Friends of the Van Duzen River
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Supes Grant Palco's Request for Letter of Support
(Times Standard) 01/26/2005

Andrew Bird

January 26, 2005

The Times-Standard

EUREKA -- In a move that caught observers unawares Tuesday, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted to send a letter on behalf of Pacific Lumber Co. urging the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board to speed up its review of Palco's timber harvest plans.

The letter was not on any of the printed agendas for Tuesday's weekly 9 a.m. meeting because Palco made the request to have the board consider the letter late Monday afternoon, said District 1 Supervisor Jimmy Smith, who introduced the letter.

There was no public comment on the request to send the letter because the supervisors' meeting chambers were nearly empty when the board took it up.

One Palco representative was present to speak on behalf of the company.

California's open meeting laws prohibit public bodies, such as the Board of Supervisors, from taking action on items unless they are publicly noticed in advance, with a few exceptions.

These exceptions, according to the board's printed standards, include emergencies or if "the need to take action arose after the current agenda was posted."

Smith checked the latter as the reason he decided to introduce the letter, he said, because the Water Quality Control Board is scheduled to meet this morning in Santa Rosa, where it will listen to Palco's pitch to have its timber harvest plans approved.

The timing of the letter "wasn't meant to subvert" the public's right to comment, Smith said after the meeting.

"It just wasn't meant to be that way," he said.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Roger Rodoni, who leases land from Palco, dismissed himself while the board discussed and voted on the letter, citing possible conflict of interest concerns.

After about 20 minutes of discussion, including a presentation from Palco representative Chris Manson, the board voted 3-1 to approve the letter.

Smith and supervisors John Woolley and Bonnie Neely voted in the majority.

District 5 Supervisor Jill Geist cast the lone "no" vote.

Geist said she didn't think it appropriate for one public body to put pressure on another.

None of the four supervisors who voted on the letter questioned the timing of its placement on the agenda.

Woolley, Geist, Neely and Smith said after the meeting they felt it was appropriate to take up Palco's request because the letter doesn't take a position on the merits of the company's timber harvest plans and because the Water Quality Control Board was meeting in just 24 hours.

"It was a very generic letter," Smith said. "We're not making any policy decisions."

Palco announced more than a week ago that it was laying off employees at its mills because the Regional Water Quality Control Board had not approved its timber harvest plans.

Catherine Kuhlman, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board's executive officer, said Palco requested time on this morning's meeting agenda to discuss the company's timber harvest plans back on Jan. 12.

The company asked for three hours on the agenda.

Kuhlman said she wrote back to Palco on Jan. 17, stating the company would have 20 minutes of discussion time this morning.

When asked after Tuesday's meeting why Palco waited until the last moment to request the letter be put on the Board of Supervisors agenda, all four supervisors said they could not speak for the company.

County Counsel Tamara Falor said the request was allowable under the government code because Palco did not make the Board of Supervisors aware of the Water Quality Control Board meeting until Monday, and "for the board" the need arose after the agenda had been posted.

Smith said the request came late Monday afternoon to Rodoni, who passed it along to him.

"It wound up on my desk," Smith said.

Rodoni did not return a call to the Times-Standard on Tuesday.

Manson, who said he is the assistant to Chuck Center, Palco's director of government relations, said he did not know why the company didn't make the request earlier.

Erin Dunn, Palco's media relations director, was asked the same question.

"I don't know," she replied, adding she would ask a Palco official to call the Times-Standard with an answer.

Palco did not return a call by press deadline Tuesday.

Letter emphasizes economic need for logs in Palco's mills

Andrew Bird

January 26, 2005

The Times-Standard

Following is the full text of the letter the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 Tuesday morning to send to state water authorities on behalf of Pacific Lumber Co., at Palco's request.

The letter is addressed to William Massey, chairman of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, in Santa Rosa.

"Dear Chairman Massey:

"It has come to the attention of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors that Palco's log supply is dwindling. The company has stated that if timber supplies are exhausted the milling operations will cease and extensive layoffs will occur.

"Additionally, it is our understanding that Palco has submitted several timber harvest plans to the California Department of Forestry and the Regional Water Control Board for approval. The (Humboldt County Board of Supervisors) requests that plans previously approved by the Department of Forestry be reviewed by the staff as soon as possible.

"The timber industry is critical to Humboldt County's economy and is an essential employment base. We appreciate your timely consideration of Palco's timber harvest plans."

The letter is signed by John Woolley, vice chairman of the Board of Supervisors, in place of Chairman Roger Rodoni, who dismissed himself from participating in the discussion and vote because he has a business relationship with Palco.

Friends of the Van Duzen River
PO Box 315
Carlotta, CA 95528
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