Thursday, 26 January 2023

Northshore gate plan meant to curtail illegal dumping

LUCERNE – County officials are stepping up efforts to fight illegal dumping in areas that have been hard hit by the activity.


Deputy Redevelopment Director Eric Seely said the county plans to use $20,000 in redevelopment funds to install six gates in areas of the “paper” subdivisions – the hill areas that stretch behind Nice and Lucerne – in order to prevent illegal dumpers from accessing potential dump sites.


The county is partnering with Northshore Fire and Cal Fire to secure the areas, said Seely.


Seely said the funds will pay for concrete, heavy equipment and building materials for the gates, which will be built and installed by Cal Fire.


Northshore Fire Chief Jim Robbins introduced the idea to Cal Fire, said Seely, which in turn is donating staff time for the project.


The gates, said Seely, will be located on Foothill Drive behind Jim Fetzer's Ceago Vinegarden property; on Minor Road off Bartlett Springs Road; on Bishop Extension, which is located on the top of the ridge on U.S. Forest Service Property; on Utopia Extension near where Cal Water is building a new water tank; on Arden Drive; and on Dunstan Road off of Robinson Road near Morrison Creek.


The Dunstan Road area, where it curves around near Morrison Creek, is “the big trouble spot,” said Seely.


Driving the gate project, said Seely, was a big cleanup of Morrison Creek that Code Enforcement conducted last March.


Supervisor Denise Rushing, speaking at a town hall meeting in Lucerne on Saturday, said that during that cleanup county staff removed cars, refrigerators and about six years' worth of garbage out of Morrison Creek, which is a local water supply source.


However, Rushing reported the area has already been dumped in again.


It's a vexing problem, especially considering that local garbage haulers will pick up the large, bulky items often deposited in area creeks and ravines, and county garbage rates are among the state's lowest, according to Rushing.


Seely said Code Enforcement Manager Voris Brumfield took the idea of installing gates in the subdivisions to County Counsel Anita Grant, who issued a legal opinion supporting the idea.


The Morrison Creek area used for illegal dumping is enough of a concern that the California Integrated Waste Management Board has included it in an inventory of dump sites requiring monitoring, said Ray Ruminksi, director of Lake County Environmental Health.


Morrison Creek was never a legal dump site, said Ruminski.


Environmental Health is the local enforcement agency representing the California Integrated Waste Management Board on matters involving waste management.


The state wants Environmental Health to be involved with inspecting and reporting on the site, Ruminski said, which would be in addition to Code Enforcement's efforts.


Robbins said he has agreed to have Northshore Fire be the gate keeper for the areas once the gates are installed.


“If someone has proof that they own property in there, we will allow them to borrow a key to visit the property,” said Robbins.


In cases where people build homes behind the gates, they will be issued a key of their own, Robbins added.


Robbins said there was an effort several years ago to install gates to reduce access to the subdivisions, in large part because of the bad condition of the roads. Now, however, the primary issue has shifted.


“We're just trying to figure out a way to stop all this garbage dumping,” Robbins said. “We don't know that this is the trick yet but we're certainly going to try.”


Robbins said the gates will be surrounded by bollards, to allow walkers and bikers through to enjoy the public roads.


The fire chief himself has caught illegal dumpers in action in the areas which will now be protected by gates.


Several months ago he watched as employees of a Willits tree service company drove onto a dirt road behind the Fetzer property, where they began dumping tree trimmings and mulch. Robbins said he kept the men there and summoned a deputy, who cited them and ordered them take the greenwaste to a proper facility.


“That's what we have to put up with,” said Robbins, who added that a lot of dumping takes place at night.


Seely said the county hopes the gates will be installed by late spring, in time for the beginning of fire season.


The participating agencies will monitor the dumping situation and the effectiveness of the gates, said Seely. If additional gates are needed, they'll be added in the future.


As access to more secluded areas is limited, Seely said it's hoped illegal dumpers will lose their opportunity. If they do try to dump in other areas, they could risk being more easily seen and prosecuted.


To further enhance the effort against illegal dumping, Rushing said that Code Enforcement has named Beverly Westphal as its illegal dumping contact.


Anyone who has witnessed illegal dumping is urged to call Westphal at 263-2309 during business hours, or leave a message 24 hours a day at 263-2308.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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