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Alert of Gravel Mining Permit in Gualala River

Friends of the Gualala River and their friends

The following notice (transcribed below, with emphasis added by underline) of a public hearing and mitigated negative declaration was recently posted in Annapolis. As you may know, gravel mining in the Wheatfield and South Forks of the Gualala River has proceeded in 2006 and 2005 without County or federal Corps of Engineers permits during a “grace period” offered by the County.

During this unauthorized “grace period”, riparian forest and scrub were cleared along the haul road of the Wheatfield Fork, and gravel bars were mined out without significant natural gravel recharge. The mined bar at Valley Crossing degraded so much that the main channel breached the lowered head and top of the bar in late 2006. The river here abandoned its former stable, shaded channel position along riparian forest that supported steelhead until 2006. It is now a dry, shallow sun-baked bed in the middle of the remaining flats of the former bar.

Henry Alden of Gualala Redwoods, Inc., the landowner of mined river reaches, is proposing to “revise” mining standards for the Gualala after two years of unauthorized mining and impacts that are now treated as part of the CEQA “baseline” conditions.

The Gualala River is experiencing rapid regeneration of riparian woodland along its banks and bars except near mined reaches. Riparian woodland is stabilizing and trapping gravel, allowing channels to cut deeper into gravel alluvium and express surface flows all summer.

Stream and riparian habitats of the Gualala River support biologically significant populations of federally listed steelhead, the endemic Gualala roach (a minnow subspecies unique to the watershed), western pond turtles, foothill yellow-legged frogs, California and red-bellied newts, green herons, wood ducks, red-breasted mergansers, and many other wildlife species.

The County has to date been delinquent in its obligations to comply with CEQA and require permits for all gravel mining and associated activities, including coordination with state and federal permit agencies. The Gualala is the only river on the north coast with a recent history of unpermitted gravel mining and impacts. Please make note of the following public notice and participate in the public environmental review process.

The current County permit manager, Paula Stamp (pstamp@sonoma-county.org), has provided a 3 MB .pdf file of project and environmental documents, available on request.

Please pass on the notice to anyone who may be interested in the recovery and protection of the Gualala River and its natural resources.

Peter Baye

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING AND INTENT TO ADOPT MITIGATED NEGATIVE DECLARATION

Contact: Paula Stamp, Sonoma County Permit Resources and Management Department, (707) 565-1909

Date: August 5, 2007

Sonoma County Permit Resources and Management Department has received application UPE 04-0040 from Henry Alden requesting Amendments to Aggregate Resources Management Plan and ordinance revising mining standards for the mining reach of the Gualala River – zone change to add the MR combining district to the instream portion of the affected parcels; use permit to extend the permit term for an additional 10 years; Reclamation plan update for instream operation and gravel processing site on various parcels at 39900, 40400 Annapolis Dr. [sic]….

A Mitigated Negative Declaration, including mitigation measures agreed to by the applicant, has been prepared for the project to avoid and /or reduce to a less-than-significant level potential significant adverse impacts on the environment.

The Sonoma County Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing to consider a Mitigated Negative Declaration and conditions of approval at 1:30 on September 6, 2007 at the hearing room at the County Permit Resources and Management Department, 2550 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa .

A Board of Supervisors hearing and decision on this project will be scheduled at a time and date to be determined. If you challenge the decision on the project in court, you may be limited to raise only those issues previously raised before the Planning Commission at the hearing or in writing delivered to the Planning Commission prior to or at the meeting.

Prior to the hearing, the project details and environmental documents may be reviewed at or written comments submitted to the Sonoma County Permit Resources and Management Department at 2550 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa, 95403. Contact: Paula Stamp, Sonoma County Permit Resources and Management Department, (707) 565-1909