Report delves into Idaho-Maryland Mine project
After months of waiting, it’s finally here.
Nevada County staff this week released a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Idaho-Maryland Mine project, stating in a news release that public agencies and the public will be able to give comments on the EIR’s adequacy at a special public meeting before the Nevada County Planning Commission on Feb. 23.
The county has published the draft EIR on its website. According to the release, printed copies of the document are also available for public review at a handful of locations.
Nevada County senior planner Matt Kelley said last year that projects of any scale require some form of environmental review by law, and that the Idaho-Maryland Mine project required an EIR “because one or more impacts would be considered potentially significant, so therefore CEQA would be (enacted).”
A section of CEQA, or the California Environmental Quality Act, charges public agencies “with the duty to avoid or minimize environmental damage where feasible,” according to the draft EIR.
“The basic requirements for an EIR include discussions of the environmental setting, environmental impacts, mitigation measures, alternatives, growth-inducing impacts, and cumulative impacts,” the document states.
The draft EIR was prepared by Sacramento-based firm Raney Planning and Management, and states that its purpose is to be “circulated for public and agency review and comment,” followed by the county’s preparation of a final EIR, which will include responses to these comments. County officials must certify the final EIR prior to making project approval decisions, the document states.
According to the document, after a notice of preparation was circulated from July 17 to Aug. 17, 2020, comment letters were received from over 750 interested parties, including “representatives of public agencies and groups, as well as individual members of the general public,” during that review period. The draft EIR summarizes the concerns brought up in these comment letters — which ranged within 13 areas, including aesthetics; agriculture, forestry, and other resources; air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy; hazards and hazardous materials; and transportation — and subsequently includes a chapter addressing each environmental issue area.
Once it became available, the draft EIR began a 60-day public comment period to end March 4, according to the county’s news release.
Public comments must be received in writing by the county no later than 5 p.m. March 4, the release states, whether in hard copy or by email. These can be mailed to Kelley, or emailed to Idaho.MMEIR@co.nevada.ca.us.
The special meeting before the Nevada County Planning Commission on Feb. 23 to receive comments from public agencies and the public on the adequacy of the draft EIR will begin at 9:30 a.m. and take place in the county’s Board of Supervisors chambers at the Eric Rood Administrative Center, 950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City, according to the release.
RISE GRASS VALLEY RESPONDS
Ben Mossman, president of Rise Grass Valley, wrote in a statement Tuesday that the release of the draft EIR was “a major milestone toward the Board of Supervisors’ formal review and decision on approval of the Idaho-Maryland Mine project.”
“The results of the county’s independent study and analysis of the project speak for themselves; there are no significant impacts to water quality, groundwater, air quality, or the natural environment,” wrote Mossman.
Under each of the 13 included environmental issue areas, the draft EIR presents a number of particular impacts alongside their level of significance prior to mitigation, mitigation measures if applicable, and level of significance after mitigation.
For example, under aesthetics, the potential to “substantially damage scenic resources” was found to be significant prior to mitigation. A number of elements were listed which should be included when the applicant submits a final landscape plan, and that impact’s level of significance after mitigation was categorized as “significant and unavoidable.” Another impact under aesthetics, that the project would “create a new source of substantial light or glare which would adversely affect day or nighttime views in the area,” was found to be “less than significant” prior to mitigation, and no mitigation measures were listed as required.
In the air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and energy category, two impacts — “conflict with or obstruct implementation of the applicable air quality plan” and “expose sensitive receptors to substantial pollutant concentrations” — are categorized as “significant” prior to mitigation, have mitigation measures listed, and are considered “less than significant” after mitigation.
Six impacts in this category are listed as either “less than significant,” or “less than cumulatively considerable” prior to mitigation, with no mitigation measures required, while another — the generation of greenhouse gas emissions that may have a significant impact on the environment — is listed as “cumulatively considerable” prior to listed mitigation measures and “less than cumulatively considerable” afterward.
The draft EIR states that, in addition to the scenic resources impact listed under aesthetics, there are two other impacts which are “significant and unavoidable” regardless of mitigation.
These two are related to a temporary increase in “ambient noise levels” during construction of a potable water line on East Bennett Road — with listed mitigation measures including things like advanced notification to residences and use of the quietest equipment capable of performing the job — and traffic at the intersection of Highway 174 and Brunswick Road.
Under mitigation measures, the draft EIR states that the project applicant “shall enter into a Traffic Mitigation Agreement” with the county regarding the Highway 174/Brunswick Road intersection, requiring the applicant to pay the project’s ”fair share contribution toward the improvements necessary to improve intersection operations to an acceptable level,“ and used the Caltrans methodology for assessing fair share to estimate that the percentage is 14.9%.
“The company believes that the project’s substantial economic and community benefits significantly outweigh the three unavoidable impacts identified in the (draft EIR),” stated a Rise Gold Corp. news release Tuesday.
Rise Grass Valley asked local businesses in December to “encourage the Nevada County Board of Supervisors to approve the project,” sending them a letter including information about the new jobs and local spending which the company expects the mine’s reopening will create.
A number of local organizations, including environmental nonprofits, social justice activists, and river conservation groups, have publicly opposed the proposed reopening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine.
Some organizations have signed a petition formally opposing the mine, including The Sierra Fund, Earth Justice Ministries, the South Yuba River Citizens League, and a range of other local entities.
“This mine is not the best choice for our community,” Melinda Booth, executive director of SYRCL, has said.
Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
To view information released by the Nevada County Planning Department about the Idaho-Maryland Mine project, including the draft EIR, visit:
PRINTED COPY AVAILABLE FOR REVIEW AT:
Nevada County Planning Department, 950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City
Madelyn Helling Library, 980 Helling Way, Nevada City
Grass Valley Library – Royce Branch, 207 Mill St., Grass Valley
Bear River Library, 11130 Magnolia Road, Grass Valley
Doris Foley Library for Historical Research, 211 North Pine St., Nevada City
Penn Valley Library, 11252 Pleasant Valley Road, Penn Valley
Truckee Library, 10031 Levon Ave., Truckee
ADDRESSES FOR PUBLIC COMMENTS:
Senior Planner, Nevada County Planning Department
950 Maidu Ave. Suite 170, Nevada City, CA 95959-7902
Or by email, at Idaho.MMEIR@co.nevada.ca.us
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