Last Week’s Coast Transfer Station Meeting

by John Fremont, June 22, 2016

It was not a contentious meeting. No punches, no curses. Sweeney [County trash administrator] read the EIR revisions out loud at a special FB City Council meeting attended by four councilors, three Supervisors and a few dozen residents of Road 409 and Highway 20, site of the proposed $5 million transfer station. The major revision EIR authorized the removal and replanting of selected pygmy, which is ludicrous on its face.

Here's what I had to say to Mr. Sweeney and the attending authorities:

The proposed transfer station on Highway 20 threatens the habitat of the pygmy forest and its denizens and will have a negative impact on the Summers Lane reservoir and downstream properties.

I am particularly concerned with what is not addressed in the new EIR, namely the future of waste management here and elsewhere. Communities will one day be charged with taking responsibility for their own garbage in order to preserve the environment, reduce the carbon footprint, and conserve resources.

A cogeneration plant can provide electricity while burning our trash, and waste management authorities should look into acquiring cost-effective burners, now or in the near future. Controlling our own trash will create jobs that can be paid for by the bottles and cans and electronics we recycle. Presently, we have little control over how much we pay to have our trash hauled or the tipping fee charged self-haulers. A new dump will be paid for by the people in the form of increased taxes or fees, despite the pretense that the dump’s operator will absorb the cost of construction without raising disposal rates.

Expanding the transfer station on Pudding Creek is a better alternative than building a new one on Highway 20. The residents of Road 409 have spoken out about the stench, traffic problems, litter, air and water pollution, and other environmental hazards, and they demand that the joint powers close their station. The same problems will force the early closure of the five-million-dollar boondoggle on Highway 20, and there are even more environmental hazards along the way should the operation proceed.

To assert, as Mr. Sweeney has repeatedly done, that the stench of garbage would be eliminated by fully-enclosed trailers and sweetened with perfume, ignores our olfactory senses and the repugnance many people feel about dealing with stink by sweetening it. Moreover, self-haulers will not be required to perfume their loads.

The proposed acreage on Highway 20 is presently pristine pygmy with rare and endangered plants and nesting birds. There are some 2000 acres of pygmy in the world, most of it in California. We cannot replace our pygmy forest once the land is bulldozed, and hoping the transplants hold won't suffice.

The potential threat to life and limb due to the proximity of the helicopter pad adjacent to the proposed station is unmitigated. The helipad saves lives when the local hospital is mired in fog and landing there is prohibited. The helipad is also used by CDF in times of forest fire or other emergencies. Fatalities may occur if helicopters cannot land or take off because of accidents or spills on the ground.

Fort Bragg’s economy is based on a thriving tourist trade. With the addition of several large trucks a day and heavy construction, Highway 20 may experience logjams and vehicular accidents that will keep tourists away. Self-haulers will litter the highway, undetected by local police but evident to drivers trying to avoid the litter while cruising at or around the posted speed limit of 55 mph.

While Mr. Sweeney claims no water will be leached into the ground, cleanup and restroom effluent will undoubtedly infiltrate, poisoning local wells and the aforementioned reservoir that the city is building less than two miles downstream from the proposed plant.

In order to assess the impact of constructing and operating this plant, many tests must be undertaken. For example, a soils report by a geotechnical engineer based on a minimum of fifteen-foot borings at various locations on site should be undertaken. If the soil is sandy clay with a caliche base at, say, twelve feet, drainage can be sent downhill and the city’s water poisoned.

There are better solutions to our garbage problems. What failed to appease the residents of 409 is not going to please residents and travelers along Highway 20.

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