By Hilary Corrigan
Triplicate staff writer
Former California senator Wesley Chesbro aims to spotlight the problems that rural areas such as Del Norte County face in taking out the trash.
Chesbro a Democrat who, until this year, represented the state's second district that stretches through the middle of seven Northern California counties has reclaimed a seat on the California Integrated Waste Management Board.
State government officials appoint six members to the statewide agency that aims to reduce waste by prompting local governments, industry and the public to reuse some trash and divert as much as possible from landfills.
Chesbro plans to show rural communities the programs, grants and loans available for those projects and make such options available to rural areas, not just big cities.
"To make sure rural California doesn't get left behind," he said, noting the way some lawmakers and board members draft rules and programs for urban districts without considering sparsely populated sections. "They think no one lives here."
Rural areas face various challenges. They lack the larger tax base of cities that pays for operating and upgrading landfills, for instance. In 2005, Del Norte Solid Waste Authority closed its own landfill that lacked any lining to block waste from reaching soil and water, violating state pollution rules.
The authority contracts Del Norte Disposal to truck waste to a landfill in Oregon, a costly hauling process from an isolated region.
To lighten the load, Chesbro and the authority have been aiming to develop a 5-acre industrial recovery park at the authority's Elk Valley Road transfer station over the next few years.
The effort seeks to while developing businesses that refurbish equipment, repair appliances and manufacture items with discarded materials.
"We're not talking about big factories. We're talking about small businesses," Chesbro said.
The park would also provide workers with a storefront to sell the refurbished items in a workspace with low over-head costs on land already zoned for light industrial work, said authority director Kevin Hendrick.
While the authority could now send certain recyclable materials to facilities that can make something from the trash, the hauling costs to far-away cities cancel any savings, Hendrick said.
To Hendrick, Chesbro's place on the state board could bolster such projects. Chesbro had previously served from 1990 to 1998 but his recycling work dates back to 1971, when he helped start the Arcata Recycling Center.
"It's good to have someone from the Northcoast," Hendrick said. "And really understands rural issues."