By Todd Wels

Triplicate staff writer

Tidewater Construction will be allowed to place a temporary asphalt batch plant on French Hill Road in Gasquet.

The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday to grant the permit, despite overwhelming public testimony against the plant.

While most agreed that it is necessary to repave U.S. Highway 199, which the asphalt created at the plant would be used to do, they argued that the creation of a plant along French Hill Road would create traffic and environmental hazards.

Gasquet resident Bob Green said the number of trucks coming down the hill, which could be as many as six per hour, would make the intersection of French Hill Road and Hwy 199 incredibly dangerous.

Representatives of Brookings-based Tidewater Construction countered that even if they are forced to use asphalt created at other sites in Smith River and Cave Junction, they would still be forced to use rock generated at the nearby Scheve/McNamara Quarry. That would double the amount of truck traffic in the French Hill area as much as 12 trucks per hour, with six headed each way, they said.

That increase in traffic would be spread throughout the county, they added.

Green and others also cited environmental concerns, such as dust and air pollution, and the possibility of spillage of diesel and other petrochemicals into the Gasquet water supply.

The Tidewater representatives said that diesel is no longer used to wash down cement trucks, which would minimize a contamination hazard.

Tidewater Project Manager Scott Darger said the plant would meet Northern Californias stringent air quality standards.

Others criticized the Planning Departments report on the matter.

It is incomplete, inaccurate and insufficient, said Eileen Peterson of Gasquet.

That opinion was shared by several members of the board of supervisors, who added several conditions to the permit, including the requirement of placing a flagger, lights and signs at the intersection, specifying that the plant could only operate from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and requiring Tidewater to widen the first half-mile of French Hill Road.

They also added a restriction on truck drivers use of noisy jake brakes along that half-mile.

Supervisor Chuck Blackburn, who represents Gasquet on the board, led the charge against the permit.

He accused Tidewater of failing to communicate with concerned Gasquet residents.

Blackburn claimed to have received more than 30 telephone calls against the plant within a two-day period.

Youve certainly let us know your concerns, and we are concerned, he said.

Supervisor Martha McClure joined with Blackburn in opposing the plant, though she had initially favored a compromise that would have allowed the plant to be placed on French Hill Road.

However, after hearing Gasquet residents traffic safety concerns for French Hill Road, she changed her mind, stating: If a big truck pulls out, its death. We could be signing someones death warrant.

Eller argued that that traffic safety concern would increase if Tidewater were forced to rely exclusively on asphalt from other plants. He added that trucking more asphalt from Smith River and Cave Junction would also increase air pollution throughout the county, as well as spreading out traffic safety concerns.

I must support this project, he said.

Supervisor David Finigan concurred with Eller, noting that he believed Tidewater had sufficiently addressed environmental concerns.

The rock is coming down, Finigan said. The truck traffic will be the same.

Though he jokingly bemoaned having to be the last guy to talk, Supervisors Chairman Jack Reese voted with Finigan and Eller.

I feel for the residents of Gasquet, but there are other issues I must address and that is the rest of the county, he said.

The French Hill plant will provide approximately 75,000 tons of the 116,000 tons of asphalt that will be used in the project, according to Tidewater representatives, who added that it will only be in operation for approximately 65 working days.