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Updated 11:00am - Nov 26, 2014

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Landowners upset over county vote on tree removal

Trees around Ward Field must be removed, Caltrans says. Del Norte Triplicate / Adam Spencer
Trees around Ward Field must be removed, Caltrans says. Del Norte Triplicate / Adam Spencer
The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors is poised to approve a project during today’s meeting to remove trees in the vicinity of Ward Field airport in Gasquet, surprising private landowners who thought the project was put on hold.

 

The action to award the contract for obstruction removal of trees on private property is on the Board’s consent agenda for today’s meeting, which is open to the public at 10 a.m. in the Flynn Center, 981 H Street, Crescent City.

Susan Daugherty, airport program manager for the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority, recommended that the Board award the contract to Mountain F. Enterprises, which was the lowest bidder on the original project with a bid of $477,000, but that project has been scaled back to fit the $113,000 available from Caltrans’ Division of Aeronautics. 

Gasquet homeowners affected by the project say the project was scaled back because a second survey required more public involvement to determine the need to cut 330 trees that were tagged for removal.

Donna Ruggles, a Gasquet property owner who has been fighting the project, wrote a letter to the Board saying the project should not have been exempt from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act.  

“It is clear from the record that the CEQA analysis for this project is inadequate and that categorizing this project as exempt from CEQA is inappropriate,” Ruggles said in the letter.

Del Norte County Community Development Department staff have said that the CEQA exemption is only based on the original project submitted by the airport authority in 2012 and not the 330 trees tagged for removal that the airport authority put out for bid earlier this year.

During a community meeting in April attended by airport director Jim Bernard and county supervisors Martha McClure and Mike Sullivan, it was determined that the project would be limited to what was reviewed by county staff in 2012.

But Ruggles’ letter to BOS also cited other reasons why even the smaller-scaled project should not be allowed to move forward. The county should not be able to use Title III federal funds for the county’s match contribution because Caltrans’ Division of Aeronautics has stated that the match cannot be from a federal or state funding source, Ruggles’ letter states.

Ruggles also wrote that only two landowners have granted the county right-of-entry for the project, as other property owners have rescinded right-of-entry in recent months after scrutinizing the project.

Matt Rocco, a spokesperson for Caltrans, said that the tree removal project is still deemed to be necessary for Ward Field’s permit.

“Caltrans requires that the county continue to move forward on this,” Rocco said.

If the project does move forward, Gasquet landowners intend to ensure that it follows proper protocol.

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