Winslow Rogers: Would you want to live here?
Nevada County is a precious place to live, beloved by its residents. We choose to live here for its natural beauty, its wonderful people, and its vibrant arts and cultural community.
At the same time, we know that we live in a fragile ecosystem, with constant threats to our air and water quality, and to our lives and property with the increasing likelihood of wildfire. Our air quality has gotten worse over the last few years, making us even farther from meeting the county General Plan’s goal to “attain, maintain, and ensure high air quality.”
Local government and other agencies are strapped for funds and barely able to provide the services we need from them. We have a large elderly population with their special needs, especially for medical care. Unemployment and homelessness are facts of life in our community. Many city and county roads are substandard. The ultimate damage to the local economy from COVID-19 can’t yet be determined.
How does a proposal for a gold mine in our community look in this context? Here are some observations I have drawn from the mine proposal and from recently-filed comments by other citizens. I will confine myself to (1) air and water pollution, (2) roads and noise pollution, and (3) tourism and the arts.
The county’s General Plan is a covenant that we have made with one another, a framework for what our community is and should be. Minor changes in the plan have been approved for construction projects in the past. However, to rezone a Light Industrial zone bordering a Residential zone to a large Mineral Extraction zone would be a grotesque violation of that trust. It would directly violate the General Plan’s commitment to improving air quality. That’s not who we are, friends.
There would be inevitable damage to our air and water quality from a mine, especially in the Brunswick Basin area. The level of damage can’t be quantified in advance, given the limitations of current testing methods. We would only learn the actual damage after a mine were operational, and perhaps only long after that. Since our air quality is in decline, any project that guaranteed an increase in water and air pollution should be dismissed out of hand .
I have mentioned our substandard city and county roads. The proposed plan for transporting heavy materials to and from the mine site daily in large trucks shows no concern for the impact of heavy trucks on the roads, their noise, and the transportation needs of ordinary citizens. Fair compensation and regular payments for road maintenance would have to be built into any agreement. But what would compensate us for this damage to our quality of life? This is to say nothing about the noise from the mine itself, not just the trucks that supply it.
One example: tanker trucks would daily transport large supplies of heavy diesel fuel from Colfax to the mine site, and return. Over Highway 174? Really? Has anyone involved in the proposal actually driven the hairpin turns from the Placer County side of Wolf Creek up the hill to Colfax? How would you like to maneuver the turns with a large truck bearing down on you? How about after dark? Placer County and Caltrans would need to approve this proposed use of the highway. Widening the road to make it safe for large trucks would destroy the beauty of the highway, and would send the message that a lovely corner of our community had been destroyed to serve a rapacious commercial interest.
People who have the choice might not stay in Nevada County. Property values throughout the county might fall, not just those adjacent to the mine site.
Would the regular influx of new residents and tourists into our county continue? They support our tourism industry, restaurants, and other local businesses. I believe that the music and arts organizations that enrich the community might be hidden casualties of a mine.
Would you want to live here?
Winslow Rogers lives in Grass Valley.
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