State blinks — California Correctional Center will not close June 30

If you’re one of Lassen County’s many residents, correctional officers, family members or local elected officials who thought the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s proposed June 30, 2022 closure of the California Correctional Center was already a done deal that couldn’t be stopped or changed come drought or wildfire — well, you were wrong.

Obviously, in only the crudest of metaphors, would anyone equate the city of Susanville’s ongoing legal wrangling with CDCR as some sort of David and Goliath battle, but here’s the thing — CCC will not close June 30 as CDCR suddenly and unexpectedly announced last August. And most observers would credit that development to our city government’s efforts — the filing of a legal action seeking a writ of mandamus to stop the proposed CCC closure. A writ of mandamus is a judicial remedy in which a judge orders a party (CDCR in this case) to follow the law and/or comply with its statutory duty.

Here’s a map of CCC and HDSP.

While those seeking to block the closure may claim a victory in slowing down the closure and the state’s decision to create an Environmental Impact Report (as allegedly required by law), they may have won an impressive skirmish, but the war is far from over. And don’t forget, the state of California should be able to muster formidable legal firepower against Northern California’s conservative, provincial hinderlans if it so desires.

Here’s what has happened recently. Last month CDCR announced a review process regarding the closure of CCC that began with the release of a Notice of Preparation of an EIR on Jan. 11. A 30-day review period, including public comment, continues until Monday, Feb. 14. A Draft EIR will be prepared and released during the summer of 2022. A 45-day review period is expected to be completed during the summer as well. In late summer, the Final EIR, including responses to comments, will be completed. Final Certification is planned for the fall of 2022.

Gary Jakobs, of Ascent Environmental, the company that will prepare the EIR, said during a Public Scoping Meeting held Thursday, Jan. 27 on Zoom, that closing a facility generally does not have an environmental impact, “but in looking at some of the issues that could occur, it was determined that urban decay could occur as a result of reduced economic activity in the region — and urban decay is a physical effect, so we will be evaluating that.”

Jacobs said other issues up for evaluation include air quality (due to previous but apparently resolved complaints about odors from effluent), tribal cultural resources and alternatives to the closure of CCC.

According to a statement from CDCR and the State of California Department of Facility Planning, Construction and Management regarding the NOP of the EIR Public Scoping meeting, “CDCR will consider comments received to determine the scope of the issues to be addressed in the EIR. If significant impacts are identified, the EIR will include mitigation measures to reduce any significant impact to less-than-significant, if feasible.”

But, according to that notice, CDCR “does not expect to analyze these issues in the Draft EIR:” Aesthetics; agricultural resources; biological resources; cultural and historic resources; energy resources; geology, soils, mineral resources and paleontological resources; greenhouse gas emissions; hazards and hazardous materials; hydrology/water quality; land use/planning; noise; population/housing; public services; recreation; transportation; Tribal cultural resources; utilities/service systems; and wildfire.

According to the notice, other CEQA issues that will be addressed in the EIR include alternatives, growth-inducing impacts and cumulative impacts.