LACO’s planners assist County planning staff in processing cannabis permits from project opening to decision. Our vast experience with contract planning and special projects for additional jurisdictions such as Mendocino County, City of Eureka, City of Arcata, City of Fortuna, and the City of Fort Bragg gives us the background to hit the ground running and decrease processing timeframes for submitted projects. Our team has processed hundreds of current planning applications over the last decade as on-call planners to local jurisdictions. We have written dozens of Initial Studies and also provided project management services for larger projects where outside consultants were preparing EIRs. Our staff have experience on both sides of the counter and are able to produce staff reports quickly and cost effectively, and to make presentations to department staff, officials, stakeholders, and the public.
LACO’s planners have demonstrated experience successfully permitting complex projects while finding solutions that are compliant with regulations, protecting both the project proponent’s interests and the environment. We use our knowledge of environmental regulations, long-standing relationships with regulatory agencies, and understanding of technical issues to identify agency concerns and inconsistency with regulations early in the planning process, conduct a sound impact analysis, and develop projects that are technically grounded and achievable with a clear path toward implementation.
LACO can also provide NEPA Environmental Assessments (EA) or categorical exclusions, complete agency permitting such as US Army Corps of Engineers 404 and nationwide permits for wetland fill, Regional Water Quality Control Board 401 Water Quality Certification, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreements.
In addition to planning assistance, LACO acts as trusted advisors in providing project management and staff support during reviews of EIRs for major developments such as the Terra-Gen Wind Energy Project and Nordic Aquafarms. While Terra Gen was not approved, both these projects demonstrated extreme dedication to meeting deadlines, collaboration, and teamwork, and handling incredibly controversial projects with professionalism and attention to detail. Key issues addressed in the Terra Gen EIR included potential take of federally listed species and visual and cultural resource impacts.
LACO is currently assisting County planners in permitting the Nordic Aquafarms Aquaculture Facility. This work included determining that an EIR was the appropriate CEQA document, and subsequently preparing the NOP and presenting project information at public and agency scoping meetings, conducting a comprehensive review and edit of the Draft EIR prior to circulation. We assisted the County in responding to comments and in preparing the Final EIR, while providing public hearing support and coordination and staff support at ongoing meetings with responsible and trustee agencies such as CDFW, USFW, California Coastal Commission, Regional Water Quality Control Board, and Tribal outreach pursuant to AB52.
LACO’s geology practice also has a history of collaboration with Humboldt County on projects ranging from peer review of fault hazard investigations, code enforcement, and working with the Building and Planning Department to develop well permitting standards for cannabis grows. LACO’s hydrogeologists are currently working with developing a pilot program that will allow collection of sufficient data to determine whether proposed new groundwater irrigation wells for proposed cannabis farms will have significant cumulative impacts on existing groundwater users, including domestic users and groundwater dependent ecosystems. There are currently insufficient data to make that determination. Results of the pilot program will allow LACO and the County to programmatically determine which proposed wells are less likely to result in negative cumulative impacts and which need further study.