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South county Supervisor Mike Kerns, a supporter of the new asphalt plant, recently announced his decision not to run again. And while the rest of Sonoma County?s supervisors may be immune from the wrath of south county voters who are opposed to the project, state and federal

representatives who aren?t insulated made it clear last Saturday that getting Dutra?s asphalt plant on line will take more than the supervisors? OK.

Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and Mark Leno D-San Francisco all represent Petaluma voters to one degree or another.

Huffman assembled supporters and opponents of the Dutra Group?s Haystack Landing Asphalt & Recycling Facility to air their positions in front of state and federal agency representatives who will have the final say over the plant?s future if county supervisors approve it. They voted 4-1 in favor in a straw vote last February with Santa Rosa?s supervisor Shirlee Zane the lone vote against. (Valerie Brown, Efren Carrillo and Paul Kelley joined Kerns in favoring the plant.)

?We have the largest land-use issue in Sonoma County, at least this decade,? Lynn Woolsey said, speaking to an overflow audience sitting in chairs, leaning against walls, sprawling on the floor and crowding every doorway of a small meeting room at the Petaluma Veterans Memorial Building on Saturday morning.

?It?s very important at the state and federal levels that what goes on here and what comes out of it, that we are absolutely certain that the state and federal agencies weigh in and know what they are doing and that we hold them accountable, because this is very important to all of us,? Woolsey continued. ?And not just all who are in this room today, but the future, our children and their children.?

Huffman was clear about why he was there.

?This is a project that has taken on county-wide and regional significance. It has many levels of approvals, many twists and turns ahead of it involving state and federal agencies and it has in many ways driven a wedge through the county,? he said.

?This is obviously something a lot bigger than a narrow, little land use decision. Many people see it as a major public health issue. Others see it as a major wildlife issue and as a threat to the recreational economy. The proponents see it as of great economic benefit,? he said.

Employees from California Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Regional State Water Quality Control Board, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bay Conservation and Development Commission outlined the roles their agencies will play in the final determination to allow the plant to operate if and when it is approved by Sonoma County?s supervisors.

Aimi Dutra, director of government and community affairs for the Dutra Group, presented her company?s case for building the plant at Haystack, outlining expected economic and environmental benefits and assuring that only the latest, best equipment will be used at the site.

Opponents of the project, including California State Coastal Conservancy, Friends of Shollenberger Park, Petaluma River Council, North Bay Rowing Club and Moms for Clean Air, presented their cases against approval with passion and, at times, vehemence.

While Haystack Landing is in a county-controlled area, it lies next to the Petaluma River and across from Petaluma?s Shollenberger Park, home of nesting birds, endangered species and a favorite recreation area for many locals.

Dutra intends to barge materials to the site and use the railroad to deliver if it becomes operational again. The site is also within Petaluma?s Urban Growth Boundary and close to state and federally regulated wild lands and wetlands.

The city councils of Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Healdsburg and Cloverdale have all voted in opposition to building the plant at Haystack Landing. While other city politicians were on hand, including Sonoma Mayor Ken Brown, Kerns wrote Huffman that county supervisors were advised by county counsel not to attend Saturday?s event.

There will be a lot of highway building in the next few years, much of it to widen Highway 101 south from Petaluma to Novato and north to Rohnert Park, and some to repave city and county roads. All of it will require asphalt.

Haystack Landing is well situated to ease distribution of asphalt to those projects, supporters said. Dutra?s old asphalt plant, located a half mile from the current site, closed over four years ago; a leased temporary site was sold and closed 11⁄2 years ago, Aimi Dutra said.

Asphalt ? what?s left over after crude oil is refined ? is an ?on demand? product. Gravel is mixed with asphalt, then cooked and kept warm until delivered, no more than 20 miles from the source, usually no more than a few hours after it?s cooked. It costs about $88 a ton (according to Dutra) and it takes about 1,300 tons of it to build a mile of highway.

Today, there are three existing asphalt plants in Marin and three in Sonoma, and it has been argued that they already have the capacity to provide for future needs.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will cast a final vote on the project on Tuesday, June 9, in Santa Rosa.

(Contact Jay Gamel at argus@arguscourier.com)

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