April 2008 – State & Province News
by Therese Dunphy, Executive Editor
Second grade students at Elvin Hill Elementary in Columbiana participated in a program called, “Take It To the Schools,” the Birmingham News reports. The outreach program, sponsored by the Shelby County Fine Arts Council, included a local artist teaching the kids to paint. One of the unique features to their art was the canvas — rocks. Vulcan Materials Co.’s Calera quarry provided rocks for the art project. Terri Sullivan, president of the arts council, told the newspaper that, “Rock quarries are a big part of Shelby County, so I came up with the idea to use rocks as our canvases.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers indicated that it’s possible that unexploded 90-mm and 120-mm artillery shells are located in the wetlands, meadows, and forests of property owned by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. The Anchorage Daily News indicates that the borough assembly will consider whether to pay a contractor $148,775 to survey 20 acres of that property. Alaska Aggregate Product plans to mine that parcel for gravel in 2009. The port director, Marc Van Dongen, recommended against spending the money, despite the fact that the borough would recoup the costs in royalty payments. He recommended that the borough simply tell the company that un-detonated artillery shells may be on the site.
According to The Arizona Republic, Peoria officials moved truck traffic off Union Hills Drive and onto Lake Pleasant Parkway after the city council approved an ordinance amending the truck routes. An engineering director for the city told the newspaper that the three major sand and gravel pits operating in the Agua Fria River bed and the trucking industry were notified of the route change.
A Merced County judge ruled that the county violated environmental law when it approved a local mining company’s expansion plans, The Merced Sun-Star reports. In 2006, Black Diamond Aggregates Inc. applied to expand its mine. The Merced County Board of Supervisors approved the company’s plans later that year. Subsequently, two environmental groups filed suit against the county regarding its decision. They argued that the county should have required Black Diamond to complete environmental impact studies on the expansion plan, but it approved the project without the studies. Judge John Kirihara ruled that, “The court finds substantial evidence to support a fair argument that this project may have a significant effect on the environment.” His ruling negates the county’s approval. The company must now conduct studies on how the expansion would impact wildlife, air quality, traffic, and area water supplies. The judge also ordered the county to pay the environmental groups’ attorney fees.
Allstate Builders of SW Florida Inc., has received more than $100,000 in commercial liens from its subcontractors, including Florida Rock Industries, Inc. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune notes that foreclosures play into the company’s woes. Gary Grennell, its sales manager, told the newspaper that he “cut the costs on existing housing inventory in an attempt to raise cash to settle with the company’s creditors, but things remain extremely tough because of all the foreclosure inventory” with which the company is forced to compete.
According to The Idaho Statesman, a portion of Eagle Island was placed into a conservation easement, which prohibits future development. The land will not be open to the public at this point. Landowner Ron Sali put 160 acres, which includes a recently closed sand and gravel mine, into the easement. Since the mine was closed last July, the pits have been filled with water to create lakes. He retains ownership of the land, which can be sold, but not for development. His property, along with the 545-acre Eagle Island State Park, constitutes one-fourth of the island, which is no longer available for development.
At Aggregates Manager press time, R. Bates and Sons, Inc., had nearly completed its cleanup of an obsolete sand and gravel pit in Clinton. A report in the Telegram & Gazette notes that the cleanup is the result of a December 2006 inspection of the site by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). During the inspection, the presence of asphalt, brick, concrete, tires, wood waste, and miscellaneous solids wastes was noted, but the company did not have the necessary permits. “There were some violations up there,” owner Brad Bates told the newspaper. “No one actually knew they were violations until we were fined by the DEP. It’s been amicably resolved.”
Donations from the Meijer Foundation and other donors, as well as the purchase of real estate in the middle of Millennium Park by the county, have cleared the way for a $9 million, three-year project to construct trails and public amenities in the park. According to the Grand Rapids Business Journal, Kent County approved the $1.1 million acquisition of a 114-acre parcel that runs two-thirds of the way across the middle of the park. The network of trails will run among and around a series of interconnected ponds formed by former gravel pits. They will not be open to motor vehicles, but will connect with pedestrian and biking trails of other local networks.
While Aggregate Industries awaits a decision from the Michigan Court of Appeals, further litigation may be necessary in its effort to mine a 165-acre property in Oshtemo Township. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that the Township Board of Trustees voted unanimously to reject the company’s request to amend the township’s ordinance to permit gravel trucks on a township street. The company requested that trucks be allowed to travel 10th Street to M-43, but 10th Street was not on the township’s list of designated haul routes when the board voted on a new ordinance concerning truck-haul routes several months later. Some attending the meeting suggested that Aggregate Industries pay for an extension of another street to U.S. 131 where on- and off-ramps could be constructed.
A year-long application process for a sand and gravel pit in Burleigh continues this month, after being continued from a mid-February meeting, the Press of Atlantic City reports. Albrecht and Heun as well as its subsidiary, Future Mining Inc., are seeking site-plan approval for a 253-acre tract for mining and recycling operations. As part of its plans, it has said it will close an existing 124-acre sand mine in Goshen when the new site begins production. The town zoning board approved a use variance while the Middle Township Committee passed an ordinance for an operational license. The company still needs site plant approval and state environmental approval.
The highway superintendent for Stephentown, Neil Gardner, was charged with operating an illegal mine and also falsifying records to conceal the source of sand and gravel used in local projects, the Associated Press reports. The Times Union adds that he was indicted on 44 felony counts, including 22 counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, 10 counts of first-degree falsifying business records, and 12 counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. He is also charged with one count of operating a mine without a permit, which is a misdemeanor offense. Gardner is accused of manipulating town records to show that the gravel came from a legally operated mine run by Troy Sand and Gravel.
