The Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area’s (SVRA) proposed expansion parcel of more than 3000 acres, known as Tesla Park to those supportive of its preservation, is not yet safe from the impacts of Off- Highway Vehicle (OHV) recreation. Unfortunately, on Friday, October 21, 2016 the OHMVR Commission convened in Sacramento to approve the General Plan and certify the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the existing park and expansion. In my three minutes at the podium I presented a few main points from our EBCNPS letter to the OHMVR Commission. I held out hope that comments from all of the groups in attendance on Friday, may have swayed the commissioners to delay a decision. Our organization has contended for years that the plan neglects the significant impacts of OHV recreation to biotic resources, does not provide adequate mitigation measures, and most importantly, lacks adequate plant surveys.
The OHMVR Commission heard public comments from about 50 people, from approximately 11:00 am to 3:45 pm, with a lunch break. A multitude of organizations, individuals, politicians, local government agencies, and state government agencies have opposed this expansion project. Read the full list here: http://www.teslapark.org/. Members from several of these groups attended an in-person meeting with OHV Division Deputy Director Mathew Fuzie on October 12, but this did not result in action to stop the Final EIR and General Plan approval process. On a happy note, related to our organization’s past advocacy at several meetings with the Altamont Landfill Open Space Committee, ALOSC submitted a letter declaring their support for prioritizing funding applications for acquiring or conserving the Tesla expansion area. Commissioners on Friday took only about 15 minutes to review the stack of letters submitted into the record and then continued with questions for staff regarding some of the comments heard from the public. A couple of public agency representatives also returned to the podium for a few minutes of commission questioning.
By this point astute listeners realized the public had not yet seen a document referred to several times during the day, and this realization resulted in a big hiccup. The commission had referenced the existence of a CEQA document called a “Statement of Overriding Considerations,” as an existing document already created by the Director of State Parks. This type of document is important for understanding how an agency addressed environmental impact analysis concerns, because it provides an outline that typically both acknowledges significant impacts and declares the agency- level reasoning for ignoring these impacts. In a last minute twist before a commission vote, the commission broke to tell the remaining audience we would receive a copy of this Statement so as to read it, immediately followed (about 10 minutes later) by a supplementary public comment period. The text of two resolution documents were distributed, which referenced the Statement. But, it ended up that the meeting was adjourned without the public ever having seen the text of this Statement (still unavailable as of this writing). The commissioners themselves appeared not to have read this Statement or know whether or not it existed. Remaining members of the public were allowed two minutes to comment on the resolutions. In my brief reading, these resolutions did not provide substantive information on the agency’s reasons for dismissing significant impacts. They simply declared the OHMVR Commission’s intent to approve the General Plan and certify the Final EIR. Under no circumstance is a 10 minute review of a document sufficient for public comment. Minutes later the commission adopted the resolutions. The ultimate meaning of this hasty action will be addressed by Friends of Tesla Park and others undertaking likely future litigation.
Our conclusion is that Tesla is not an appropriate place for OHVs, and comparing areas within it to find a “relatively” appropriate development area for OHVs is inappropriate. The General Plan’s Preferred Concept Map clearly demonstrates project intentions for construction of facilities of all types, including trails. Think of this: a programmatic EIR is the last and only environmental analysis document that would look at the Carnegie SVRA and Tesla as a whole recreational facility. The Carnegie SVRA’s only recognized significant impact in these reports, was impacts to air quality?
In the coming months return for updates on the status of the ill-conceived Carnegie SVRA Tesla expansion project. Following certification of an EIR the public is also notified of State Parks’ intention to carry out the project when they file a Notice of Determination. We hope that Carnegie SVRA understands that work cannot proceed until at least this notice is posted, and after- a thirty day period following the posting. Additionally, although we question Carnegie’s recognition of this fact, this Final EIR commits to subsequent environmental review processes before any project proceeds. Regardless, the valuable resources on Tesla should not be destroyed as they would be with OHV recreation activity, and we continue to hope Tesla will be preserved.