By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

The preferred location for the countys transfer station moved back to Elk Valley Road yesterday when the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority voted to make the so-called Hooshnam site the top candidate, but only after airing frustrations.

It appears to me that this board has been boxed-in and I dont particularly like that, said Chairman Jack Reese. The boards consulting firm, Winzler And Kelly, recommended dropping two previously preferred locations: Hambro, also located on Elk Valley Road, and the countys landfill at the end of Old Mill Road.

After comments were received on a draft environmental impact report (EIR) on the three locations, the board found several state agencies, the California Coastal Commission in particular, opposed to construction on the other two locations because of their proximity to sensitive wetland areas.

I think were becoming an endangered species in Del Norte County, said board member C. Ray Smith. I think were all in this room environmentalists to some point, but were not obstructionists.

The board originally voted 3-to-2 against following the consultants recommendation. But after some discussion and no feasible alternatives surfaced, the board passed the recommendation 4-to-1 to go with Hooshnam and not study any other sites.

Smith voted against the motion both times. Boardmember Clyde Eller said he agreed with Smith but added time was becoming a critical issue and it would not be prudent to fight the state agencies should they appeal the boards decision.

Somehow we have to look at reality, Eller said. The parks want that land and the parks are going to get it ... It leaves a sour taste in my mouth to say we have to abandon the landfill site.

In EIR comments submitted by the Coastal Commissions coastal planner, Jim Baskin, the proposed landfill development was on top of known wetland area and Hambro was within 100 feet of one.

According to Director Kevin Hendrick, only a small portion of the Hooshnam site may be a wetland, and if so, the problem can be worked around by shifting the transfer site boundaries.

Boardmember Mickey Youngblood asked county planner Ernie Perry what the countys odds would be if they should decide to fight the Coastal Commission. Perry painted a gloomy picture.

Theres a lot of language in there that doesnt bode well for the landfill ... there is code language in that letter indicating the commission would not bend.

Audience members who stood up to add their voices against Hambro and the landfill were not well received yesterday. Eller excused himself during comments by environmentalist Eileen Cooper, and Reese was clearly impatient at this point with what appeared to be a dead issue.

It doesnt matter where we put this site, its going to upset people, Reese bristled. Nobody wants it in their backyard ... and thats too damn bad because we need a transfer station. When another audience member raised her hand to speak, Reese told her not to bother if her comments were more of the same.

Senior project manager Steve Salzman apologized to the board for being the bearer of the bad news but said there are benefits to the Hooshnam site.

The Hooshnam site is a better site for building quickly and cheaper than the landfill site, Salzman said. And its not just because of the bugs and bunnies at the landfill.

After the meeting, Salzman and Hendrick pointed to pluses of Hooshnam over the other locations. Hooshnams boundaries are more flexible than at Hambro and it does not have the sandy soil and liquefaction dangers of the landfill, they said.

Ollie and Mollie Hooshnam, who own 70 acres in the county including the seven acres at the Hooshnam site, said they dont believe its a done deal yet.

Theyve been battling about this for years, said Ollie Hooshnam. Wed just like to help the community. Wed like to see this happen so the community will have a place where people can work, and there are way too many people out of work here.

Once built, the transfer station will replace the county landfill when the latter reaches capacity and closes in 2003. The transfer station will sort and truck garbage out of the county to other landfills.