Expansion plans may drive Matson Creek underground | TheUnion.com

Expansion plans may drive Matson Creek underground

Containing creeks in tunnels and pipes isn’t a new idea in Grass Valley; it is primarily a relic of the past.

Now, however, two new developments propose burying or retaining underground stretches of Matson Creek.

Matson Creek is already underground on land for Sierra Terrace – a 27-residence development proposed for four acres on West Berryhill Drive. Developers SCO Planning & Engineering plan to keep the creek underground on the property.

A bit upstream, however, Jim Moule plans to encase about 150 feet of the creek – described by city staffers as “relatively a free flowing stream with a small waterfall” – in order to expand his paint and glass business.

Matson Creek’s relative anonymity is not surprising – most of it runs underground east of East Main Street and didn’t even make it onto the maps in Grass Valley’s 1999 General Plan.

Named for an old Grass Valley family that operated the Matson Mill, the creek was covered in the 1970s when the stretch of businesses along the east side of East Main Street were developed, according to Councilwoman Dee Mautino and Director of Public Works Rudi Golnik.

Placing a creek in a pipe is not difficult but it requires obtaining permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board and the city of Grass Valley, said Keoni Allen, a builder with Sierra Foothills Construction. Moule will also have to acquire at least 4,000 square feet of wetlands to compensate, Allen said.

The city does not have a policy against encasing creeks, but Golnik said the city “(tries) to avoid it at every possible opportunity.”

Encasing Matson Creek is unavoidable, Allen said. Moule plans to build a 13,500-square-foot building to expand his business at 627 East Main St.

Moule plans to replace a weedy lot dominated by a cracked concrete slab with a brick and block metal-roofed building that has “a lot of nice architectural details” and a large landscaped area, Allen said.

The actual building will not be over the creek, Allen said. He pointed out that encasing the creek will make it safer and less vulnerable to pollution.

Not all Grass Valley residents are likely to view the project the same way.

Jonathan Keehn, a member of Wolf Creek Alliance, said he hopes planners can develop a “more creative solution.”

Keehn said there are “thousands” of reasons to retain the creek in its natural state. Free-flowing creeks resist flooding, provide habitat for fish and wetland critters, and they’re attractive, Keehn said.

“In the last 30 years since the freeway was built, a lot of the creeks have been somewhat neglected,” Keehn said. “Part of our mission is to reverse that trend.”

The Planning Commission will review the proposed Moule Paint & Glass project Aug. 17.

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