By Rich Greene
EIR would take 43 weeks to complete
RED BLUFF >> A proposed elephant reserve in Tehama County is continuing through the county's planning process, albeit under a new name.
The Tembo Preserve, previously the Ndovo Foundation, pitched in December the creation of a 4,900-acre facility that at peak capacity would house around 50 African elephants cared for by the Oakland Zoo.
The group has since purchased the Diamond Ranch, northwest of Bowman Road, north of State Route 36W within the unincorporated area of northern Tehama County.
It has also put down a $200,000 deposit to pay for the planning process and any legal expenditures that could arise.
Tehama County Planning Director Sean Moore said that because of the size of the property involved and the unique nature of the proposal both county staff and Tembo Preserve thought it would be best to complete an Environmental Impact Review for the site.
Outside agencies were solicited to oversee the EIR.
Moore told the Tehama County Board of Supervisors June 17 that department heads, including himself and from Environmental Health and Public Works, were ready to recommend the EIR be awarded to HDR Inc. and that decision be on an upcoming agenda.
Once approved, Moore said it would take about 43 weeks for the outside consultant to complete the environmental study.
"It's a long process, we're still working out some of the details," Moore said.
Moore said the EIR will study the biology of introducing elephants to the area as well as the impact to the wildlife already in the area.
There are also decisions that still need to be made regarding fencing and site access.
Moore said the Planning Department takes a neutral position on all projects and avoids advocating. Its role is just to provide all relevant information to the county's decision makers in to how a project would comply with the county's zoning code and general plan.
The EIR will cost around $236,000. Moore said that will require another $116,000 deposit from the Tembo Preserve.
He said he has had bi-monthly calls from the applicant since the proposal was pitched in December.
Roger McNamee the founding member of Tembo, said in December he anticipated it would take at least three years of planning and construction before the reserve was ready to house its first elephant.
The reserve would then begin with a handful of elephants before expanding out in what has been described as a project that would take 50-100 years to complete.
The reserve would include a large barn, housing quarters for research and security personnel, out buildings, specialized fencing, feed storage areas, veterinary services and internal and external education and research facilities.
Organizers believe the reserve would provide educational and economic benefits for Tehama County.
The reserve would be built to mimic the elephants' natural environment.