On Thursday, November 3, Foothill Conservancy filed a lawsuit in Amador County Superior Court challenging the County of Amador’s new general plan and related environmental impact report. The Conservancy’s petition for writ of mandate asks the court to set aside the general plan and EIR, and revise the EIR to correct identified errors and inadequacies. The attorney representing the Conservancy in this matter is Michael W. Graf, who won a Conservancy lawsuit that stopped the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s plan to flood the most-popular local sections of the Mokelumne River.
“We are truly disappointed that after a 10-year process, the county approved a general plan that fails to protect everything that makes Amador County a special place to live, work, retire and visit,” said Foothill Conservancy Executive Director Cecily Smith.
“The plan doesn’t protect our scenic beauty and community character. It will not stop rural sprawl. It greatly underestimates the amount of land that will be converted from agricultural uses. It will lead to gridlock on local roads, place lives and property at risk from wildland fire, create more air pollution, brighten our dark night skies, potentially destroy critical habitat for plants found nowhere else on earth, allow the conversion of working ranches and forests to developed uses, and continue to allow the proliferation of ugly ‘small box’ retail stores along our highways. We love our county, and we think local residents deserve better.”
The general plan will remain in force while the litigation is pending. The lawsuit is only the fourth suit filed by Foothill Conservancy since its founding in 1989.
“We’d always prefer to work in a cooperative, collaborative way to find solutions to local challenges,” said Smith. “That’s what we do on river and watershed issues, forest issues, salmon restoration, and more. But the county apparently wasn’t interested in doing that for the general plan. That left us with no alternative but litigation.
“We offered to meet and work with the county to address the serious concerns raised by our organization and its members, many other Amador County residents, local cities, CalFire, CalTrans, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, tribal interests, and others. But in the end, county chose to approve a plan that won’t set our county on a path to prosperity or protect our quality of life and natural environment.”
Foothill Conservancy was actively engaged in the Amador County General Plan Update process from its launch in 2006 until its final approval on October 4, 2016. In addition to providing public education on the plan process, the Conservancy served on the General Plan Advisory Committee, participated in related public hearings, submitted detailed written comments, engaged local and statewide experts to make comments on the plan and EIR, and provided many examples from other counties demonstrating how the plan could be improved to reduce its serious environmental impacts.
The county general plan fails to live up to its own introductory vision statement, which is similar to the Foothill Conservancy’s own vision statement and land use principles. “The county supervisors chose to accept significant impacts on people and the environment rather than adopt a better plan,” Smith said. “We hope our litigation will lead to a more-positive result for Amador County’s landowners, businesses, wildlife and visitors.”
For more information, contact Cecily Smith at 209-223-3508 or Cecily@foothillconservancy.org.