By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

The debate and controversy about where to place Del Norte County?s future transfer station officially ended yesterday.

The Hooshnam property, located a couple miles north of Highway 101 on Elk Valley Road, has cleared all the environmental hurdles and received approval from the board, according to Director Kevin Hendrick of the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority.

?For all practical purposes, the decision today (Friday) made the final selection of the transfer station site,? Hendrick said. ?The next step is to move on to securing the local land-use permits and state facility permits.?

With little discussion, the Solid Waste Board voted 4-1 to accept the findings in the environmental impact report for the Hooshnam site and approve the project for that location.

Chair C. Ray Smith said he voted against the certification as a matter of principle.

?I have been opposed to this site from the beginning,? Smith said. ?I find it very difficult for me to vote for this issue, but I also realize it?s one of the steps we have to take.?

Hendrick said he appreciated the lengthy amount of time the board had to endure for the site to be sanctioned while wading through a seemingly endless sea of political obstacles.

?I want to thank you all for your patience during this process,? Hendrick told the board.

A perplexed boardmember, Jack Reese, asked ?who??

?Those of you who have patience,? Hendrick said.

The Hooshnam property became the final selection last year for the transfer station when state agencies objected to two alternative sites because of environmental concerns.

?It?s the end of the major portion of the public process,? said Hendrick. ?It?s great to have this step completed and we can now look forward to moving on to the next steps.?

One of the next steps is to secure a contract with a company to operate the transfer station, which will act as a temporary stopover for county garbage before it is shipped to distant landfills. The Del Norte County landfill is scheduled to close before it reaches capacity around August 2003.

In an attempt to be fair to all competing bidders, the board approved yesterday to break down what was originally an all-encompassing contract. Operation, transportation and dumping of the garbage will be broken into individual components which companies can now bid on.