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Cannabis manufacturing facility proposed to be placed near elementary school

Students at Trinity Valley Elementary School display concern over proposed cannabis manufacturing facility

For the past few years, local company Mercer Fraser has been going to the permitting process to build a cannabis manufacturing facility on land they own near Highway 96 in Willow Creek. The land is across the road from Trinity Valley Elementary School. This is a concern for parents, like Vivienna Orcutt.

"I don't know how we would evacuate the children, the safety of our children, it's very worrisome," Orcutt said. "Our children are scared but our community is in an uproar over that. "

Orcutt is a tribal council member with the Hoopa Valley Tribe. Hoopa is just up the highway from the proposed site.

"The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission have not had a transparent process with the Hoopa Valley Tribe on the permitting process," Orcutt said.

The site also sits along the Trinity River which supplies water to Willow Creek and the nearly 4,000 people who live in Hoopa, according to Hoopa Valley Public Utilities general manager, Filmore Harvey.

"We have a duty to protect the tribe's water supply," Harvey said. "You hear a hash lab, everyone thinks butane, whatever chemicals are going to be used, and if there was a spill or an explosion what measures are going to be taken to protect the tribe's water supply?"

But Humboldt County District 5 supervisor, Ryan Sundberg, said there are heavy regulations on manufacturing facilities that protect the surrounding area.

"It's very unassuming," Sundberg said. "And they can only use gases, so if there was a spill, it would go up in the air, not into the drinking water."

On Dec. 14, the county planning and building commission voted to rezone the land, from highway service commercial use to heavy industrial use.

"Mercer-Fraser Co. has used that property for decades as concrete and asphalt production and also resource extraction from gravel, so the rezoning is making it consistent with what the uses are," Sundberg said.

This rezoning opens up the land to be used for marijuana manufacturing. However, Sundberg said that it will be a lengthy process before the facility would be permitted to be built.

"They still have to go through state permitting," Sundberg said.

The Hoopa Valley Tribe has expressed that they hope the county will prevent the facility from being permitted.

"I don't think it's fair that the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors asked the most innocent residents of Humboldt County, which are our children, to coexist with a combustible hash lab like across the street," Orcutt said.

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