Paul Emery, on last night’s KVMR Evening News, interviewed Joe Heckel, Grass Valley’s Community Development Director, about the status of Emgold’s Idaho-Maryland Mine project.
Heckel essentially confirmed Mayor Lisa Swarthout’s statement to David Watkinson, CEO of the Idaho-Maryland Mine Company, in September of 2009, that the city had decided to require a revised DEIR.
In his interview with Emery, Heckel explained why the city has now set a deadline — April 8th, 2011 — for Emgold to submit a revised project description and funding or face the expiration of the current application.
Here’s my transcription of the essential portions of last night’s interview:
JOE HECKEL: “We’ve been waiting since approximately early 2010, when they had stated that they wished to supplement or amend their application with new information … “
“We did not proceed to prepare what is called a final EIR — which would have been a collection of responses to all the comments received — because at that time in early 2010 the applicant was indicating they wanted to submit some changes to their project, mainly in response to the questions or issues that came through all the comments in the draft EIR.”
“So the status of the project right now is the draft EIR is certainly completed and was looked at as moving to a final EIR, but however since the time has passed and it’s fairly certain that the applicant will be advancing changes to their project, those changes are going to have to be re-evaluated again in the light of a supplemental or a new draft EIR.”
Note: Heckel didn’t mention here that the decision to revise the DEIR is driven not by Emgold’s preferences, but by the copious public comments showing the original DEIR to be wholly inadequate: It dealt poorly or not at all with such issues as air quality, cyanide transport, acid mine drainage and toxics as a security threat, among other issues].
“Not all of the sections of the draft EIR would have to be changed, Paul, certainly there could be some updates, but until we see what those changes are — those modifications — it’s kinda difficult to predict what would be the scope — or the changes — that would be in a draft EIR.”
PAUL EMERY: “So essentially that means it needs to be opened up for public review once again?”
JOE: “Yes, what would occur is — let’s just walk through he steps — is the applicant would be filing those new changes with the city — and those changes could deal with a number of points of their operations — then we would commission a draft EIR to be prepared. We would utilize a lot of the information already collected and compiled in the previous EIR but we would focus a lot of our critique and analysis on the new changes. But we would have a new draft EIR — called a “new” — but an updated draft EIR prepared and released for a public review period in which the public would be provided an opportunity to fully look at the document and walk through what the issues and concerns would be with the project.”
PAUL: “Now Joe your department has put a deadline on when you’d like to have response form the company proposing the project and that’s april 8th. What does that mean?”
JOE: “As I mentioned, the draft EIR concluded its review process in early 2010. We were informed by the applicant that they were looking to amend their application, modify it. So it’s been about a year of time. So, we just are interested to gain some closure on the project, to advance the project to a particular point where a decision could be made. And also there is new changes that occur in state and local regulations. There’s a number of studies that were tied to the project
that just need to be looked at and/or refreshed. So, there is a concern that if the project application sit for a significant amount of time there’s new issues that could come into play that we don’t know about. So we applied a particular date — April 8th — and if they don’t submit their modified application by that date — and also funding to drive the process — we just consider the application to be withdrawn. Now that’s not a statement as to the appropriateness of the project. We’re not — as staff — we’re not making that call. We’re not speculating whether the project is good or bad. We’re just simply saying that the application has been withdrawn. And certainly if they wish — at a later date after April 8th — they could refile their application and re-initiate the process.”
“Our sense of it is that they will be submitting an amended application package by April 8th.”
There have certainly been costs to Grass Valley in waiting for Emgold over the last year. Some level of administrative costs have been ongoing, particularly in the Planning Department. There are probably also what could be called “opportunity costs,” the cost of lost opportunities to pursue other business projects for or near that property.
The city’s decision to impose a deadline on this costly protracted process makes good business sense.