By JOSHUA WOLFSON
Although the Emigrant Wilderness' last check dam was built a half century ago, the debate over the controversial structures shows no sign of letting up.
Tuolumne County supervisors voted 3-2 yesterday to appeal a December decision by Stanislaus National Forest Supervisor Tom Quinn to allow seven of the 18 rock-and-mortar dams to erode naturally.
County Counsel Gregory Oliver has until Monday to file the appeal with the U.S. Forest Service. It will argue that all 18 of the dams should remain as historic and biological resources.
Although some supervisors argued the issue should be left alone, Jim Peterson, an avid horse packer whose district includes the Emigrant, said Quinn's decision ignores the board's longtime position on the dams.
"Traditionally, Tuolumne County has favored the retention of all 18 dams," he said in an earlier interview.
Supervisors Larry Rotelli and Mark Thornton also voted for an appeal. However, their colleagues Dick Pland and Paolo Maffei said Quinn's decision, a compromise 14 years in the making, should stand.
While saying he did sympathize with Peterson's position, "I think we should put this thing to rest and stay out of this," Maffei said.
"I don't believe in opting out," he said.
Before the vote, Maffei proposed a motion supporting Quinn's compromise and opposing further appeals by groups on either side of the debate. But that move went nowhere once a majority of supervisors approved the appeal.
"I think we are worn out on this issue," Pland said after the vote.
Appeals including a possible plea from Wilderness Watch, a conservation group, to allow all 18 dams to deteriorate will be considered by Regional Forester Jack Blackwell.
Because of likely appeals by dam opponents, the board needed to act, Peterson said.