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‘It’s taking time’: Idaho-Maryland Mine’s draft EIR expected to take a few more months

A scale model of the Idaho Maryland Mine — on display at the Northstar Mining Museum — depicts the many miles of tunnels that reach down more than 3,000 feet. Rise Gold wants to reopen the mine, which has led to the creation of a draft Environmental Impact Report that is still a few months away from completion.
Photo: Elias Funez

The countdown for the Idaho-Maryland Mine’s Environmental Impact Report looks similar to the countdown to the pandemic’s end — unclear.

Rise Gold, the company interested in reopening the mine and miles of tunnels beneath Grass Valley, purchased the property in 2017. The company’s CEO estimated in May that the draft EIR would be available around September. However, Nevada County’s senior planner for the project, Matt Kelley, expects the draft to take another few months.

“It’s taking time to put together,” Kelley said, specifically referring to updates to a number of technical studies needed for the document. “Those took time to write and update. We’re back and forth between the applicant, the county and our consultants.”



The EIR, based in the California Environmental Quality Act, functions as a disclosure document, Kelley said.

“The CEQA statute and CEQA guidelines lay out the environmental review process,” said Emily Breslin, deputy director of communications and external affairs in the state’s Office of Planning and Research.



Kelley said all projects — be it an outhouse or a multi-storied apartment complex — require some form of environmental review by law. The review process ends quickly via categorical exemption for smaller projects, Kelley said, but the larger scale developments require real time to investigate intersecting realms of the community.

“In this case, the project requires EIR because one or more impacts would be considered potentially significant, so therefore CEQA would be (enacted),” Kelley said.

According to the public resources code, a “project” is defined as a “whole action” subject to a public agency’s discretionary funding or approval that has the potential to either cause a direct physical change in the environment, or cause a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment.

“’Projects include discretionary activity by a public agency, a private activity that receives any public funding, or activities that involve the public agency’s issuance of a discretionary approval and is not statutorily or categorically exempt from CEQA,” Breslin said.

Kelley said CEQA requires developers to provide an initial study if the tentative project requires a discretionary use permit, like the Idaho-Maryland Mine project, which also entails a rezone and reclamation plan.

CEQA didn’t require the initial study this time, as the county’s Planning Department was able to determine there would be impacts.

“We went right through to the EIR,” Kelley said, adding that the county does not keep records about how long certain kinds of reports generally take to complete.

Brian Foss, director of Nevada County’s Planning Department, said the report is generally funded by the applicant or project proponent. The county charges and collects a fee from the project applicant to prepare environmental documents.

PRIVATE PROPERTY

To community members curious why they cannot vote on a project that uses the public’s water supply and will increase the number of trucks on residential roads, Kelley said generally the public is not asked to vote on privately funded projects.

“There’s no voter initiative with it, and private projects don’t generally go to voter initiatives,” Kelley said. Instead, the developers go through the filing process and in this case, the county Board of Supervisors has the final decision on it.

Kelley said after the draft EIR is submitted, the Planning Commission and the supervisors will have public hearings.

“During that process, there are many opportunities to comment,” Kelley said, disputing claims that the draft EIR is the sole stage in the development process that allows for public input.

“There was public involvement during the scoping portion of the project,” Kelley said, as well as with the project’s Notice of Preparation. “Our NOP — that was one opportunity for the public to determine the scope of the EIR report and what should be studied.”

After the draft is submitted, Foss anticipates a formal comment period of at least 30 days.

“Finally, there are hearings where, ultimately, the decision remains with the Board of Supervisors on whether or not to permit a project,” Foss said. “In addition to the CEQA process, all discretionary land use projects in the county are reviewed in front of at least one hearing body where the public has an opportunity to provide comment before the hearing body makes a decision.”

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at roneil@theunion.com

OPPORTUNITIES FOR PUBLIC COMMENT

1. Project application submitted to the Nevada County Planning Department – COMPLETED

2. Notice of Preparation (NOP) of Environmental Impact Report (EIR) scoping meeting and comment period – COMPLETED

3. County consultant drafts EIR based on submitted technical studies and application documents prepared by the applicant and peer reviews and public comments – IN PROCESS

4. Draft EIR is released for a minimum of a 45-day public and agency comment period as required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

4.a. Public hearing held with the Nevada County Planning Commission to receive verbal public comments on the draft EIR. — PUBLIC COMMENT OFFERED

5. County consultant drafts final EIR which contains responses to all comments received during the public draft EIR public comment period.

6. Final EIR released for public comment period for no less than 10 days.

7. Public hearing(s) with the Nevada County Planning Commission to consider the final EIR and project entitlements. — PUBLIC COMMENT OFFERED

7.a. Nevada County Planning Commission makes a recommendation on the project to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.

8. Public hearing(s) with the Nevada County Board of Supervisors to consider the recommendation of the Planning Commission and all public and agency comments received during the application process. — PUBLIC COMMENT OFFERED

8.a. Nevada County Board of Supervisors makes a final decision on the project.

LEARN MORE

According to Foss, the qualified consultants hired to help draft the EIR “are evaluated for scope, quality, and cost and selected pursuant to the selection procedures in Land Use and Development Code Section L-XIII 1.6)

To learn more about the EIR process, public involvement and issue areas that are required to be addressed, visit http://www.mynevadacounty.com/3194/Environmental-Review-FAQs

The following link is to a CEQA information website and a webinar that was put on by the county earlier this year that explains the EIR process, the public involvement and the issue areas that are required to be addressed in an EIR and other types of CEQA environmental documents. http://www.mynevadacounty.com/3194/Environmental-Review-FAQs

 

The former Idaho-Maryland Mine's concrete silo located off Milsite Road, near the intersection of East Bennett and Brunswick roads.
Photo courtesy Nick Swartzendruber/Eclipse Aerial Solutions


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