Grist Creek Open Pit Gravel Mine

On April 21, 2011 over fifty Round Valley residents made the trek down to Ukiah to appear at 9am to speak before the Planning Commission against the Planning Department Staff recommendation that the Grist Creek Open Pit Mining Project proceed without an EIR (Environmental Impact Report).

They patiently waited for over two hours to be heard, and then proceeded to provide hours of public testimony before the Commissioners, citing their concerns that the impacts of this project had not been thoroughly addressed in the materials supplied in Mr. Hurt’s application, and that too many issues of importance to The Round Valley community had been glossed over with inadequate “mitigations” or completely ignored.

Despite this effort, and the submission of thirty letters of concern and a petition with over 100 signatures requesting an EIR, the Planning Commissioners chose to violate CEQA guidelines, and voted not to require a full, complete and objective EIR prior to the permitting process.

An appeal to the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors has been filed by the Stewards of the Grist Creek Watershed, Friends of Grist Creek and Friends of the Eel River to challenge this decision and remind the Board of Supervisors of their obligation under CEQA to require an Environmental Impact Report, whenever there is significant community concern.

Areas of insufficiency and concern include:

• Impact of twenty years of 4.5 trucks per hour loaded with 80,000 lbs of gravel on the stability of the roadbed of the Covelo Road. This is our only all-weather access in and out of the valley, and is already under constant repair from the weight of the traffic it currently bears. A complete evaluation needs to be done by a qualified road engineer, as well as a traffic study.
• Impact of increased dust levels on surrounding neighbors and general air quality in Round Valley. Will increased silica in the air cause deadly lung disease, as it has in other areas? The “Dust-Off” mitigation currently proposed does not take into account the constant re-grading of service roads that will be required due to the weight of the trucks and heavy equipment using those roads, nor the dust created by heavy equipment and trucks operating in the open mining pit itself. A thorough study needs to be done by a qualified Air Quality expert, identifying all particulates produced by the operation and their impacts on air quality in the surrounding area, along with an assessment by Pulmonary Experts as to the impacts these increased particulate loads will have on the health and well-being of those forced to breathe that air, over the next 20 years.
• Impact of increased noise levels in an area zoned Agricultural Preserve. A noise study needs to be done by a qualified sound engineer, duplicating the cacophony created when all equipment is operational – mining equipment, hauling equipment, generators, rock crushing equipment, screening equipment, sand screw, etc – measuring noise levels at adjacent and nearby homes that residents will have to endure for the next 20 years, six days a week.
• Impact on local aquifer and water quality. These pits will ultimately hold over 600 acre feet of water – that’s enough to supply 2,400 households with water for one year, over twice the number of households (all with private wells) on the valley floor. Will this diversion of water cause our household wells to run dry? Will it cause Grist Creek to run underground, losing valuable surface water necessary for fish migration to spawning grounds? Will the storage of CalTrans road spoils on the site over the next 20 years ultimately pollute our entire aquifer? A thorough study by a qualified hydrologist needs to be completed to address these concerns and others raised by our local Water District Board.
• Impact on surrounding Agricultural Preserve parcels protected under the Williamson Act. Will 40 truck trips/day and noise and dust created by the rock crushing facility have an impact on neighboring cow/calf operations and horse breeding facilities? What about wildlife? Should these parcels used for an industrial scale mining operation and an industrial scale rock crushing plant continue to enjoy Williamson Act tax breaks, when they are so obviously out of place within a true Agricultural Preserve?

If you agree that these potential impacts are of concern, there are two ways you can help support the efforts of the citizens and friends of Round Valley at this time: 1) Check out the available information at our website <www.gristcreek.com> and sign the petition to the Board of Supervisors at the link you find there 2) After you’re done, if you’d like to contribute to our efforts you can use the Paypal link on our website and donate to Stewards of Grist Creek Watershed.

Please also direct your friends to our website and continue to stay updated on the Appeal Process as it unfolds….

With sincere thanks,

The Stewards of the Grist Creek Watershed