Well owners and community organizations urged the Nevada County Board of Supervisors (BOS) to implement better safegaurds to protect residents’ domestic wells at Tuesday’s regular board meeting.
Members of the Wells Coalition spoke about the need for baseline data required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) before Rise Gold Corporation’s proposed reopening of the Idaho-Maryland mine continues.
“It is imperative that we have a process in place to gather baseline data for our wells before there is any further movement on this proposal. We could, literally, be facing life altering consequences and complete financial ruin without it…Without water, my property is worthless,” Tony Lauria from Grass Valley said.
“We are confident that the county and its independent consultants will prepare a thorough final EIR to address all the comments submitted by the Nevada County community. We look forward to its release and a vote by the Board of Supervisors,“ Jarryd Gonzales, spokesperson, Rise Gold Corp. said in an email interview.
Rise Gold Corp. is applying to re-open the mine where the above ground properties sit on the edge of Grass Valley’s city limits; however the company also purchased underground mineral rights covering over 2,500 acres in the same area. “Rise proposes pumping over a million gallons of water daily to dewater the mine. Residents are concerned that dewatering risks impacting hundreds of wells in the area,” according to a press release from Wells Coalition.
In 1996 when past mining operations at the Idaho-Maryland mine occurred, a conditional use permit was granted by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors to dewater the mine for exploration. Extensive preparatory work was required to assure that local residences would be able to get potable water immediately if a well problem was detected. Over 100 well monitoring sites were to be established during that time.
“In 1995 Siskon Gold operated a gold mine in the North Columbia Diggins on the San Juan Ridge. During the mining operations they breached a water bearing fault-line 300 feet underground. This breach led to water quality and quantity impacts to at least a dozen wells …Some wells may have lost 50% capacity or had arsenic levels rise above drinking water standards,” Sol Henson, consultant to the Wells Coalition told the BOS. Henson holds a master’s degree in hydrology.
Well owners are concerned that without baseline monitoring for projects such as the Idaho-Maryland mine, well owners would have no recourse to prove the impact of the mining on their well if water levels drop or if water is contaminated.
The Wells Coalition urged the supervisors to initiate a comprehensive domestic well monitoring program for a minimum of three years and to include the baseline data in a revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIR) prior to any dewatering of the mine.
“Gravity! Nothing can stop it from drawing down water to its lowest point,” Tony Lauria told the BOS.
Comments on the Draft EIR are currently being reviewed by Nevada County. The Board of Supervisors could vote on the proposal in early 2023.
“We were deeply grateful to Sue Hoeck for extending the time to allow these comments [at Tuesday’s Board meeting] and those of other impacted well owners who added their voice to the effort,” Chisty Hubbard from the Wells Coalition said in reference to Chair Sue Hoek, District V extending the public comment time on the agenda so all present could be heard.
The Union reached out to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors for comment, but received none as of press time.
A webinar with Robert D Niehaus Inc’s Ian Monsma is scheduled to be held on Dec. 15 at 6:00 p.m. and will include an overview of the purpose and findings of the 90-page report followed by questions and answers. Attendees should submit questions in advance online.
The webinar is titled “Report on the Economic Impact of the Proposed Idaho- Maryland Mine Project” with Ian Monsma, Senior Economist, Robert D. Niehaus, Inc. leading the discussion
The zoom webinar, accessible at: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89957351191?pwd=SDBZb2pnbVc0Q3pLYk9qc0VMaTVldz09.
Find the independent report, “Economic Impact of the Proposed Idaho-Maryland Mine Project,” at www.NevadaCountyCA.gov/IMMEconomicReport.
To contact Staff Writer Marianne Boll-See, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4256.