Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow will be running with opposition in his bid for a second term in District 3. Citizen advocate Scott Calkins is dissatisfied with the representation provided by the incumbent and will raise several issues during the campaign, including expansion of the 132 Freeway, the future of Wood Colony, and toxic waste sites in the District.
Supervisor Withrow strongly supports construction of the 132 Freeway between Highway 99 and Interstate 5. Scott Calkins is concerned about the disruption road construction would cause to agriculture and consequent urban development along the route after a freeway is built. Mr. Calkins prefers that Route 132 maintain the present level of service.
Supervisor Withrow has said that he favors conservation of farm land, including Wood Colony, but has not introduced any legislation during his term of office to protect agriculture. His economic policies appear to be urban growth inducing.
Scott Calkins wants to strengthen protection of prime farm land. He has strongly opposed Modesto’s proposal to add Wood Colony to its general plan. If the 132 Freeway is built before Wood Colony is permanently protected from urban development, the area could eventually be converted to an industrial park when developers have their way. Stanislaus County’s track record has been that urban developers usually have their way.
132 Freeway Toxic Waste Sites
Supervisor Withrow has had a low profile regarding the monitoring and disposition of toxic waste sites currently located within the future 132 Freeway right of way. A perception of those monitoring the Caltrans decision process is that the Supervisor wants the freeway built so much that he is willing to accept Caltrans’ promises at face value. Whereas project opponents want the toxic waste removed to an appropriate toxic waste dump before the freeway is built, the Supervisor appears willing to allow Caltrans to install a cement cap over the dump.
As far as Mr. Calkins is concerned, Caltrans’ record in monitoring its toxic waste sites has not been satisfactory. While a cement cap is a possible solution, a cap can crack and leak. Given the agency’s historic disregard for the condition of the toxic waste sites in the 132 freeway right of way, a legitimate concern is Caltrans will not maintain the cement cap and the threat of ground water contamination will exist for future generations to deal with. Mr. Calkins wants a permanent fix before a freeway is built.
Caltrans’ History of Questionable Practices
As a member of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee of the Stanislaus Council of Governments, Scott Calkins has mentioned concerns that Caltrans never completely addressed. In a meeting in March 2013 with Nathan Schumacher of the California Department of Toxic Substance Control and Debra “Sam” Haack of Caltrans, Mr. Calkins reported in an email to this writer:
“I asked both Sam and Nathan questions about why the contaminated soil from stockpile #3 had been taken to the Forward Inc-Waste Disposal in Manteca and not the Stanislaus County landfill. Both had trouble answering the question and claimed not to be the experts. Sam finally said that Steven Meeks at the water board had made the final decision about where to take the soil, but both were uncertain why it ended up in Manteca.”
Writer’s Note: Contaminated soil should NOT be disposed of in a public land fill.
Mr. Calkins continued:
“I also asked about Caltrans practices and policies regarding the gate/valve in the storm water retention basin next to stockpile #3 and the regrading of that retention basin during the Kansas ramp project. Sam claimed that the current maintenance supervisor has not opened the valve in four years that he has been there. When asked more questions about the use of the valve it became clear that Caltrans has no policy regarding when it could be opened and does not inform anyone when the events occur, even though this would put contaminated water into the Tuolumne River. When I asked if the permit filed for the Kansas ramp project included regrading the retention basin, again Sam was uncertain. I pointed out that the soil and silt at the bottom of the retention basin should have been tested prior to regrading because it could have held high levels of constituents of concern (metals) if storm water from piles #2 and #3 had been allowed to evaporate or percolate there for decades.”
Mr. Calkins also observed that on Emerald Avenue, west of a mound containing toxic waste, Caltrans practices may have violated the Clean Water Act in regard to the way it managed storm water runoff. During a rain storm this past winter, Mr. Calkins observed water running off of a mound containing toxic waste into a nearby storm drain.
In sum, Mr. Calkins indicates that a County Supervisor needs to be more proactive in protecting the public interest and would do so in the management of the 132 freeway project.
Sales Tax Proposal
The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors favors a half cent sales tax increase to pay for road construction. Mr. Calkins characterized the proposal as “unbalanced”:
“Terry Withrow and others are pushing a regressive tax that is 94% roadway. StanCOG’s policy board should be more serious about supporting an efficient and frequent passenger rail service between Modesto and the bay area. The best way to improve safety and ease congestion on 132 West is to take cars off of it, not put more cars on it.”
Voters Have a Clear Choice
The voters of Stanislaus County District 3 will have two very different candidates to choose from in the upcoming election. Their approaches to economic development and public safety are quite different. Both are honorable men with different ideas about what is best for the community.