April 2009 – State & Province News
by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
More than 50 residents assembled to note their opposition to a gravel mining project planned for the western side of Big Lake in the Mat-Su Borough. The Anchorage Daily News reports that Big Lake residents Bill and Helen Heairet applied for a permit to level off a nearly 10-acre gravel ridge on their 40-acre property to make the land suitable for a subdivision. Residents are concerned about truck traffic and property values. Neighbor concerns caused Big Lake Community Council board members to rescind a letter it sent to the Mat-Su Borough saying that council members did not object to the project.
Operators of Pike View Quarry, in Colorado Springs, were issued five citations and fines in connection with a December rockslide at the site. According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, no one was injured when a 500-foot-high, 700-foot-wide section of the highwall collapsed on Dec. 2. However, the rockslide stopped within 40 feet of a loader operator and a haul truck operator. A spokesman for the operation told the newspaper that the company did not know the wall was unstable prior to the collapse, and mining has ceased since the incident. He added that operators are waiting to find out what caused the slide and won’t resume mining until they know when, and if, the quarry can be safely mined.
A spokesperson for Titan America told Real Estate Weekly News that it is well prepared to maintain production at its Pennsuco cement plant, despite a federal district court ruling. On Jan. 30, 2009, the U.S. South Florida District Court issued a ruling cancelling all permits approved in 2002 for limestone mining in the Lake Belt Region of Miami-Dade, with immediate effect. The ruling pertains to nine U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits held be several companies, including Titan America LLC’s subsidiary, Tarmac America LLC. The same court invalidated these permits in July 2007. The companies appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed that order in May 2008 and returned the case to the District Court for a more deferential review. Despite the appeals court ruling, the circuit court said that the Corps acted arbitrarily and capriciously in concluding that the limestone excavation is water dependent and that no practical alternatives exist. “We plan to appeal and vigorously,” Titan Florida Business Unit President Hardy Johnson told the newspaper. “Our economy is in critical need for jobs and construction materials, especially in Florida.”
Representatives of Vulcan Materials Co. scored two victories in as many months as they dealt with Coweta County commissioners. TheCitizen.com reports that the board approved both a special use permit that allows the quarry to expand mining as well as a variance request to reduce the setback for its Madras Quarry. The variance request for the 67.56-acre site reduced the property line setback from 1,000 feet to 0 feet, however, Vulcan agreed to buffer and berm requirements ranging from 400 feet to 890 feet from the property line. Neighbors protested the impact of blasting, but Vulcan attorney Pete Degnan noted that the company agreed to a vibration level of .8 inches per second rather than the standard 2 inches per second.
A pending land donation, intended for construction of two soccer fields in Marshfield, may not take place due to neighbor concerns about the sand and gravel extraction that would precede the donation. The Patriot Ledger reports that approximately 50 people attended a zoning board of appeals hearing regarding the Marshfield Youth Soccer proposal, with about 15 saying they had concerns about the project. Property owner Peter Armstrong says he will give the land – which includes a partially excavated sand and gravel pit – to the youth organization if it receives the permits required to excavate and build the fields. Armstrong told the newspaper that he would use the excavated material on his sites or sell it.
APAC-Kansas City, a division of Oldcastle Materials, Inc., started construction of a new bridge on Route 17 over the Osage River, the company said in a press release. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) awarded the $9 million project on Feb. 17, making it the first state in the nation to start construction of an infrastructure project after passage of the economic stimulus package. “Investing in our infrastructure is essential to our economy’s recovery. This, and many similar projects funded by the federal stimulus through MoDOT, will help create the jobs that our country desperately needs,” said David Guillaume, president of APAC-Kansas City, adding “…this funding will allow us to put people back to work at APAC-Kansas City.”
