By Chip Ashley
The specter of an aggregate mine on Wa-ha-lish (Jesse Morrow Mountain) lives on.
On Aug. 28, on a 2-2 vote, with Supervisor Judy Case recusing herself due to a conflict of interest, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors (BOS) failed to overturn the Planning Commission’s May 30 denial of Cemex’s application. But in denying the application, the BOS did not certify the Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
When asked for clarification, county staff said the project was dead, but within two weeks the BOS granted an unprecedented re-hearing at Cemex’s request scheduled for Nov. 13. Opponents of the project were dumbfounded but geared up for another fight at the special meeting venue in the County Ballroom under the old Del Webb Building at Tulare and M streets.
According to the notification of the Nov. 13 re-hearing, the decision to deny the project was final, and the only issue to be determined would be certification of the EIR. If the project was dead, why certify the EIR?
A few days before Nov. 13, the re-hearing was postponed tentatively to a date in January 2013, after the seating of Supervisor-elect Andreas Borgeas, who will take over Susan Anderson’s District 2 seat.
According to a Nov. 13 Fresno Bee story, Supervisor Henry Perea took issue with delaying the re-hearing until January, opining that Cemex is looking for a favorable decision from the reconstituted BOS.
At Perea’s request, the supervisors “set the hearing for the project on Dec. 11, before the makeup of the board changes.”
It remains unclear why the supervisors agreed to re-hear the case in the first place. As noted in last month’s Community Alliance newspaper, County Counsel Kevin Briggs agreed with Friends of Jesse Morrow Mountain attorney Marsha Burch that certification of the EIR is not required if a project is denied. But then, oddly, Briggs went on to say it would be better to certify it. Why?
Another prominent environmental attorney told me recently that certification of the EIR is not required when an application is rejected. The only reason for certification in this instance, he added, is re-application. According to the Bee story, Cemex can reapply after one year.
It seems clear enough that some of the supervisors are angling to keep the project in play. It is also clear that the people have spoken and do not want Wa-ha-lish mined. Will the supervisors honor the wishes of the citizens whom they serve?
Chip Ashley is a local environmental activist and member of the Tehipite Chapter of the Sierra Club. Contact him at 559-855-6376 or email@example.com.