Mad River Union
MANILA – The county’s Planning Director has responded to complaints about the Friends of the Dunes (FOD) invasive grass removal and restoration work in Manila, saying that loss of foredune and wetland impacts are not occurring on the group’s property.
Planning Director John Ford updated the group’s permitting status at the Planning Commission’s March 21 meeting. At issue is FOD’s permit compliance and its request to expand permitting to trail access and restoration work on a newly-acquired 3.6-acre property south of its Humboldt Coastal Nature Center in Manila.
Ford told commissioners that although FOD has been late in filing monitoring reports and didn’t hire a restoration manager as required, those situations have been corrected and the group has not been “doing anything in violation of their permit.”
The commission had asked for the update after criticism emerged during public comment sessions of previous meetings. At last week’s meeting, Uri Driscoll, one of the most active commenters, said FOD has violated its permit “on numerous fronts.”
He said Ford acknowledged wetland impacts by sending the group a letter directing it to “reduce sand mobilization into wetlands.”
Driscoll also referenced a letter sent to the county last July from Eureka attorney Allison Jackson which called for a more thorough environmental impact analysis.
“This project, if it’s to continue, should go through a brand new permitting process,” he said.
But in his update presentation, Ford said that “one of the things that got very, very confusing” with regard to the criticism is that “a lot of the information that was presented was relevant to state or federal property.”
An exposed water line and areas where foredune has been washed away are not on FOD property, he told commissioners, and the group has been “operating very much in compliance with their permit.”
The permit “allowed them to remove vegetation in a checkerboard pattern and to never do it in a manner that resulted in decimation of the foredune,” he said. “And if you go out there, the only area that actually still has a foredune is FOD’s property.”
He added, “Are there things that have happened that caused sand to blow in other places, and sand to blow into wetlands – yes. Is that on (FOD) property? No.”
Ford said the permit expansion request has spurred a collaborative evaluation of the existing environmental review, and the group “has been out to meet with neighbors.”
The county will also hold a “public meeting” before the expansion request returns to the commission for review.
Segmenting rezones: No one spoke during the public comment session of the meeting’s hearing on General Plan rezoning because the commission didn’t get to the matters they wanted to talk about – a situation that will be avoided in the future.
A new structure for the commission’s rezoning hearings was set as the commission discussed an initial phase.
Implementing the General Plan’s land use zoning is a sprawling process that involves text amendments, land use map changes and multiple new designations, and commissioners agreed to break the process up into clearly defined segments.
At the end of the hearing, commissioners voted to recommend approval of the first grouping of text amendments, for the General Plan’s new Mineral Resources, Railroad Rights of Way, Public Resources and Recreation, and Tribal Lands zones.
The commission continued its rezoning work to the April 4 meeting. Ford said the county will issue a press release describing the next steps in the segmented process prior to that.
The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider General Plan text amendments in May. Public outreach on a more controversial phase, land use map changes, will begin in April and the commission is scheduled to review them in June, with the Board of Supervisors holding its hearings in July or August.