El Dorado County officials want to be “ahead of rather than behind the curve” when it deals with the federal government. Toward that end, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday considered formalizing a relationship with the El Dorado County Citizens Coordination Committee and to urge creation of an advisory committee within its scope of operations.
Several months into its existence, the committee’s president is Tim Roffe, owner of Wolfsden Construction in Pollock Pines. Roffe described the committee to the board as one whose work will involve analyzing federal policies of the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service and any other federal agencies that have a footprint in El Dorado County.
District 2 supervisor Ray Nutting sponsored two items on Tuesday’s agenda recommending the board first create the advisory committee and next, “direct county staff to work with … Roffe and himself to produce a policy.” The policy would address the county’s needs and preferences to be carried forward by federal “Coordination” regulations.
Roffe told the board that in the past as well as the present, the county has had a problem of “dealing with (federal) issues retroactively and we need a level of credibility in dealing with those agencies.”
The significance of the issue, he noted is that “43 percent of El Dorado County is public lands,” and much of that is national forest. Roffe explained that the committee currently has 10 members but would need to be able to expand depending upon issues that arise in the future. As it exists now and as envisioned, Roffe said members would be people who either have expertise or would know how to find it. They might include foresters, geologists, water experts, biologists and the like.
Ron Briggs, whose District 4 includes large tracts of the Eldorado National Forest, was quick to express skepticism about the advisory committee’s function.
“Ray, I’ve got a bunch of questions for you,” Briggs said. “What (does the committee do) with all their expertise?… I have a problem with a committee. Is it a standing committee, subject to the Brown Act, with paid staff? What’s its purpose and (likely) conclusions?”
Briggs also expressed concern that “somebody might go in making demands and jeopardizing relationships that have been developed, especially in District 4.”
Between Briggs’s questions, Nutting responded that he expected the committee “to help elevate the issues to bring before the board … We’ve been in crisis mode for 40 years, behind the curve on federal laws.”
Nutting described situations wherein “equestrians don’t know where they’re allowed to unload their horse trailers and the whole issue of Off Highway Vehicles in forest areas.”
“For 40 years, I’ve seen a lot of complaining going on regarding issues with the forest service,” Nutting said. “Eventually, we’re going to have to have a person on staff to be our eyes and ears regarding forest service land in El Dorado County. This committee wants to know it will have credence to bring issues to the board of supervisors. We have very little authority over the federal government.”
District 3 supervisor Jack Sweeney agreed that an advisory committee could have value “reducing conflicts and differences and helping to work out problems, but I want to make it clear that a committee does not represent this board, rather it is to advise us. ‘Coordination’ is all government to government and not individuals to government.”
Sweeney’s reference was to “Coordination” as a body of federal law and not to a process. There is a category of law under a heading of “Federal Acts Requiring Coordination with Local Governments.”
That group of regulations describes “Coordination” as it is required by the National Forest Management Act and the Federal Land Policy Management Act. Subsets include National Historic Preservation, Fish and Wildlife issues, Outdoor Recreation, Clean Air and Water Quality.
In its simplest manifestation, “Coordination” requires the federal agencies to consult and cooperate with local governmental entities when there are areas of mutual interest, concern or conflict over projects proposed by the forest service, for example.
Art Marinaccio, a veteran land use and General Plan consultant told the board he believes the committee is a good idea and that it “needs to be broad-based but with a narrow focus, that is, that the federal government must consider our interests as defined in the General Plan. The committee itself can have no interface with the Feds,” he said.
Norma Santiago acknowledged the concept as a good one but noted “the devil is in the details.” She suggested that the committee “come back with a framework … and real clarity regarding its function. We need very clear direction and objectives,” she said.
Santiago eventually crafted a motion to direct county staff to work with the committee to prepare a more detailed and comprehensive description of its members, by-laws and overall function. The board voted unanimously to have the committee return but not before the end of July.
Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @CDaleyMtDemo.