Wild & Scenic Mokelumne Update

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Court orders the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors to properly address fire safety and groundwater quality.
11/2/18
Pursuant to a court ruling, the Board of Supervisors will revisit fire safety and groundwater quality impacts of the 2015 Targeted General Plan Amendment and Zoning Ordinance Update.

In a writ of mandate issued on July 25, Judge Warren Stracener of the El Dorado County Superior Court ordered the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors to properly highlight their disagreement with the Board of Forestry regarding the inadequate attention to fire safety in the 2015 zoning ordinance update. The judge also directed the Board of Supervisors to properly respond to a public comment raising concerns over the groundwater quality impacts of home occupations discharging dangerous chemicals into septic systems in groundwater-dependent rural areas.

The Board of Forestry’s 2014 letter was concerned about expanding development in the high and very high fire hazard severity zones that dominate the County’s northern rangelands, southern rangelands, and eastern forestlands. “The Board would like to express concern that fire safety is not addressed adequately for the proposed increase in allowable densities.” “This proposed TGPA-ZOU exposes people or structures to a significant risk of loss, injury, or death from wildland fires.” The County disagreed. However, the County failed to meet its obligation to highlight this disagreement in the summary of the environmental impact report where concerned people and decisionmakers would be more likely to see it. Instead the disagreement was buried in a separate EIR volume containing responses to hundreds of pages of comments. The judge’s decision ruled that, “The failure to include the information related to the disagreement between the County and the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection … amounts to a failure to proceed in a manner required by law,”

The County had also refused to respond to the water quality comment back in 2015, claiming that it did not raise a “significant environmental point.” The court’s decision disagreed and concluded that the County was “required to provide a good faith, reasoned analysis in response.”

In an attempt to respond to the writ, the County issued a draft addendum in September. However, that addendum makes no effort to improve the general plan or the zoning ordinance to reduce the fire risk or the potential for groundwater contamination. The Addendum will soon come before the Board of Supervisors for review and approval.

What can you do to help? You can email the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors Board of Supervisors and tell them to monitor groundwater where rural commercial development and home occupations are disposing of chemicals in septic systems, and to limit rural commercial developments and home occupations to properties served by paved roads, public water, and nearby fire stations.

For more information.

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