Russian River Gravel Mining Stopped

To All,
In case you haven’t seen it, here are some press releases on the very big win in the gravel mining decision.
Marc

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Judge’s decision could halt river gravel mining
A decision last week in Sonoma County Superior Court overturned a 2008 Board of Supervisors decision to extend the deadline for terrace gravel mining in the Russian River. Pictured above are Syar’s gravel pits along the Russian River between Healdsburg and Windsor.
Board of Supervisor’s 2008 extension reversed By Kerrie Russell Tribune Editor Published: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 3:02 PM PST A decision last week by the Sonoma County Superior Court could mean the end of gravel pit mining along the Russian River.
A ruling by Judge Robert Boyd overturned a 2008 Board of Supervisor’s vote that would have allowed an extension of terrace gravel mining in the Russian River.
The judge’s decision came a year after a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit was filed by the Westside Association to Save Agriculture, the Russian River Keeper and the North Coast Rivers Alliance.
The group filed the suit last fall after the Board of Supervisors in October of 2008 voted 3-2 to in favor of Syar Industries request to extend a terrace gravel mining deadline past April of 2006. The 1994 ARM plan (certified in 1996) required a 10-year limit and called for the end of mining on the west side of the Russian River.
“The ARM plan was clear that there were no extensions,” said Riverkeeper Don McEnhill.
However, last year’s decision from the Board of Supervisors would have allowed Syar Industries to “finish the job” on phase VI of the project, west of the Russian River just south of Healdsburg, and required that no more than a year should pass after mining is completed for environmental restoration there.
Following a motion from Fourth District Supervisor Paul Kelley, supervisors Tim Smith and Mike Kerns voted in favor of the three-year extension in 2008.
But in Judge Boyd’s 12-page ruling last week, he found that Sonoma County violated CEQA by failing to (1) prepare a separate Environmental Impact Report addressing the significant adverse impacts of Syar’s proposed terrace gravel mining, (2) adequately explain why the alternative of terminating mining and reclaiming the disturbed land for other uses was not feasible, and (3) provide an adequate discussion of alternative gravel sources including importation of gravel from outside the County and development of existing and proposed quarries within the County.
Boyd called Syar’s requested extension a contradiction of “the very essence of the project history,” and called their argument “circular.”
In response to the Board of Supervisor’s finding that the ARM should be extended because alternatives are infeasible, Boyd stated, “An agency cannot find an alternative infeasible simply because the developer does not want to do it.”
David Spielberg, attorney for Syar, was unsure what the company’s next steps will be.
“At this point, we’re still looking at it and evaluating what our response ought to be and what our options are,” he said. “Right now, we’re still trying to digest the decision.”
Terrace gravel mining stopped in 2006 while Syar waited for a decision on the extension.
“This decision is a great victory for the people of Sonoma County who rely on the Russian River and adjacent water aquifer for their drinking water,” said Marc Bommersbach, President of Westside Association to Save Agriculture (WASA). “Years of strip mining in the aquifer of the Russian River have severely impacted this precious resource that supplies the drinking water to 700,000 people in Sonoma and Marin Counties.”
Opponents of Syar’s gravel mining also argue that there are less costly and more environmentally sound ways to supply gravel for construction and road projects.
“It has been clearly demonstrated that the county has supplies of gravel to support projects like roads and buildings without relying on mining gravel in the county’s drinking water aquifer. They haven’t mined there since 2006 and the freeway project has not come to a halt,” Bommersbach said.
McEnhill said the ruling is a big win for the river.
“We feel like this ruling will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to try and go back and dig up the aquifers,” he said. “We think the biggest win is for our future water supply and for ag along the river.
“This is a victory that’s been a long time coming. It’s a historical win,” McEnhill said.

