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John Vaughan: Alternatives not considered

A Grass Valley resident discusses various alternatives for the site which were dismissed from the mine report as "not feasible". He concludes that a business and industrial center would be vastly preferable, for which the site is currently zoned.

This opinion piece was originally published in The Union.


I have many concerns with the draft environmental impact report on the proposal to reopen the Idaho-Maryland Mine. One that stands out is the lack of inclusion and review of the already approved (Ordinance 1853, February 1994) Nevada County business and industrial center alternative, which with existing zoning could include a 54,000-square-foot business park, 242,000 square feet for service business/light manufacturing and 238,000 square feet for Industrial uses (DEIR pages 6-11/12).

The draft report’s Chapter 6 “No Project” section discussing “Alternatives Considered but Dismissed from Further Analysis” (pages 6-8) is incorrect and incomplete. Analysis of the currently permitted alternative notes examples of negative impacts that are extremely unlikely to occur in the real world.

In the summary section for the business and industrial center alternative (pg6-13), the draft report concludes a negative impact and rejects this option assuming noise, traffic, aesthetics and air quality would be the same or worse for this alternative vs. reopening the gold mine. Unlike the Rise Gold project, in virtually all cases for the types of businesses that would actually locate there (using existing zoning) the traffic and noise would be daytime, mostly weekdays, not 24/7, comprised largely of passenger cars and small trucks. Diesel truck traffic would be substantially less than the 236 trips a day for the Rise Gold project (page 4.12-34).

The impact report identifies distribution facilities, auto dismantling yards and planing mills as examples of business that would “cause substantial noise, traffic, aesthetic and air quality impact.”

While these business types are permitted under existing zoning, the likelihood of such ventures at this location is extremely low. They require easy access to major freeways like Interstate 80 and therefore are not realistic for this site. In the case of large 24/7 distribution facilities, anything further than 10 to 15 minutes from a major freeway is not feasible and 238,000 square feet is far too small. Even if you attracted a distribution facility tenant, 238,000 square feet would not support enough loading docks to create the same diesel truck traffic as the Rise Gold mine.

Additionally, for distribution facilities and other permitted businesses, at the scale available at this site, the semi-truck traffic would be limited to weekday or daytime use as small to mid-size facilities are unlikely to operate 24/7.

The draft report also notes that “milling and planing facilities would potentially create noise similar or greater to the proposed project.” Frankly, that’s hard to believe as there was a saw mill/ planing mill at that site for decades and there is already a planing mill on East Bennett Road.

Regarding air quality and traffic: The impact on air quality would be reduced with business and industrial center tenants reflecting what would happen in the real world vs. the unrealistic scenarios in the draft impact report. The report suggests that car and truck traffic to and from a business and industrial center would generate the same pollution as projected traffic to and from the proposed mine, which includes 236 semi-truck trips/day.

Each diesel semi-truck emits as much pollution as 150 cars ( Producing the same emissions as 236 diesel trips a day day requires 35,400 trips a day from cars and light trucks, an unlikely scenario for businesses that might actually occupy the business and industrial center.

Regarding aesthetics: Given the site is already zoned for the buildings and businesses noted, aesthetic issues could be easily mitigated and included in a proposal for development of all or part of the business and industrial center.

Virtually all of the businesses listed in “Examples of Permitted Uses” (pages 6-12/13) already exist or have existed in Nevada County without hundreds of local residents protesting about potential traffic, noise, water usage or pollution. It seems like a reasonable model to follow to do more of what we already know how to do without changing the nature of our community for the next 80 years.

I believe many of the people who oppose this mine would support a “No Project” alternative with the business and industrial center as the best outcome.

Assigning a “not feasible” label to the business and industrial center alternative using unrealistic assumptions makes it appear the impact report authors have not done their homework.

I’m not saying that the business and industrial center should be built now (or ever). That’s not my decision. But to reject this alternative without a detailed review using real world scenarios and real world outcomes makes no sense.

Rise Gold’s advertising postcard claims the “science is clear.” That’s debatable. What is clear is this is the wrong project for Nevada County.

John Vaughn has been a resident of Nevada County since 1967. His water is served by a well approximately 100 yards from the southwest edge of the Rise Gold mineral rights area.


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