Reggae on the River Really Might Get Back to Its Bend on the Eel
The Mateel Board of Directors met Tuesday the 19th of June and went before the Humboldt County Planning Commission for the five-year update of Reggae on the River’s Conditional Use Permit on Thursday the 21st.
The Mateel Board is operating amidst a certain amount of chaos as it grapples with its debt and turns Reggae on the River over to High Times Productions who waited until the very last possible moment to sign a contract for the festival.
This month Mateel got bad news and good news–they learned that the bridge fording the Eel River needed its five-year site review before it can be put in (the bridge provides access to prepare the site for the festival as well as access for festival goers) and they learned that the Planning Commission granted their Conditional Use Permit for Reggae on the River.
But When Will the Site Bridge Go In?:
Last week emails were flying between Mateel Operations Manager Alisha Goodrich and regulatory agency employees.
Goodrich wrote to DFW on June 13th stating that the Mateel would be installing the seasonal bridge across the river to access the site on June 24 and 25.
Jennifer Olson, an Environmental Scientist with the Department of Fish and Wildlife fired back the next day writing,
Ten days from now is not a reasonable timeline for bridge installation given that the Mateel has not acquired any of the necessary permits to install the bridge yet, and just applied for the LSAA and ITP yesterday. Simply applying for permits doesn’t give authorization to proceed, and neither of those permits are typically processed and issued within 10 days. As we discussed via email, the State Incidental Take Permit has a 120-day timeline that started when you applied yesterday….
And at three pm on the 14th, Jake Shannon, an Environmental Scientist with the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board concurred, writing;
Jen described the situation well; ten days from now is not a reasonable timeline for bridge installation. Along with CDFW and Army Corps permitting, the Mateel Community Center will need to apply for, and receive, 401 certification coverage before installing the bridge.
Once a 401 application and application fee is received there is a 30-day period for me to review the application and deem it either complete or incomplete. Once the application is deemed complete there is a 21-day public notice period, following which I can issue the 401 certification.
This is the busy time of a very busy year and I have a long line of projects that have already submitted applications for review, so I would likely rely on the full 30-day review period.
I agree with the suggestion that you determine the latest possible date that the bridge can be installed in time for the festival and find out whether the various agencies could accommodate that date….
At the Mateel Board Meeting on June 19, it appeared the Board had not been informed about this major roadblock until the beginning of the meeting. Board Member Pleasure Stange and newly minted Board President Meghan Gomes had just received this word 10 minutes before the start of that night’s Board Meeting.
Board Member Dusty Hughston said the Mateel is working with regulatory agency staff to get the needed permits on an expedited track. Hughston explained that the Mateel had not understood that the 401 Clean Water Act permit and the Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreements needed five-year reviews until two weeks ago. But he said agencies understand the importance of the revenue that enters the community as a result of having Reggae on the River.
The Humboldt County Planning Commision Grants Major Permit:
Fast forwarding to the Planning Commission Thursday evening, the outcome was a 4-1 approval of the Conditional Use Permit for Reggae on the River, with the caveat that the Mateel Community Center must obtain their 401 permit and their permitting from DFW before the bridge can be installed and therefore before Reggae on the River can be a certainty.
Interested readers can watch the Planning Commission meeting at Access Humboldt’s webpage.
The Mateel Meal:
In the meantime, returning to the Tuesday Mateel Board Meeting, the Board heard once again from some of its membership about their desire to resume the Mateel Meal.
Babette Bach and a handful of community members who support the meal were present. Bach has been a long time volunteer for the Meal and was its paid coordinator and chef for the past several years. Bach is a steadfast proponent of the Meal and has returned to volunteering to make certain the service continues.
Before the Meal conversation began in earnest, the Board acknowledged Bach for her effort coordinating and supplying the volunteer Hydration Station at the Summer Arts and Music Festival. For the uninitiated, Bach provides free coffee, tea, lemonade and hibiscus tea backstage for all the volunteers. Bach collected donations and was able to do this once again for the total cost of $100.00.
Regarding the Mateel Meal, Bach will be granted 48 hours of kitchen time to prepare the Mateel Meal in exchange for the Mateel Meal Juice Booth proceeds going into the Mateel Community Center’s general fund. After those 48 hours are used, Bach was given approval to rent the hall kitchen for $20 an hour.
A community member at the meeting said she had used the Mateel Meal when she arrived in town a few years ago. And because of the support she had received from the Mateel via the Meal, she had gone on to repay that generosity by volunteering at their shows and has become one of their volunteer coordinators–painting and placing signage at both the Summer Arts and Reggae festivals.
The Board acknowledged the role the Meal has in the Community Center.
Nevertheless, while the kitchen can be rented by the Mateel Meal, Board Member Pleasure Strange restated that the Meal will not be allowed to be served at the hall.
How Did the Summer Arts Festival Go?
During the Summer Arts festival agenda item, the Board said that, although the final numbers were not available for the Board meeting, through the process of getting ready for Summer Arts, many outstanding debts from last year’s Reggae on the River were paid and all the bills from this year’s Summer Arts were also paid. As a result, the Board reports that the Mateel’s overall debt was reduced by $141,000.
Some Serious Concerns:
However, the sales tax and the employee withholding taxes remain in arrears. These two items are subject to monthly fees and remain a big problem for the Mateel.
The Board acknowledged this and referred to Darryl Cherney who is working with the Headwaters Fund and continuing to coordinate the Adopt a Debt program. Speaking with Cherney by phone after the meeting, Cherney said while there is hope the Headwaters Fund loan program might be able to help with the tax debt, the loan has a complex application process that will take time and coordination to fulfill.
The last item on the agenda was “worst case scenarios” and Board Members are beginning to say that it may come down to selling the Mateel’s hall to pay off the debts. Currently, a former Workers Compensation Insurance carrier is beginning the process of legal collections on a two-year-old debt for unpaid premiums.
However, the miracles keep rolling in and no one has given up yet.