Farm Bureau seeks new review of restoration project
» March 28, 2011 «
Saying that it wants to prevent unintended harm to farmland in Humboldt County, the California Farm Bureau Federation filed suit today to require additional environmental review of a proposed habitat restoration project.
In an action filed in Humboldt County Superior Court, Farm Bureau seeks to have the Humboldt County Resource Conservation District address flaws in an environmental impact report prepared in support of its Salt River Ecosystem Restoration Project.
The lawsuit notes that the project aims to improve drainage in the Salt River watershed and that the project “could provide important benefits to the local community and to farmers and ranchers in the area.” While recognizing those potential benefits, Farm Bureau said it “also seeks to assure that the project does not cause unintended harm to agricultural land in the process.”
For example, Farm Bureau said, a 444-acre parcel known as Riverside Ranch, which would be converted out of agricultural use for tidal restoration, remains protected under the state farmland-conservation program known as the Williamson Act. The project’s environmental report erroneously states that the project will have no significant impact on Williamson Act land, the lawsuit says, noting that the farmland program remains in force even after ownership of the land transfers to the state Department of Fish and Game as part of the project.
In addition, the lawsuit says the environmental report failed to analyze appropriately the environmental impacts to Humboldt County’s agricultural resource base that will occur from conversion of farmland to habitat. The suit seeks additional analysis of that impact, of the cumulative impact of other farmland-to-habitat conversions in the region, and of the true potential for improved drainage and reduced flooding in the Salt River watershed.
“This information is essential to determining whether the proposed project will actually reduce flooding of agricultural lands and whether such reductions will be significant and enduring enough to mitigate for the permanent loss of agricultural land at the Riverside Ranch site,” the lawsuit says.
“The California Farm Bureau and our members in Humboldt County agree that the Salt River project can benefit both the environment and agricultural landowners, but it’s important that farmland-conservation laws be followed whenever habitat restoration projects move forward,” CFBF Associate Counsel Jack Rice said. “We believe our concerns can be addressed in ways that allow this project to meet its objectives.”
In its action, the Farm Bureau seeks to have the existing environmental report and approval of the project set aside and a new, legally adequate environmental report prepared before the project proceeds.
The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of approximately 76,500 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of nearly 6.3 million Farm Bureau members.
Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.Top