The Nevada County Planning Commission on March 25th passed a resolution — against the written recommendation of its own staff — signaling its intent to grant a “vested right to mine” to the Blue Lead Mine, LLC, in response to an application for that right by Blue Lead owner, Robert White. Why is this important? Because if the Commission follows through with its intent in its next meeting (tomorrow at the Rood Center at 1:30 PM), hundreds of mines in Nevada County could be affected by that precedent and potentially become immune to County oversight if granted the same right!
The meeting on the 25th — the only official public hearing on the issue — nearly flew under the radar of the local media. Yubanet (here and here), The Union (here) and CLAIM (here) all reported on it. But many neighbors and interested members of the community missed the meeting because they were unaware of the extremely important agenda item dealing with Blue Lead.
Here’s how the Yubanet article explains the “vested right to mine:”
A vested right to mine basically “grandfathers” an existing, operating mine into the county or state system. Any vested mine does not need to apply for a mining permit to the county and no California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) document for the mining operation itself is required. Another exemption concerns grading permits for roads, landing pads, staging areas, etc. Culverts and diversion ponds are also exempt from any oversight under the vested right to mine.The advantages granted under the vested right are numerous and exclusively profit the applicant.
Yubanet also quoted Don Drysdale, Public Affairs Officer for the Office of Mine Reclamation:
“Any mine that had a two-year break in production without a valid reclamation plan and Interim Management Plan is deemed to have been abandoned under SMARA and thus is ineligible for vested rights,” Drysdale told YubaNet.
The owner of Blue Lead has altered his neighbor’s property and BLM property without permission, and has been cited in Nevada County and elsewhere.
The public is now roused and should make a significant showing at the meeting tomorrow, where there will likely be many requests to reopen the hearing. Although County Planning Commission meetings are not routinely videotaped, special arrangements have been made for tomorrow’s meeting to be taped by an NCTV videographer for later broadcast on NCTV.
In the meantime, more Planning Commission staff and public comments requesting a reopening of the hearing have now been posted in the County’s Docushare folders, here. (See comments there by local historian Dave Comstock, Blue Lead neighbor Tom Brown, Tom Grundy and others).
Yubanet interviewed Dave Comstock and reported his comments as follows:
Author and historian Dave Comstock, a resident of the neighborhood since 1968, also sent comments to the planning staff after the March meeting. He was not aware of the meeting taking place, otherwise he would have appeared in person and shared his knowledge of the property with the commission, Comstock told YubaNet. He said he was quite appalled at the commission’s decision …
Yubanet has a late update to its article this afternoon, quoting Blue Lead’s attorney to the effect that public comment is “irrelevant.”
Tomorrow’s meeting should be very interesting.
UPDATE 1 (6:05 PM): I just received this email from Terri Hicklin:
It looks like we will end up carrying this meeting LIVE, after all. So you
can tell any interested parties that we will carry the meeting on Comcast
Ch. 17 LIVE at 1:30 p.m., as well as on both our website at
www.nevadacountytv.org and the County’s website at www. mynevadacounty.com
NCTV Access Coordinator
UPDATE 2 (6:14 pm):
See this related article posted to Yubanet late this afternoon:
UPDATE 3 (7:46 PM):
A new Docushare directory containing more public comment is here.
See comments from Gary Griffith, Ray Bryars, Rita Jennings, Shute Mihaly & Weinberger for CLAIM-GV, Robert Joehnck, Counsel for the Sierra Fund, etc.