Imagine taking a 5-acre piece of hillside in a watershed surrounding Humboldt Bay, removing all of the trees and topsoil down to bare dirt and rock, expos­ing it to year after year of winter rains, and then expecting downstream neighbors and Humboldt County residents to believe “it’ll be fine.”

That’s what the county supervisors and the Schnei­der quarry operators are ask­ing us to do.


A Board of Supervisors appeal hearing on a Bayside quarry’s reclamation plan included cross-allegations of hypocrisy and misrepresentation but was ultimately punted due to the lack of a liability waiver agreement.

The reclamation plan for the two-acre Halvorsen Quarry in Bayside continues to elude definitive approval and was tripped up again in the 11th hour of the Dec. 10 supervisors hearing.


After extensive argumentation on a myriad of legal issues, supervisors were told that a boilerplate agreement releasing the county from legal liability following approval of the quarry plan has not been secured.


The reclamation plan extends to 2025 and outlines how the quarry area will be restored if mining operations cease. It was approved by the county’s Planning Commission earlier this year and that decision was appealed by Darren Mireau, the North Coast manager for CalTrout, and Humboldt Baykeeper.


During the hearing, there was lengthy debate over whether the plan is subject to the appeal’s demands for water quality monitoring of Rocky Gulch Creek and other habitat-related concerns.


Dave Schneider, whose son operates the quarry, said the appeal issues are not applicable to reclamation and told supervisors the plan is being challenged because appellant Mireau owns a subdivision nearby and is bothered by its operations.


“They subdivided the property, filled in a couple acres of wetlands, built some homes in the buffer zone and now they’re concerned about this quarry,” said Schneider. “I mean, holy smokes, a bald eagle is building its nest up in the tree and it doesn’t bother the bald eagle who’s come in subsequent to this – I wish these people had not built their nests there too.”


Schneider added that the state’s Surface Mining and Reclamation Act sets requirements for post-mining restoration and the appeal’s arguments are not relevant to them. But Mireau, whose appeal is joined by Humboldt Baykeeper, said California environmental and water quality laws are also applicable.


Mireau noted that county staff has recommended some revised conditions of approval in response to the appeal. He also said that an industrial use permit and a stormwater pollution prevention plan are mandatory but absent.


Those permits apply to commercial use and the quarry owners claim to be using mined aggregate for personal use on private roads. Jen Kalt of Humboldt Baykeeper said there is evidence that the quarry is supplying the commercial market and a debate about it ensued.


After the hearing drifted into peripheral issues, a majority of supervisors seemed ready to deny the appeal without the staff’s revisions. They were about to vote when Supervisor Mark Lovelace interjected.


Lovelace asked for evidence to support the board majority’s rejection of the staff-recommended revisions. County legal staff offered some explanations which Lovelace questioned, but it was all rendered moot with a revelation that appeared to take supervisors by surprise.


County Counsel Davina Smith told supervisors that planning staff had “just informed” her that Schneider had not signed and returned a requested indemnification agreement. She said the hearing could be continued and denial of the appeal could return at a future meeting as a consent agenda item once the agreement is in place.


But the pact’s emergence is in doubt. “I don’t think we intend on signing it,” Schneider said. “I don’t think it’s customary, you don’t have 109 indemnification agreements for these reclamation plans, do you?”


“For discretionary items, it is recommended,” said Smith.


“We pay these folks to make a decision, we want them to make a decision and we want them to stand behind it,” Schneider said.


Smith said supervisors could approve the plan without the liability waiver but if there is a subsequent lawsuit, the county would have to pay for the defense or revisit the appeal denial.


Asked if he wanted to withdraw his motion to deny the appeal, Supervisor Rex Bohn said he had no choice but to do so “since the rules of the game keep changing.”


Supervisors voted to continue the hearing to early January and to have staff return with information supporting outright denial of the appeal. Lovelace voted against the continuance, saying he does not agree with directing staff to support the denial.


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Local environmental nonprofit Humboldt Baykeeper, which has fallen on tough times financially this year, has found a new home inside "The Link" office building in Arcata (formerly home to Yakima). As the logo collage above attests, The Link has become a hip HQ for local leftie causes and small businesses.

Here's the press release:


Effective Jan. 1, 2014, Humboldt Baykeeper will be joining our colleagues at the Link in Arcata:
1385 Eighth Street, Suite 228, Arcata, CA 95521 (in the old Yakima Building)

Stay tuned for 2014 to ring in change and opportunity as we restructure and refocus on the essential work of protecting Humboldt Bay!

Thanks to the Northcoast Environmental Center, Friends of the Eel River, Arcata Technology Center Partners, and individual donors who made this move possible.

