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Ophir batch plant proposal on hot seat

200 show for meeting, pepper staff with questions
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In a warm-up to what promises to be a heated hearing before the planning commission, Ophir residents peppered Placer County staff at a meeting Thursday with some pointed questions about the Livingston’s Concrete Service batch-plant proposal. First proposed in 2002, the batch plant targeted for a five-acre parcel on Ophir Road, has been simmering on the backburner for several years. But with recent completion of a environmental studies and a Placer County Planning Commission hearing slated tentatively for March 26, Ophir residents were out in full force at a North Auburn meeting room to turn up the heat. An estimated 200 people packed the hearing room for what was essentially a spirited question-and-answer session with staff. One of the primary concerns voiced in questions fielded by county staff revolved around air quality. Responding to a written query about the amount of dust the plant would generate and what kind of impact it would have on nearby air, permit supervisor John Finnell said the total amount would be from four to five pounds an hour, at most. With the batch plant plans to operate Mondays to Saturdays from 5:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the amount of dust generated daily would be less than the 80 pounds deemed to be significant levels, he said. “It’s about half the significant level,” Finnell said. The meeting was described in county-originated reports publicizing the session as both a chance to ask questions and make comments. But comments were minimized in a format where questions were written down and then addressed by 10 staff members from various county departments associated with the batch plant review process. That didn’t stop occasional spontaneous outbreaks of frustration voiced from the audience over ongoing concerns about visual impacts, noise, traffic, air quality and groundwater depletion issues. Another area of concern expressed in several questions revolved around a pump test on the proposed batch plant site at the intersection of Geraldson Road and Ophir Road. The Livingston plan is to use a well to pump groundwater but nearby residents are concerned that it will deplete their own supply. Leslie Lindbo of the county’s environmental health division explained that water wells in that area get their supplies from fractured rock – not a water table like the one in the valley that is shared by numerous land users. In many, but not all, cases, a foothills well doesn’t share the same fracture with a neighbor, she said. In the case of the Livingston well, it was pumped for 72 hours straight and dropped 247 feet while a neighboring well was tested and experienced a drop of less than a foot during the same time. “The testing was valid and we’re accepting that,” Lindbo said. Audience members also learned that Livingston is now proposing a 45-foot-high tower to store its powdered mix in. The initial plan for a 57-foot tower would have required a special dispensation because zoning didn’t allow it. A 45-foot tower is in compliance with the maximum height allowed, according to the planning department. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.