Editor’s note: This letter was sent to the Plumas County Planning Department and the Plumas County Supervisors regarding a mine permit under consideration.
By Dave and Pandora Valle
Re: Proposed TLT Enterprise Hat Creek Construction Mine Permit, Eastern Plumas County
We strongly urge you NOT to approve the use permit for the Portola Aggregate site in Eastern Plumas County for the proposed sand, gravel mine, and lime and asphalt production facility proposed November 2020 by TLT Enterprises and operated by Hat Creek Construction company.
According to our calculations at least 220 residential and commercial properties are within one mile of the proposed operation. Twenty-two residences or properties are directly adjacent to the proposed mine (Mining and Reclamation Plan (MNR), Nov. 2020, p5). Most troubling is that such a large mining facility, located in such close proximity to residential neighbors cannot be adequately safe, nor pleasant, and such a facility would be a detriment to the health and economic stability of the community. Our major concerns are as follows:
- 1) The noise pollution would be substantial and detrimental to the health and well-being of the neighboring residents. The noise generated by blasting, crushing and grinding rock; and the noise of heavy equipment to remove and transport material, all generate significant noise levels (excess of 88 dBA at 200 ft from rock crusher alone, MNR Table 4-2, p20). Uncomfortable noise levels for miles may result both day and night under the proposed operational hours (5 days/week 12 hours per day; plus for 60 days a 24 hour operation; MNR Sect. 3.9 p12). The mining plan as submitted offers minimal noise relief and with ambiguous assurances that “other measures that could be used to mitigate for noise could include . . .” (MNR Sect. 4.3.9 p19). State and federal laws recognize residential noise as a health threat, and direct local agencies, such as counties, to minimize such (CA Noise Control Act, US Quiet Communities Act). California Health and Safety Code 46000 (f) states, “All Californians are entitled to a peaceful and quiet environment without the intrusion of noise which may be hazardous to their health or welfare.”
- 2) Increased air pollution from particulate matter is inevitable from the dust of the rock extraction, blasting, grinding and the truck transportation. The minimal dust control proposed by the company by just spraying water on roads is woefully inadequate (MNR Sect. 4.3.9 p19).Already local and state air quality officials have recorded increased, unhealthy particulate matter in the Portola area that exceed air quality standards. Such a mining operation would only add to an existing air quality problem. In addition, the air pollution potential from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the asphalt facility and diesel burning machinery and trucks, will further degrade the Portola area air quality. Why are VOCs ignored in the plan?Furthermore, there is no operational plan included for the proposed asphalt plant.
- 3) The potential for damage to aquifers for which numerous homeowners depend is substantial. The required water pumped from the aquifer for washing rock, and used for lime and asphalt production may cause a significant drawdown of the aquifer affecting neighboring residential wells. As proposed the mine will use 50,000 gallons per day (MNR Sect 3.6.2, p10). No site studies have been done to test the recharge rate for aquifer withdrawals at this level, or the effect on neighboring residential wells.Furthermore, the potential of residential aquifer contamination from seepage from holding ponds, leachate from asphalt fractions and mine tailing waste is of concern. Such seepage damage may extend to the Feather River which historically and currently is of concern from the neighboring old city dump. Heavy monitoring is now occurring to monitor for any seepage of leachate into the river from the decommissioned dump. Will extensive monitoring be required of the new mine?
- 4) Because of the threats mentioned above, property values near the mine will plummet affecting real estate sales, development and the borrowing capacity of property owners. All affecting the economic vitality of the Portola area.
- 5) We question whether the state and the Plumas County Planning Department are funded and staffed adequately to monitor, regulate, litigate and enforce remediation on such a facility for safe, long-term operation of over 50 years.Particularly, is the County equipped to monitor air and water quality; wind erosion from stockpiles of overburden; and the promised mulching and seeding to stabilize slopes; plus monitoring the proposed (and inadequate) 3-year reclamation plan. Monitoring runoff from the aggregate washing is also a huge area of concern especially for the residential neighbors downslope of the mine site. So, from a regulatory aspect, is the County confident that monitoring and enforcement will be thorough, consistent and long-term?
The bottom line is that such a large mining operation should not be located next to a residential area.Would you want the noise, the disturbance and the environmental threats in your neighborhood? The precautionary approach should be heeded before the county approves any such plan regardless of any desire to increase local job prospects or county tax revenue. Otherwise, the County may end up being complicit in the degradation of the health, comfort and economy of the Portola area. The County may incur costly litigation as a result.
Please read the operation plan for the mine and recognize the residential threats and inadequate protections offered.
We ask you respectfully, please don’t allow the Hat Creek Construction mining operation in our neighborhood. We also ask that you keep us informed of any public hearings, meetings or presentations regarding this and any mine proposal for this site. For more information, go to https://www.saveeasternplumas.com
Dave & Pandora Valle