This retired capital planner has seen plenty of environmental impact reports in his career, and knows a bad project when he sees one.
This opinion piece was originally published in The Union.
January 19, 2022
Reading the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) is an exercise in blocking out and ignoring how terrible this project is.
The negative impacts this project will have on our community are lengthy, requiring 23 bullets in the DEIR (Chapter 2, 2.5 Areas of Known Controversy, Executive Summary). The consultant goes on to offer mitigations for most of the problems the project causes.
All of the mitigations assume Rise Gold is a willing and responsible participant.
All of the mitigations assume Nevada County can provide the oversight, inspectors, expertise, legal support, and diligence to camp at the Idaho Maryland Mine (IMM) seven days a week, 16 hours a day and enforce the mitigations an approval from Nevada County Board of Supervisors (BOS) would commit to.
If we were talking one, two, or three areas to mitigate maybe we could be successful. Canada, British Columbia governing oversight was not successful and they are on the hook for at least $1.4 million in cleanup costs left behind by a bankrupt mining company lead by Ben Mossman.
To approve the project the BOS would have to ignore current guidelines for building height, rezone the property to allow mineral extraction, and allow underground drilling and blasting in addition to approving a number of other permit issues requiring special handling. Special allowances will be needed for grading and development within the 100-foot setback from riparian areas of perennial watercourses and development within areas of steep slopes that are in excess of 30 percent with high erosion potential.
If this project were located in an isolated desert or remote valley there might be a reasonable discussion how to work with the property owner. That’s not the case. The IMM is located in a pristine residential area with some light industrial businesses operating behind closed doors. Although the property carries the scars from a history of heavy industrial activity, you only need to drive by and look at it to know there is a better future for it if we choose wisely. The cumulative impact of the 23 “Areas Of Known Controversy” (Chapter 2, 2.5, Executive Summary DEIR) scream out this is an impossible project to execute with any reasonable measure of success in the real setting at Brunswick and Bennett Streets.
The proposal has issues with air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, noise, lights, dust, vibration, truck traffic, explosions, extreme power requirements, millions of gallons of mine water pumped daily into the South Fork of Wolf Creek, and radical changes to the local topography and scenic vistas to mention about 50% of the “Areas of Known Controversy”.
I suggest we table this proposal and consider a different use for the IMM property. I presented a different vision in a previous opinion piece. Others have suggested a green waste facility. Let’s add a biopower generation plant to turn our green waste and compostable waste into energy to this idea. Another idea I have heard is a drive-in movie theater and outdoor performance venue.
What are your ideas? Surely there are many good ideas for this amazing piece of property that are consistent with our County General Plan, favorable to Grass Valleys sphere of influence, and doesn’t require zoning amendments, variances and special permits. Let’s consider projects that build on our current economy of tourism, green industry, seniors, and recreation.
Paul Schwartz, Grass Valley Resident