Water district fights rezone in Glendale

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

GLENDALE – Citing potential threats to the drinking water supply of the county’s major cities and several communities, the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District will appeal a cannabis manufacturing permit approval.

At its Jan. 17 meeting, the district’s Board of Directors voted to file an appeal of  county Planning Commission permit approval Jan. 11 for a cannabis manufacturing facility at a 13.5 acre Glendale area site that borders the Mad River.

The project is being advanced by the Eureka-based Mercer-Fraser Company, which runs a gravel mining and processing operation at the site.

But it’s not the project itself that concerns the district – a more vexing action is an associated zoning change from an agricultural to heavy industrial category. District officials are deeply concerned about the potential for chemical spills from future industrial uses, as hazardous substances could contaminate domestic water supply through a water well at the site and nearby Mad River collector wells.

John Friedenbach, the water district’s general manager, said the district’s domestic use water would be vulnerable in the case of a spill.

“It’s not like a contamination at a gas station site where there’s been a spill that’s contaminated the ground or the groundwater and you’re allowed to clean that up over time,” he continued. “In our situation, if our water source is contaminated, we are not prepared to purify that water through any treatment process.”

The only treatment the district’s system is set up for is removal of turbidity – suspended matter – from the river water, he added.

“So if the water source gets contaminated, we’re basically shut down – the water source is shut down,” Friedenbach said.

The rezoning needs a Board of Supervisors sign-off but the permit approval has to be appealed for the Board of Supervisors to review it.

Friedenbach said the appeal will be filed because the permit and the rezoning are inter-related.

The district serves the cities of Arcata, Eureka and Blue Lake, and the greater Eureka, McKinleyville, Manila and Fieldbrook/Glendale community areas. Friedenbach said the service areas combined account for two-thirds of the county’s population.

The rezoning is related to the county’s recently-approved update of the General Plan. The Board of Supervisors re-categorized the project site under the industrial designation and the plan and the site’s zoning must be consistent. County Planning Director John Ford was at the district board meeting and one of the issues discussed was lack of notification on the Planning Commission permit and rezoning hearing. Friedenbach said the district learned of it only through a general newspaper public notice printed two weeks before the hearing.

“County staff did admit that our water district was not included in the formal agency referral process,” he continued.

He said the county did send a late notification about a week before the hearing. “That was very concerning to us,” Friedenbach continued.

Asked about public reaction to the situation, Friedenbach said attendance at the district board meeting was robust, consisting of over 30 people.

“I suspect when the application goes to the Board of Supervisors, that room will be filled,” he continued. “We’ve received a lot of phone calls and emails from people

lowed to clean that up over time,” he continued. “In our situation, if our water source is contaminated, we are not prepared to purify that water through any treatment process.”

The only treatment the district’s system is set up for is removal of turbidity – suspended matter – from the river water, he added.

“So if the water source gets contaminated, we’re basically shut down – the water source is shut down,” Friedenbach said.

The rezoning needs a Board of Supervisors sign-off but the permit approval has to be appealed for the Board of Supervisors to review it.

Friedenbach said the appeal will be filed because the permit and the rezoning are inter-related.

The district serves the cities of Arcata, Eureka and Blue Lake, and the greater Eureka, McKinleyville, Manila and Fieldbrook/Glendale community areas. Friedenbach said the service areas combined account for two-thirds of the county’s population.

The rezoning is related to the county’s recently-approved update of the General Plan. The Board of Supervisors re-categorized the project site under the industrial designation and the plan and the site’s zoning must be consistent. County Planning Director John Ford was at the district board meeting and one of the issues discussed was lack of notification on the Planning Commission permit and rezoning hearing. Friedenbach said the district learned of it only through a general newspaper public notice printed two weeks before the hearing.

“County staff did admit that our water district was not included in the formal agency referral process,” he continued.

He said the county did send a late notification about a week before the hearing. “That was very concerning to us,” Friedenbach continued.

Asked about public reaction to the situation, Friedenbach said attendance at the district board meeting was robust, consisting of over 30 people.

“I suspect when the application goes to the Board of Supervisors, that room will be filled,” he continued. “We’ve received a lot of phone calls and emails from people supporting the appeal.” At the Planning Commission hearing, Friedenbach said the district may file a lawsuit to challenge the rezone. Asked if litigation will be pursued if the appeal’s rejected, he said, “It’s too early to speculate on that, we’ll have to see how the process unfolds.”







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