administrator may approve, approve with conditions, or deny the project. All decisions of the Zoning Administrator are appealable to the Board of Supervisors.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available. For more information contact County of Plumas Assistant Planning Director Rebecca Herrin at [email protected]or via phone at 283-6213.