Opponents appealed to postpone, supervisors plan to continue
[caption id="attachment_25714" align="alignright" width="360" caption="A view of the proposed plant site from Shollenberger Park"][/caption]
PETALUMA – The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday is set to once again consider a proposal for a south Petaluma plant for asphalt and aggregate used in road construction.
The board will continue with the hearing on The Dutra Group's plant project, despite appeals from some community groups and the city of Petaluma to put off discussion yet again because documents analyzing the environmental impact of a second major revision to the project were released just last Wednesday.
Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Valerie Brown received a number of inquiries to postpone consideration of the project again, but she is keeping consideration of the revised project on the Tuesday meeting agenda, according to her office.
In a report accompanying the documents, county staff recommended approval.
"It's an extremely short timeframe for a very complex project that has been very controversial," said Petaluma Mayor Pam Torliatt, noting that the City Council will not have time to meet to prepare comments. "Because of potential litigation involved, I think we need to have the opportunity to review the documents with our city attorney before the matter goes to the City Council for review."
She has opposed the project in position statements leading up to her November bid for a seat on the Board of Supervisors.
San Rafael-based The Dutra Group, which operates San Rafael Quarry and used to run one next to a quarry-turned-subdivision on the southwest edge of the Petaluma, wants to spend an estimated $8 million to $10 million building a plant to serve south county paving projects with 225,000 tons of asphalt and 345,425 tons of sand and gravel annually.
Dutra and paving contractors contend such a plant is needed.
"The Highway 101 corridor from the Cotati hill to the Novato Narrows is where Caltrans is going to be working next, and Petaluma is redoing city streets," said John Bly, executive vice president of Engineering Contractors Association of Northern California. "Right now, the asphalt has to come from Bodean in Santa Rosa or Dutra in San Rafael."
Moms for Clean Air of Petaluma is one of the key project opponents and contends, based on the tally in the project environmental report, that the county has enough asphalt suppliers.
"There are far too many negative impacts and risks associated with placing an asphalt plant so close to parks, schools and homes," said group coordinator Heidi Rhymes. "Not only will toxic and carcinogenic chemicals be released from this project, but it will also mar the scenic corridor, impact the wildlife and use of Shollenberger Park, have negative impacts upon our river, fish and wetlands, increase truck traffic and congestion and impact tourism and nearby housing values in our already suffering economy."
To deal with the emissions question, Dutra is sourcing components from Tennessee-based Astec, a large maker of hot-mix asphalt plant equipment. One is the Astec's high-end Phoenix Phantom burner to melt the asphalt cement for proper mixing with rock aggregate for paving. It uses a high-efficiency "lean burn premix" of natural gas and air to achieve lower nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide emissions than standard burners.