Judge’s decision could halt river gravel mining
A decision last week in Sonoma County Superior Court overturned a 2008 Board of Supervisors decision to extend the deadline for terrace gravel mining in the Russian River. Pictured above are Syar’s gravel pits along the Russian River between Healdsburg and Windsor.
Board of Supervisor’s 2008 extension reversed By Kerrie Russell Tribune Editor Published: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 3:02 PM PST A decision last week by the Sonoma County Superior Court could mean the end of gravel pit mining along the Russian River.
A ruling by Judge Robert Boyd overturned a 2008 Board of Supervisor’s vote that would have allowed an extension of terrace gravel mining in the Russian River.
The judge’s decision came a year after a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit was filed by the Westside Association to Save Agriculture, the Russian River Keeper and the North Coast Rivers Alliance.
The group filed the suit last fall after the Board of Supervisors in October of 2008 voted 3-2 to in favor of Syar Industries request to extend a terrace gravel mining deadline past April of 2006. The 1994 ARM plan (certified in 1996) required a 10-year limit and called for the end of mining on the west side of the Russian River.
“The ARM plan was clear that there were no extensions,” said Riverkeeper Don McEnhill.
However, last year’s decision from the Board of Supervisors would have allowed Syar Industries to “finish the job” on phase VI of the project, west of the Russian River just south of Healdsburg, and required that no more than a year should pass after mining is completed for environmental restoration there.
Following a motion from Fourth District Supervisor Paul Kelley, supervisors Tim Smith and Mike Kerns voted in favor of the three-year extension in 2008.
But in Judge Boyd’s 12-page ruling last week, he found that Sonoma County violated CEQA by failing to (1) prepare a separate Environmental Impact Report addressing the significant adverse impacts of Syar’s proposed terrace gravel mining, (2) adequately explain why the alternative of terminating mining and reclaiming the disturbed land for other uses was not feasible, and (3) provide an adequate discussion of alternative gravel sources including importation of gravel from outside the County and development of existing and proposed quarries within the County.
Boyd called Syar’s requested extension a contradiction of “the very essence of the project history,” and called their argument “circular.”
In response to the Board of Supervisor’s finding that the ARM should be extended because alternatives are infeasible, Boyd stated, “An agency cannot find an alternative infeasible simply because the developer does not want to do it.”
David Spielberg, attorney for Syar, was unsure what the company’s next steps will be.
“At this point, we’re still looking at it and evaluating what our response ought to be and what our options are,” he said. “Right now, we’re still trying to digest the decision.”
Terrace gravel mining stopped in 2006 while Syar waited for a decision on the extension.
“This decision is a great victory for the people of Sonoma County who rely on the Russian River and adjacent water aquifer for their drinking water,” said Marc Bommersbach, President of Westside Association to Save Agriculture (WASA). “Years of strip mining in the aquifer of the Russian River have severely impacted this precious resource that supplies the drinking water to 700,000 people in Sonoma and Marin Counties.”
Opponents of Syar’s gravel mining also argue that there are less costly and more environmentally sound ways to supply gravel for construction and road projects.
“It has been clearly demonstrated that the county has supplies of gravel to support projects like roads and buildings without relying on mining gravel in the county’s drinking water aquifer. They haven’t mined there since 2006 and the freeway project has not come to a halt,” Bommersbach said.
McEnhill said the ruling is a big win for the river.
“We feel like this ruling will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to try and go back and dig up the aquifers,” he said. “We think the biggest win is for our future water supply and for ag along the river.
“This is a victory that’s been a long time coming. It’s a historical win,” McEnhill said.

2 thoughts on “Russian River Gravel Mining Stopped

  1. Here in Orland Syar is putting in place plans to extract gravel from Stony Creek over a period of many years. They have bought the land, and put in a railroad siding. The meeting I attended left me with the distinct impression that the county and Syar had already agreed to the deal, and presenting it to “the people” was just a formality. As far as the environmental impact report, Syar hired their own folks; is that legal!?
    What can we do to stop these people before our rural farming and small ranch environment is irretrievably harmed? Poor Stony Creek already has gravel pits, and it doesn’t deserve more such treatment.

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