By Nancy Hughett, ECOS Board Member | July 2021
A coalition of environmental and community groups applying pressure on Elk Grove decision-makers was instrumental in stopping the construction of a 13-story hospital with helipad next to a sensitive habitat area. While California Northstate University (CNU) previously proposed building the hospital at the edge of the Stone Lakes National Refuge, it recently announced its relocation to the Sleep Train Arena in North Natomas (June 16, 2021).
The coalition, including ECOS’ Habitat 2020, the Audubon Society, Sierra Club and the Friends of Stone Lakes, met with Elk Grove Planning Commissioners. Coalition members expressed concerns about noise, light pollution and construction activity that would harm refuge wildlife such as Swainson’s Hawks, Sandhill Cranes and Burrowing Owls, particularly during roosting periods. In addition, helicopter flights and the massive hospital building itself would pose a danger for bird strikes; helicopter-bird strikes could also lead to loss of human life. The Stone Lakes Refuge sits within the Pacific Flyway, a major North American migration route for birds.
The environmental coalition, along with neighbors, also argued that placing a level 2 trauma center hospital in a 200-year flood plain despite existing city prohibitions would be a very bad idea. (Additionally, flooding could increase due to climate-induced sea level rise and possible atmospheric river events.) This issue proved to be a major factor in Elk Grove Planning Commissioners’ 5-0 recommendation to deny the project. The project’s proponents subsequently elected to seek other sites for their hospital.
An incidental wetlands and habitat area has developed at the Sleep Train Arena site in the excavated area for a failed baseball stadium; the pond is surrounded by mature trees and has become a resource for wildlife, including many bird species. ECOS’ Habitat 2020 Committee is drafting a letter to support its protection.