West Slope wetlands toured by supervisors
Concerned residents recently led two El Dorado County supervisors on a tour of four acres of wetlands on the proposed Sundance Plaza construction site in Placerville – days after a contentious county board meeting helped shine a spotlight on the issue.
“I think the supervisors see now that we are concerned, so from that respect it was a success,” said Sandra Langdon, a homeowner who resides near the proposed construction zone.
“But this is an issue which will be around for some time, I believe.”
The area in question is a 73-acre plot in the Missouri Flat area of Placerville, just east of Missouri Flat Road and north of U.S. Highway 50.
Langdon and several other neighboring residents are concerned about a four-acre area of wetlands, including a creek, that is due to be paved over as part of the project. The Sundance Plaza Shopping Center, part of the Missouri Flat Area Circulation Master Plan which was approved by the board, will eventually include 470,000 square feet of retail space, plus a park and a waste disposal retention pond.
The Environmental Protection Agency has recommended that the project be denied due to the threat to the environment, namely the wetlands. The EPA is a consulting branch of the Army Corps of Engineers, which has final say on the matter. If the Corps of Engineers denies the developers’ proposal, the project must go back to the drawing board to address the Corps’ concerns.
But the Corps of Engineers has not ruled yet, and will not do so until early next month, according to agency spokesperson Kathy Norton.
Residents contend that paving over the wetlands is a bad idea – one that they had no say in.
“First, they told us that we would have our chance to speak out about this,” said Sue Megee, another resident. “But by the time they let us have our say, it was too late. Things were full speed ahead for development.
“These wetlands are a piece of nature you can never get back. Once they are gone, they’re gone.”
Third District Supervisor Mark Nielsen, who presides over the area in question, joined neighboring Second District Supervisor Ray Nutting on the recent tour of the area with Langdon and other residents.
“I hadn’t been on the site before, so it was an interesting experience,” said Nielsen, who joined with the other four supervisors to give a unanimous stamp of approval to the Sundance project. “I think they (residents) have some legitimate concerns. Our next step is to discuss this issue with the engineers connected with the project.
“The other thing I noticed was a lot of poison oak.”
Roebbelen Land Company of Sacramento is developing the project, and is required by federal law to mitigate the wetlands there – that is, replace a like amount of wetlands in another location to replace the ones they eliminate.
“That’s what we plan to do,” said Roebbelen project manager Bob Brown. “We are hopeful that (the Corps of Engineers) will rule for us, and we will go forward from that perspective.”
But residents there say that Roebbelen has already overstepped its bounds by conducting soil studies and preliminary surveys on the land.
“They are in non-compliance (of Environmental Protection Agency law) right now,” Langdon said. “They should get out of there.”
Brown contends that the company has a perfect right to the preliminary work. Again, the Army Corps of Engineers will have to sort out who is right and who is wrong.
“What they are doing is wrong,” said Joe Machado, another resident. “They’re saving land for dead people (plans call for Roebbelen to build around the Pioneer Historic Cemetery there), but what about the live stuff?”
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