Fancy machines that "look" underground without disturbing soil might be used next month to try locating a 130-year-old pioneer cemetery near a controversial Crows Landing industrial project.
UCLA's Cotsen Institute of Archaeology has used ground-penetrating radar imaging equipment to pinpoint graves in a family cemetery on a Mexican land grant in Santa Monica Canyon, the Los Angeles Times reported in January. Stanislaus County leaders hope the institute can do the same for the West Side cemetery, which could contain 25 graves southeast of Patterson.
County supervisors will meet not far from there tonight in a rare joint session with the Patterson City Council. But the agencies have sworn to politely avoid talk of West Park, a 4,800-acre business and industrial project supported by a majority of supervisors while hotly contested by Patterson leaders.
Neither side is talking because of a lawsuit between the two.
A UCLA scientist Monday confirmed a potential September analysis but deferred other comment to county leaders. County Deputy Executive Officer Keith Boggs said testing could be done Sept. 21 and 22.
The analysis "is pretty unique," Boggs said. "He doesn't find bones; he identifies displaced earth. If you and I dig a hole and fill it, 300 years from now they could still know by how the soil recompacts."
If graves are found, West Park developers would preserve the cemetery and work around it, said Jim DeMartini, the West Side's representative on the county Board of Supervisors. He also is the board's only vocal critic of West Park plans.
"The rest of the board is probably relieved that we can't talk about it," DeMartini said Monday.
The Patterson lawsuit questions whether supervisors should have approved an April 2008 agreement with West Park's Gerry Kamilos before conducting environmental studies. The studies are under way and should be complete within a few weeks.
The pioneer cemetery is believed to be west of Bell Road and north of the Bonita School site, within 1,528 acres formerly used as a Navy air base. The county acquired the land and awarded a preliminary accord to Kamilos for a huge industrial complex opposed by many West Side residents and groups.
It's been several years since supervisors formally have met with a city council. Joint sessions with the county's eight other cities will be scheduled over the next few years, leaders have said.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2390.