Scenic view from Amador County's Ridge Road, looking south
On November 3, 2016, 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. Our attorney for the case is Michael W. Graf, who was our co-counsel in the 2009 lawsuit that stopped the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s plan to flood the most-popular local sections of the Mokelumne River.
Since the filing of the litigation, we have met with county representatives to discuss potential options for settling the litigation. Those discussions are continuing as we publish this newsletter.
“We’re glad to be talking with the county,” said Foothill Conservancy President Katherine Evatt. “We offered to meet with them last spring before the plan was approved. While that didn’t take place, we are optimistic about the current discussions.”
Long process led to unsatisfactory outcome
We were 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, we 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 final, board of supervisors-approved plan was a real disappointment, despite the public engagement that led to it.
“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 former Foothill Conservancy Executive Director Cecily Smith earlier this year.
“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.”
“We 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.
“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, the approved plan won’t set our county on a path to prosperity or protect our quality of life and natural environment.”
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.”
Please support our fight for a better general plan
The new 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.
“Litigation is very expensive,” Evatt noted. “Even when we’re engaged in negotiation, our legal costs continue to mount. We definitely need our members’ and supporters’ help and support to continue the fight for a good county general plan. The future of Amador County truly is at stake.”
If you would like to contribute to our effort to protect Amador County’s natural and human environment through our general plan litigation, please consider making a special, tax-deductible donation soon. You can do that on our website or by sending a check to us at Foothill Conservancy, 35 Court Ste, Ste 1, Jackson CA 95642.