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"We responded to a lot of concerns that folks had," said Al Cornwell from CSW/Stuber-Stroeh, Dutra's retained engineer firm.

The plan, submitted to the county's permit review department on Friday, eliminates the need for a new barge mooring site by using the existing barge offloading site at the Landing Way Depot facility, currently used by Shamrock Materials. An electric conveyor belt would be built to bring rock and sand from the barges 580 feet south to Dutra's proposed facility at Haystack Landing.

Dutra claims that using an existing mooring site eliminates concerns raised by the Coast Guard that the previously proposed mooring site would block ship passage.

"Dutra barges will dock at the Landing Way facility, thus eliminating the need for a new barge offloading facility, and further mitigating noise, emissions, visual impacts and navigational safety concerns," said Cornwell in a letter to the county's planning department.

Dutra would reduce emissions by using the electric crane already used by Shamrock at the site, rather than a diesel crane. An 8-foot-high noise barrier berm that already exists on the river bank would hide the conveyor belt and reduce noise impacts on Shollenberger Park. The path of the conveyor belt runs through a wetlands area, but Dutra is looking at the possibility of purchasing wetland mitigation credits to make up for the impacts.

"The credits shouldn't be a problem at all," said Cornwell.

Included in the plan were letters from independent consultants commissioned by Dutra that certify noise and emissions impacts would be reduced. The company also claims that the new plan will ease the concerns of recreational boaters.

Dutra applied five years ago for an asphalt plant at the site, just south of Petaluma between Highway 101 and the Petaluma River. The company previously operated an asphalt plant on Petaluma Boulevard South for 20 years. Opponents of the plant have expressed concerns about the visual, noise and environmental impacts that the plant would have on Shollenberger Park — directly across the river — as well as surrounding wetlands and other areas.

Dutra claims that there will be no additional truck traffic, no additional materials stored on-site, and no increase in the number of workers at the Landing Way site. However, the plan would increase the number of barges off-loaded at the site from 16 to 27 per month because the site will be shared with Shamrock. Dutra's 50-by-200-foot barges take four hours to unload, according to the company.

Some opponents are still leery of the plan due to Dutra's alleged lack of transparency. Opponents claim that Dutra submitted maps that hid the plant's impact on the river and proximity to PG&E gas lines. The Coast Guard said that the maps were a "misunderstanding" that was cleared up with Dutra.

"I have no reason to trust anything that Dutra is proposing," said David Keller, founder of the Petaluma River Council.

Keller said that the new plan "solves the problems that they insist didn't exist," including river traffic issues and the location of PG&E gas lines under the river. Keller said that Dutra has "been playing hide-the-ball" for a few years now.

Keller also said that the previous environmental review documents are inadequate, and that new documents should be required of the updated proposal. Without further review of the proposal by the county, "we don't know yet if it's better," he said.

Mayor Pam Torliatt, who has not yet reviewed the new plan, said that even if the barge site is moved, Dutra still has not addressed other environmental aspects.

"The city continues to stand firm on the comments we submitted to the county that they didn't do an adequate EIR," said Torliatt.

The county is currently reviewing the proposal. Dutra does not expect that the county will require new environmental review documents or permits. A decision on the plant should still come at a March 16 discussion by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, said Cornwell.

Dutra representatives could not be reached for comment.

(Contact Philip Riley at philip.riley@arguscourier.com)

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