San Juan Ridge Mine scoping meeting set for December 5

I received this press release:

Today the San Juan Ridge Taxpayers Association (SJRTA) submitted comments to the Nevada County Planning Department on the proposed re-opening of the San Juan Ridge Mine, in anticipation of the December 5 scoping meeting on the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project. SJRTA membership includes some 240 residents and landowners of the San Juan Ridge, a rural area north of Nevada City where the mine is proposed to be re-opened.

SJRTA President Gary Parsons said, “We are grateful that Nevada County has chosen to prepare a full EIR, especially considering the dismal history of the past operation. We want to make sure that the county doesn’t miss important issues, including impacts to our water, our schoolchildren and residents, our economy and our natural environment.”

The association’s submitted comments outlined the community’s concern over many issues. Foremost among these is the potential for mining operations to dewater local and regional water supplies. When Siskon Gold Corporation operated the same mine in the 1990s, the Grizzly Hill School well was dewatered and the replacement well remains contaminated to this day.

Former Twin Ridges Elementary School District Board member Kurt Lorenz explains, “Water still must be treated and filtered before children can drink it, and this has cost the school district and taxpayers up to $150,000 to date, and continues to cost the school $8,000 a year.”

In addition, the local cultural center and at least 10 residential wells were dewatered. Though the previous mine operator replaced or deepened lost wells, most residents still bear the expense of deeper wells that must also be treated for drinking water.

In their comments, SJRTA raises concerns about the economic impact the project may have. The proposed mine tunnel would run parallel to the area’s main business and public service corridor. Wells for the area’s only medical clinic, the public school, and most of the area’s major businesses are within a mile or less of the mine tunnel. Nearby businesses and services employ some 200 people and account for over $10,000,000 of gross economic activity.

The proposed mine-re-opening also raises environmental concerns, as the project would likely discharge huge quantities of water into adjacent drainages and creeks that feed the South Yuba River. The proposed mine will remove up to 3.5 million gallons per day of groundwater when it is in operation, according to a 1996 hydrology report.

By way of comparison, in 2005 all of Nevada County used a total of approximately 11.3 million gallons per day of groundwater for domestic water supplies, according to the most recent U.S. Geological Survey statistics.

During the previous mine project, mine operator Siskon Gold Corporation was fined by the State Regional Water Quality Control Board for excessive discharges into Spring Creek, a tributary of the South Yuba River, and the California Department of Parks and Recreation questioned the impact of discharges on the health of critical populations of the rare foothill yellow-legged frog, a species of special concern.

(The CEO of San Juan Mining Corporation, that now proposes to re-open the mine was president, CEO and board chairman of Siskon Gold Corporation.)

Caleb Dardick, executive director of the South Yuba River Citizens League, stated, “Simply put, this project would draw and discharge a huge amount of water that could severely damage our watershed as well as threaten our water supply.”

The Nevada County Planning Department will hold a public scoping meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, December 5 at the Eric Rood Center in the Supervisors Chambers. This session will focus on listening to concerns voiced by the public as to what issues should be addressed in the Environmental Impact Report. The EIR is a legally required, comprehensive document that will guide the county in its decision of whether to approve the project, and if so, under what conditions.

Written comments will be accepted until December 10. Comments should be submitted to: Tod Herman, Planning Department,_950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City, CA 95959; email: tod.herman@co.nevada.ca.us.

For links to the Executive Summary and full comments submitted by the San Juan Ridge Taxpayers Association to the Nevada County Planning Department, see http://www.sjrtaxpayers.org/take-action/

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

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