Battle brewing over asphalt plant |

Battle brewing over asphalt plant

A large asphalt plant proposed near the Bear River might start operating even without explicit Placer County approval, said Larry Rhoden, vice president of Teichert Construction.

The Sacramento company needs the asphalt – 280,000 tons in all – to repave Interstate 80 from Colfax to Newcastle. It needs to start in April, Rhoden said.

But operating near the Nevada and Placer county border without a governmental go-ahead would “be an unwise move on their part,” Placer County Principal Planner Bill Combs said.

Combs said the county could “take action to try to (stop) the operation.”

Teichert, however, believes it already has permission, in the form of a 1972 permit. That permit allows for the “permanent location” of an asphalt plant at the Chevreaux Aggregates quarry near Lake Combie.

The permit does not restrict the plant’s hours of operation or limit the amount of asphalt produced.

When Meadow Vista neighbors learned about the proposed plant, they protested, questioning the validity of the 1972 permit, which did not require an environmental study.

“We (would like) a proper and appropriate environmental review,” said Stewart Feldman, a Meadow Vista resident who formed a group called Meadow Vista Protection in response to the proposed plant.

Although only a “handful” of Nevada County residents are involved at this time, the plant could affect residents north of the river, Feldman said.

“If the true nature and scale of this project were understood in Nevada County, they’d be very, very concerned as well,” Feldman said.

Teichert plans to operate a plant – “the cleanest burning plant that you can get,” Rhoden said – capable of producing 400 tons of asphalt per hour. The plant would operate at night, from 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., because Caltrans requires construction to be done at night.

Trucks toting the asphalt would make 128 round trips each night between the freeway and the quarry on Combie and Placer Hills roads. The plant would be in place from April to October this year, Rhoden said.

“Teichert does care about people in the community,” Rhoden said. “We are taking all measures available to us to make sure this is the least inconvenient (to neighbors).”

Teichert crews have already begun assembling the plant at the Chevreaux site and is currently waiting on permits for air and wastewater before beginning operations, Rhoden said.

“We’re confident we’ll get those in a timely fashion,” he said Friday.

But John Finnell, a senior engineer with the Placer County Air Pollution Control District, said the district is waiting for the county to approve of the plant.

“We don’t issue a permit until we’re satisfied that the land use is in compliance,” Finnell said.

Placer County Counsel Anthony La Bouff issued an initial opinion on the matter Feb. 25. He asked for additional information from Chevreaux Aggregates and Teichert Construction about the several asphalt plants that have been operated at the site since 1972.

He concluded the 1972 permit appears to be valid, but the hours of operation and volume of materials produced could bring it into question.

John Dunlap, a spokesman for Chevreaux, said he expects to submit the requested documents within the next few weeks.

Then, the county is expected to provide a final opinion on the issue and could require Teichert to obtain a new permit.

Teichert picked the Meadow Vista location because it does not have the one to two years needed to obtain a permit, Rhoden said.

It originally sought to open a plant in Cool. But that plan was shot down by the El Dorado County Planning Commission in December.

So the 115-year-old company switched to its backup plan – the Chevreaux Aggregates quarry on the Bear River off Combie Road, which is already permitted.

If the Meadow Vista plant proves untenable, Teichert will need to obtain asphalt from plants in Marysville or Sacramento, a more costly alternative, Rhoden said.

Meadow Vista neighbor Feldman thinks the company should try to get asphalt from the valley instead of transporting it through his neighborhood.

He plans to rally even more locals to his cause and is holding a meeting of the group Meadow Vista Protection on Thursday, March 10, at the Faith Lutheran Church at 1115 Combie Road in Meadow Vista.

How is asphalt made?

Asphalt is produced by mixing small, high-quality rocks with a certain type of oil. The rocks are crushed and then put in a mixing drum – in northern Placer County, Teichert Constrction proposes using an insulated mixing drum that is 30 feet long with an eight-foot diameter.

Liquid oil is then added. The liquid blend is placed on a conveyer and then fed into a silo. Trucks pull up by the silo and are filled with the hot liquid.

Teichert Construction Vice President Larry Rhoden said he expects trucks to make about 128 round trips per night if the proposed site along the Bear River is approved.

– Becky Trout

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