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has created a Web page that allows individuals to search for permit information, maps, and satellite photos of the state’s approximately 800 active industrial mines. Using an online search engine, people can select a county and generate a list of mining sites in that county, then find the company name and get general information about that company. A quick click on the record number will provide precise location data and more. The site is updated monthly using location and company information tables. Additional links allow users to view interactive maps of the counties containing Geographic Information System, or GIS, layers. These layers can be turned on and off so the user can customize the map to show mine sites in relation to highways, waterways, and county boundaries. For more information, visit the department’s Land Reclamation Program Web site at www.dnr.mo.gov/asp/lrp/impermits/search.asp.
Although Farnsworth Development Inc.’s proposal to complete mining on a partially mined, but inactive pit has not yet been approved by the Bureau of Land Management, neighbors are complaining about its potential impact on traffic, noise, and dust. According to the Farmington Daily News, neighbors, including a developer, want the company to find somewhere else to mine. The company has applied for a permit with the New Mexico Environment Department to mine seven days a week and up to 52 weeks a year at a rate of up to 500 tons per hour. City Manager David Velasquez told the newspaper that he shared their concerns, but said people should call the bureau to discuss them.
A Montana man who says he wants to mine gravel on the Badlands ranch where Theodore Roosevelt once ran his cattle is comparing his dispute with the U.S. Forest Service to an Old West stare down, the Associated Press reports. Roger Lothspeich says he owns half the mineral and gravel rights beneath the 5,200-acre ranch and claims his portion of subsurface rights amounts to $10 million in high-grade gravel. “I’m not blinking,” he told the news agency. “I’m going to get my gravel, or write me a check and I’ll go away.” Lothspeich says he purchased half of the property’s mineral rights from the Connell family who sold the other half of mineral rights and the property to the Eberts family in 1993 for $800,000. In 2007, the Forest Service bought the property, but no mineral rights from the Eberts family for $5.3 million. The Eberts family has expressed no interest in exercising its mineral rights. Lothspeich has approached the Forest Service and the Sierra Club, saying that he will sell the rights to anyone willing to pay him $2.5 million. “If he has a legitimate claim, it would be an unbelievable and pretty spectacular failure on behalf of the Forest Service not to have addressed that issue,” Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) told the agency. “They’re going to have a lot of egg on their face, if they didn’t deal with the mineral rights.”
State Sen. Lisa Boscola announced that $1 million in state funds were allocated for a plan to fill a quarry and develop it. According to lehighvalleylive.com, Slate Hills Enterprises was awarded a Growing Greener grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection. The company wants to fill in a 5-acre quarry near Washington Township and level its 39-acre property for development. “Whenever you can turn a dangerous, deep hole into an economic development opportunity, you know you’ve accomplished something,” Boscola proclaimed in a news release. The quarry is 550 feet deep and filled with water.
Glacier Northwest agreed to pay $20,000 in back wages to two women to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). According to the agency’s lawsuit, the company violated the Equal Pay Act when it paid its female cement terminal operators at wage rates which were substantially less than the rates paid to its male employees performing substantially equal work. The company also agreed to provide anti-discrimination training for its managers, supervisors, and employees; establish policies and procedures to address discrimination issues; provide information to the EEOC concerning any future discrimination complaints; and allow EEOC to monitor the work site for the next two years.
Pope Resources and Iron Mountain Quarry LLC held a public meeting on its proposed 142-acre basalt quarry near Port Ludlow, the Peninsula Daily News reports. John Shea, spokesman for Pope Resources, said its goal was to clear up a misunderstanding regarding quarry operations and its exact location. Shea said Iron Mountain Quarry also began an advertising campaign to explain some of the specifics of the proposed quarry operation, which is now called the New Shine Quarry. Granite Falls-based Iron Mountain Quarry LLC has proposed the basalt rock quarry about 2 miles southeast of Port Ludlow. It would be developed on land it leases from Pope Resources.
Approximately 180 residents attended an informal, citizen-led meeting regarding Canadian Sand and Proppant’s proposal to open a sand and gravel operation in Chippewa Falls. According to The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire assistant professor Crispin Hayes Pierce told the crowd about the dangers of silicosis and other airborne and waterborne pollutants that he said could cause harmful health effects as a result of the operation. No representative from the company was present at the meeting, but it planned an open house and forum.
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