Friends of the Van Duzen River
A Grass Roots community organization comprised of residents and visitors to the Van Duzen Region. We are Dedicated to helping to restore the river for future Generations

Dozens Turn Out to Protest Palco Letter
(Times Standard) 02/02/2005

Dozens turn out to protest Palco letter

February 2, 2005

Andrew Bird

The Times-Standard

EUREKA -- The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors Tuesday afternoon received an earful from more than two dozen residents who expressed emotions ranging from outrage to forgiveness over a letter the board sent on behalf of Pacific Lumber Co.

More than 50 people showed up for the supervisors' public comment period, turning what is normally a 5- to 10-minute standing item on the afternoon agenda into an impromptu public hearing that lasted an hour and a half.

"You had the wool pulled over your eyes," Jeanette Junger, a <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Eureka public school teacher, told the Board of Supervisors.

Junger's remarks were typical of those made throughout the hearing, when 26 people got up to admonish the board for sending a letter last week asking the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board to speed it up its consideration of Palco's timber harvest plans.

The board's decision last week to send that letter stirred controversy because the supervisors took action on it outside of normal public meeting procedures.

The fact that Palco wanted the board to send the letter on its behalf was not on any of the board's published agendas for last week's meeting and there was no opportunity for the public to comment on it.

That's because Palco officials did not make a request for the letter until the night before last week's meeting.

Under the Ralph M. Brown Act, California's open meeting law, governmental bodies are required to publish agenda items at least 72 hours in advance of meetings.

The law does allow some exceptions, including if the need to take action came to the supervisors' attention after the meeting agenda was published.

Since sending the letter, two supervisors have said they were misled to believe the Water Quality Control Board would be taking action on Palco's timber harvest plans at a meeting in Santa Rosa the next morning.

It turned out the Water Quality Control Board had no intention of acting on Palco's timber harvest plans at that meeting.

"I forgive all of you for sending that letter," Junger said.

Ken Miller, a McKinleyville physician who said he has studied the impacts of Palco logging practices on watersheds in Humboldt County, said Palco tried to "skirt the public process" with its last-minute request.

Miller also said the Water Quality Control Board has not acted on 12 timber harvest plans Palco is seeking approval for because the company has been slow to turn over data the board's staff has asked for.

David Elsebusch, another McKinleyville resident and frequent critic of county government, called the decision to consider Palco's letter at the last minute "the worst example of a procedure I ever heard."

"Your responsibility is to do it right, do it legal or don't do it at all," Elsebusch said.

Only one person spoke in support of the letter at Tuesday's hearing -- Chris Manson, the Palco's assistant government relations manager.

It was Manson who last week asked the supervisors to send the letter.

At Tuesday's hearing, Manson said the need to send the letter was urgent last week because the Water Quality Control Board's staff could approve Palco's timber harvest plans at any time.

"It was an emergency issue for Palco and its employees," Manson said.

The supervisors thanked those who spoke at Tuesday's meeting, but took no action.

Friends of the Van Duzen River
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Carlotta, CA 95528
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