Understanding McK Town Center’s wetland assets

WET AND WILD Wetland-designated areas of the proposed McKinleyville Town Center. Via County of Humboldt

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

McKINLEYVILLE – The McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee (McKMAC) will take a deep dive into the topic of wetlands at its meeting Wednesday, Nov. 18 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the meeting will be held on Zoom. The meeting ID is 976 6824 1826. The password is 274658. Login using a computer or call  1 (669) 900 -6833.

The meeting will begin with a presentation on the draft of the wetland policy for the McKinleyville Town Center. This will be followed by a panel discussion featuring experts on the issue. Then the McKMAC will lead a discussion, including public comments, on the draft wetland policy.

The draft policy is available at humboldtgov.org/2564/McKinleyville-Town-Center-Master-Plan.

The draft policy affirms a recommendation made by the McKMAC in January regarding the definition of wetlands and and allowing them to be relocated and enhanced.

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The policy decision will have significant consequences for the future of the McKinleyville Town Center, which is 141 acres and includes 65 parcels located between Heartwood and Railroad drives, and McKinleyville Avenue and Pierson Park. 

The largest undeveloped parcel is 43.7 acres located behind the McKinleyville Shopping Center. It is owned by Anne Pierson who also owns undeveloped property south of Hiller Road.

The Town Center is envisioned as a pedestrian friendly, mixed-use area with shops, residences and trails, all with a village-like atmosphere. But development could be impeded by the existence of wetlands.

A key issue is how to define wetlands.

The McKinleyville Community Plan, approved in 2002, defines wetlands as having at least one of three criteria:

1.  The presence of wetland plants; or, 

2.  Soils that are sufficiently wet in the upper part to develop anaerobic conditions during the growing season; or, 

3. Periodic inundation for seven consecutive days.

The “one parameter” wetland definition means that if a wetland plant is growing in an area, it could be deemed a wetland. Using this definition, about 61 percent of the Pierson property would either be wetlands or wetland buffer zones.

The Humboldt County General Plan, and the Army Corps of Engineers use a less restrictive “three parameter” wetland definition, meaning all three conditions have to be met to deem an area a wetland. Under this definition, 31 percent of the Pierson property would be deemed wetlands and wetland buffer zones.

In January the McKMAC voted to use this less-restrictive definition for the McKinleyville Town Center. 

The committee also voted in favor of a policy that would allow the wetlands to be moved, reconfigured and enhanced. Under the policy, there would be no net loss of wetlands. Any wetlands filled would need to be replaced, either on-site or off-site.

 







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