Thursday, January 17, 2008

Traffic, Pollution And Wildlife Habitats Among Concerns About Suisun Wal-Mart

Traffic, Pollution And Wildlife Habitats Among Concerns About Suisun Wal-Mart
By Carol Bogart | Daily Republic | January 16, 2008

The enviromental impact report has been finished for the site of a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter at Highway 12 and Walters Road. Photo by Brad Zweerink

SUISUN CITY - From tadpole shrimp to light pollution, potential environmental impacts from the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter are detailed in the final Environmental Impact Report issued by the city.

The report, thick with public and expert comment, was prepared for the city by Michael Brandman Associates in San Ramon.

The EIR addresses concerns such as noise, air and light pollution, wildlife habitats and traffic. In response, the city has a program in place for addressing those concerns.

The vacant site, which has been zoned commercial for 20 years, has attracted raptors such as hawks and other birds, according to the EIR. The Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program, Walters Road West Project, would require Wal-Mart to hire a wildlife biologist to do a nesting bird survey before any grading or tree removal.

If it's determined that occupied nests would be disturbed or fail, Wal-Mart would be required to obtain a special permit to proceed with work after first consulting with agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wal-Mart would also have to watch for burrowing wwls. If owl burrows are found, the mitigation program would require Wal-Mart to buy relocation acreage consistent with owl habitat through 'credits' in the North Suisun Mitigation Bank. Credits to provide foraging habitat for the Swainson's hawk and tricolored blackbird would also be required.

Before any ground is disturbed, Wal-Mart would have to ensure the project wouldn't harm critical habitat such as vernal pools, home to fairy and tadpole shrimp, according to the mitigation program, or buy wetlands credits in a mitigation bank approved by U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

The retailer would have to also buy such credits if it is determined the project threatens the Contra Costa goldfields or restricts the endangered flower's range.

In their comment cards, some residents worried that dust kicked up by construction could add to area asthma rates.

In response, the mitigation program requires that all active construction areas be watered at least twice each day and trucks hauling loose materials such as sand must be covered. If any materials fall onto public streets, Wal-Mart would be required to water sweep them.

Another concern stated in the comment cards is that storm runoff from the site could cause flooding in Lawler Ranch, the housing subdivision located opposite the supercenter site on Highway 12.

The mitigation program requires Wal-Mart to prepare a plan to control storm water, to include investigation of the existing pipeline within Lawler Ranch to confirm that its capacity 'is sufficient to meet existing and project-related demands during 25-year and 100-year storm events.'

If flushing the line, at Wal-Mart's expense, wouldn't be adequate to prevent flooding, Wal-Mart will have to revise its drainage plan.

Suisun City reserves the right to approve Wal-Mart's lighting plan before issuing a building permit, and the mitigation plan addresses noise concerns related specifically to the supercenter.

For example, pile driving within 500 feet of residences is prohibited without first giving residents two weeks' notice.

To buffer noise, the plan also requires Wal-Mart to construct an 8-foot-tall masonry wall the entire length of the building along the northern portion of the property.

The comment cards indicate that traffic concerns weigh heavily on many residents' minds. The mitigation plan requires Wal-Mart to cover the costs of street improvements such as striping and turn lanes at various intersections and pay for other traffic-related measures such as bus stops.

At the City Council meeting Tuesday, Councilman Mike Segala promised the city will look into amending the EIR in response to disabled resident Sterling Olsen's comment. Olsen told the council that elderly and disabled residents may not use the store because, at present, there is no paratransit bus stop planned.

The Suisun City Council and the city's Planning Commission will take further public comment on the proposed 215,000-square-foot supercenter at a joint meeting scheduled for Jan. 29 at City Hall.

To read the complete EIR and the Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program, go to and click on the link: 'Walters Road Project (Wal-Mart Final EIR).'

Reach Carol Bogart at 427-6955 or at

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