The Union Leader reports that advocates of a plan for the town of Raymond to purchase a 350-acre plot of land from Thibeault Sand & Gravel have backed off on how they want the item to appear on the ballot. Originally, it called for the town to buy the site; now, it would call for the formation of a study committee to evaluate the possible purchase of the quarry. The original proposal called for the town to pay $3 million for the property. Thibeault representatives told town officials that stone at the site is worth about $28.5 million and the land itself is worth $15 million.
Findlay-based National Lime and Stone Co. announced several staff appointments. Scott L. Rhodes was elected group vice president of the western region. He will have operating margin responsibilities and will be in charge of both the sales and production activities of the Findlay, Lima, Rimer, Buckland, and Delphos plants, and the Ready-Mix Concrete Division. National Lime’s board also elected group vice presidents for its central and southern regions. Brian J. Wheeler will have operating margin responsibility for the industrial minerals business, as well as the Carey, Bucyrus, and Upper Sandusky markets and plants. Chad D. Doll will have operating margin responsibility for the Columbus region, Marion, and South Columbus aggregates plants. All three group vice presidents will report to Tony L. Price, senior vice president of operations.
Granite Construction began preparations to open a quarry on the east-facing slope of Rosemary’s Mountain in Fallbrook, nctimes.com — the online version of the North Carolina Times — reports. The company began building a fence around its 38-acre site in preparation for the mine development. Before aggregates may be sold, however, the company must first complete construction of the $26 million task of widening and realigning a portion of Highway 76 between I-15 and Rice Canyon Road. Granite Construction and the Pala tribe, which operates a casino along the highway, will split the cost. Road construction is expected to be finished in 2009. At that time, the company will begin developing the quarry site. The entire plant is expected to be completed in approximately three years.
Fugitive environmental activist Tre Arrow, born Michael James Scarpitti, is back in the United States to stand trial on conspiracy and arson charges after nearly four years in a Canadian prison, the Associated Press reports. Arrow was indicted by a federal grand jury in April 2004 following his arrest in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, on charges of shoplifting, assault, and obstructing a police officer after a security guard caught him trying to steal a pair of bolt cutters. Arrow pleaded guilty to the Canadian charges but fought extradition, claiming that he faced political persecution in the United States. Here, he faces a 14-count indictment that charges him with taking part in the destruction of several ready-mixed concrete trucks at Ross Island Sand and Gravel Co. in Portland. He’s also accused of destroying logging trucks at Schoppert Logging Co. in Eagle Creek.
An application by Haggerty Sand and Gravel to mine 51 acres in Mahoning Township drew protest during a Montour County Commissioners meeting. The Daily Item reports that several residents voiced concerns about the operation’s impact on their wells, while others complained about potential truck traffic. Commissioners told residents that they would contact the state Department of Environmental Protection, Mahoning Township supervisors, county zoning and planning officials, and conservation personnel to obtain answers to these concerns.
Martin Marietta Materials received permission to crush aggregate around the clock Monday through Thursday, according to the Times-Dispatch. The company sought 24-hour crushing operations that would run from Monday through Saturday, but received more restricted hours of operation after neighbors spoke against the idea of a six-day-a-week crushing schedule. Hanover County supervisors also cleared the way for the company’s Doswell 1,297-acre quarry to expand by 764 acres. Blasting will be confined to weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. while trucking hours will run from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and on Saturdays from 7 a.m. until noon. Trains can load from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. In 1989, Martin Marietta donated approximately 80 acres that became the North Anna Battlefield Park. The company agreed to donate an additional 90 acres to the county as part of the expansion plan that was approved.
On Feb. 26, divers found the body of Charles Nemetz, a backhoe operator whose machine fell through ice, leaving the cab underwater at the Park View Sand and Gravel Pit in Rochester. The Associated Press reports that firefighters and rescue workers arrived at the quarry within minutes of an emergency call. They worked for three hours to get the machine upright and explained that they believed the man could have survived if the cab was airtight. When the machine was tipped over, however, they discovered that Nemetz was not in the cab. They found his body several hours later. Nemetz was taken to Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead. According to the news service, the site was dotted with ponds and low-lying areas that filled with rain during the month and froze over.
The town of Rockingham’s plan to build a new gravel pit in a rural neighborhood has drawn the ire of neighbors of the proposed site. A report in the Brattleboro Reformer noted that the town’s planning commission would consider an application from the town to construct a gravel pit on Brockways Mills Road. The town plans to extract 100,000 cubic yards of sand and gravel during the next 10 years, but neighbors are complaining about the project, saying it would be “detrimental to the public welfare, injurious to property, and incompatible with the character of the neighborhood.” The town’s zoning application indicates that there would be up to 15 trucks per hour, with a total of 150 daily one-way trips at the peak use times. If approved, a total of 7 acres would be mined.
Plans to expand two quarries will be heard before the Niagara Escarpment Commission. According to Owen Sound Sun Times, Harold Sutherland Construction Ltd. has proposed a new 68-hectare quarry in the Georgian Bluffs, north of the Owen Sound. The plan would include mining 600,000 metric tons per year on a site that includes a “provincially significant life science area and provincially significant wetlands.” Walker Aggregates Ltd. has proposed an expansion of its existing site in the Duntroon area of western Simcoe County. It would also require an amendment to the Niagara Escarpment Plan. That application coincides with another license application on adjacent land in Grey County that would mine as much as 3 million metric tons each year. An Escarpment Commission planner told the newspaper that she has been seeking consultants to conduct review work on the potential hydro-geological effects of the proposals. She added that no aggregate extraction amendment application under the Niagara Escarpment Plan has ever failed.