If you've already donated to our annual fund appeal, thank you for your support to work on upcoming issues, including:

Dec. 31 - Jan. 2: King Tide Photo Initiative, a volunteer effort to document the highest tide of the year in areas at risk from sea level rise;

Jan. 6 - Appeal of the Halvorsen quarry permit on Rocky Gulch, a coho-bearing stream in the Indianola area;

Billboard removal on the 101 Corridor between Arcata and Eureka; and many other issues affecting Humboldt Bay and its tributaries.

Thanks to our many supporters and volunteers — we couldn't do it without you!

Jennifer Kalt, Policy Director
Humboldt Baykeeper

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The Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday to delay a vote on an appeal of the proposed Halvorsen Quarry Reclamation Plan until Jan. 6 and directed staff to gather more information on several issues.


The appeal made by California Trout North Coast manager Darren Mierau and Humboldt Baykeeper in May requested that the plan require a complete erosion and sediment strategy, publicly available independent water testing in Rocky Creek, documentation of appropriated water permits, specified protections for bald eagles and revisions to the plan's Mitigated Negative Declaration.


A staff report from the Planning and Building Department's Planning Division recommended that the board approve the request to include an erosion [sic] independent water testing, but reject the other three.


First District Supervisor Rex Bohn made a motion to deny the appeal in its entirety, but withdrew it after other supervisors expressed the need for more information.


Though some of the appeal's recommendations were left out, Mierau said the plan has “dramatically improved.”


Humboldt Baykeeper policy director Jennifer Kalt said the requests are not an effort to shut down the quarry.


”We're trying to ensure that the proper permits are in place and the proper steps are taken,” she said.


The reclamation plan for the quarry states that it has been mined intermittently since the 1940s, with future phases including the stripping of topsoil, drilling exposed rock and blasting. All surface water in the quarry is diverted to a series of settlement ponds that capture sediment and debris run-off.


Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace said that the meeting was “clouded” with information that was irrelevant to the issue.


”I didn't hear any different evidence as to why we should deny those recommendations made by the staff,” Lovelace said.


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The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will hold a public hearing on appeals made by local environmental groups to county staff's approval of the proposed Halvorsen Quarry Reclamation Plan.


According to a county report, Planning and Building Department staff recommend that the board reject three of five appeals that were made by Humboldt Baykeeper and California Trout following the plan's approval by the county Planning Commission in a 6-1 vote in May.


”We believe the plan is not adequate to protect the coho salmon habitat in the stream,” Humboldt Baykeeper Policy Director Jennifer Kalt said.


The Halvorsen Quarry, currently owned by Eureka business Ryan Schneider Construction, is located along Rocky Creek Road near Bayside. According to the proposed plan, the site has been mined intermittently since at least the 1940s, and future phases include stripping topsoil, drilling exposed rock and blasting. All surface water is diverted to a series of settlement ponds that capture sediment and debris run-off.


The appeals request that the plan include a complete erosion and sediment strategy, publicly available independent water testing in Rocky Creek, documentation of appropriated water permits, specified protections for bald eagles and revisions to the Mitigated Negative Declaration.


”We're not trying to shut down the quarry,” Kalt said. “The rock from the quarry can be used to reinforce dirt roads which prevents other sediment from getting into streams.”


While staff recommend that the board approve the request to include an erosion strategy and independent water testing, a county report states that documentation of water quality permits and protections for threatened or endangered birds have been included in the county's revised Conditions of Approval. It also states that staff recommend denying the appeal to revise the Mitigated Negative Declaration because ,”no new significant impacts have been identified.”


The groups argue the Mitigated Negative Declaration -- a legal statement that no significant effects on the environment will occur -- cannot be certified because it does not account for mitigating impacts to water quality.


County staff argue that impacts would normally be mitigated by a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan, but one is not required in this case because the mine is operated for personal use, not commercial.


At the Oct. 1 public hearing, county counsel and planning staff asked for more time to review information sent by the North Coast Regional Water Control Board less than a day before, saying they would need a minimum of two weeks to look it over.


The board voted to continue the hearing, but set a deadline of Oct. 31 for parties to submit any more information.


In a letter dated Nov. 20, the Humboldt Baykeeper Executive Director Jessica Hall and California Trout North Coast Manager Darren Mierau state that Schneider is making commercial sales.


Kalt said Bayside residents photographed trucks from Arcata's Alves Inc. entering and leaving the quarry on Nov. 1 and Nov. 4. The photographs were forwarded to the county with the letter.


According to a supplemental information packet attached to the board's online agenda, Ryan Schneider responded to the letter via email on Nov. 21. On Nov. 25, the county Planning Division sent a letter requesting a formal response, which was received a day later.


The email, the county letter and response were not made available online by the Times-Standard deadline.


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