Ahead of public hearings on the environmental impact report(EIR)for a $35 million cemetery proposed for the Tassajara Valley, county planners are taking a look at hydrology mitigation measures.
"What final EIR is going to do is provide a little more context as to how those mitigations will be implemented and for responding to a lot of the comments we received," said planner Demian Hardman.
There has been strong opposition to the cemetery proposed by developer Sid Corrie, which would be built on 221 acres at 7000 Camino Tassajara. Creekside Memorial Park would have a 50-year capacity and include a chapel, indoor and outdoor mausoleums and extensive landscaping; residents have expressed concern that the development would have significant impact on local water sources.
The cemetery will occupy approximately 58.7 acres of the 221.6-acre site, including a 13.2-acre non-irrigated upper garden area and an irrigated, landscaped lower garden area on 45.5 acres. Tassajara Creek crosses the site at its southeastern corner, and two small tributaries traverse the eastern and southern edges of the site. The project area also contains two groundwater seeps and two stock ponds, which hold water through the summer. There is also a watershed area above the project property that is currently occupied by two residences and cattle grazing.
Although the draft EIR states Creekside Memorial would have a "significant and unavoidable" impact on water supply, Hardman said planners are creating performance standards to determine the project's plausibility.
"It's hard to say how much water's out there, that's the concern. We're trying to develop performance standards that would make sure we know there's enough water out there to do the development that's being proposed," Hardman said, adding that the county is working with a hydrologist.
Water for the cemetery would be stored in one or more onsite tanks for fire-fighting purposes and utilize groundwater from wells on the property for its nine toilets, two urinals, 10 sinks and landscaping needs.
According to the draft EIR, the project requires a water supply equivalent to a well pumping 28 gallons per minute (gpm) 365 days per year,18 hours a day for a total of 37 gmp. To satisfy peak water demands of 112 gpm during the summer, above ground storage tanks or four to 12 wells could be used.
Still, these measures would be sufficient for the long-term non-irrigation uses, but would not be sufficient for any significant landscape irrigation and could create groundwater level declines. While specific impacts would depend on the site, design and operation of wells and hydrologic conditions such as drought, the draft EIR states that the biggest impact on water supply would be on the property itself.
To mitigate some of these issues, planners have suggested decreasing the area of traditional cemetery landscaping as well as the density of plants in the riparian corridor and oak/buckeye woodland. Cemetery landscaping changes could be implemented through the installation of low-water use grass and plant species along with "landscape water conservation best management practices."
Plans also suggest decreasing the number of cattle near the property and installing water-saving plumbing.
Mitigation measures also include a stabilization plan for the tributary creeks that include biotechnical grade control, bank protection, step-pools and storm drain outfalls to prevent runoff, erosion, siltation and flooding. To prevent a degrade in groundwater quality due to burials and construction, a stormwater pollution prevention plan will submitted for technical review and approval by the county.
The EIR noted that proposed entombment areas are gently sloping, well drained, and characterized by clayey soils, which have relatively slow infiltration rates and relatively high capacity to retain contaminants. As is such, potential migration of contaminants to groundwater is less than significant.
Additionally, the project sponsor must issue plans for siting, design, installation and development of a monitoring well prior to issuance of grading or construction permits.
County planners are currently reviewing the environmental impact report and will post the final document along with a response to comments document by the end of March. Hardman said planning commissioners would need three to four weeks to review those documents before taking it to a meeting for final consideration, possibly in May.
Creekside would be similar in acreage to two large
Bay Area cemeteries but with less capacity, according to reports. Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma has 356,000 burial plots on 204 acres and an additional 200 years of capacity. Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland has 175,000 burial plots on 230 acres with quite a bit of acreage left.