January 2008 – State & Province News
by Therese Dunphy, Executive Editor
The Alabama Road Builders Association installed its new officers. They include Greg Abramson, Abramson, LLC, president; Sonny Bunn, S.T. Bunn Construction Co., Inc., vice president; Sherman Suitts, Vulcan Materials Co., treasurer; and Michael McCartney, McCartney Construction Co., Inc., secretary.
Plans for new and expanded sand and gravel mines along the Kings River have drawn attention and legal challenges from environmentalists. According to the Fresno Bee, the Fresno County supervisors approved plans for expansion of one Kings River site in August 2007. Two more are proposed for on or near the Kings, while a fourth operator is debating expansion. Vulcan Materials Co.’s plan for a larger mine near Centerville is in the eye of the current storm. Vulcan wants to expand its current 220-acre site to 440 acres.
Fresno County Supervisor Bob Waterston told the newspaper that he had no reservations about Vulcan’s project. “If their history wasn’t good, I wouldn’t have supported them,” he said. The executive director of the Building Industry Association of the San Joaquin Valley also pointed out rock shortages caused price increases during 2005 and 2006. Dave Koehler, executive director of the San Joaquin River Parkway and Trust Conservancy, told the newspaper that Vulcan had mined on the river for decades and had received high marks for its restoration efforts.
Florida Rock Industries Inc.’s owners received either cash or stock for the company in its merger with Vulcan Material Co., but are paying to keep a hunting lodge in Florida, the Jacksonville Business Journal reports. In Florida Rock’s annual report, it noted that the company will sell the lodge to its chairman, Edward Baker, and CEO, John Baker. The sale is subject to approval from the company’s board of directors. John Baker is now a director on the Vulcan board.
Permitting challenges faced by Alsop Sand President Dane Barclay were featured in The Salina Journal. The newspaper reported that the company is running out of reserves while it struggles to receive a permit for a new site. Barclay told the newspaper that he’s pumped most of the available sand from his 160-acre site near the city’s flood-control levee in Salina and is supplementing with material from a northern site. Warren Harshman, president of the Kansas Aggregate Producers Association, also was interviewed for the article and told the reporter explained that the NIMBY attitude is driving communities to import aggregates from greater distances. Despite the feature article, a vote for a conditional permit was voted down a few days later.
Woods and a cornfield could become a recreational pond for swimming, skating, and boating, according to the Telegram & Gazette. Putnam town leaders and Jeffrey Rawson, president of Rawson Materials, have discussed developing the 17-acre recreational site. Under the plan, the company would buy and remove almost 500,000 cubic yards of sand and gravel from land either owned by the town or donated to the town. Rawson Materials would then create banks and a beach for the pond, which would naturally fill with groundwater and be nearly 30 feet deep in some locations. The project is expected to take two to three years.
A citizens group opposed to gravel mining in Alamo Township was denied its request to halt all operations at the mining site, the Kalamazoo Gazette reports. Concerned Citizens of Oshtemo and Alamo Townships are expected to file papers with the Michigan Court of Appeals to protest Kalamazoo County Circuit Court Judge Alexander Lipsey’s ruling, the group’s attorney said. The organization is seeking a cessation of all mining activity until the appeals court rules on an appeal submitted by the group in November. The previous appeal challenges the circuit court’s jurisdiction in approving a settlement agreement between Alamo Township and Aggregate Industries. Full-scale mining is expected to begin at the site this spring.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced that it extended the public comment period for the Draft Environmental Assessment written for the application by JTL Group Inc. to mine and process gravel near Lolo. The extension was granted to accommodate public requests and holiday schedules. JTL Group Inc. applied for a Mine Land Reclamation Permit to mine and process gravel on a 37-acre site in Lolo.
A new ATV park is being created through the purchase of a 224-acre former sand and gravel site in South Jersey, The Star Ledger reports. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Deputy Commissioner John Watson told the newspaper that his department has spent $1.2 million in Green Acres funds to purchase the tract in Monroe, Gloucester County. “Forests, wildlife, and natural areas are suffering greatly because of illegal use,” he told the newspaper, noting that ATV use conflicts with other state park uses. Environmentalists oppose the project.
At Aggregates Manager press time, the Lebanon Planning Board was expected to hear a proposal from Twin State Sand and Gravel regarding its proposal to build a business park on land that it owns in West Lebanon. Its proposal would include industrial facilities, three restaurants, and a hotel on the 92-acre site. The Union Leader reports that the company also wants to develop a 55-acre “Industrial Planned-Unit Development” within that site. Two remaining lots would be used for commercial development. The planning board, which has encouraged mixed-use development and business parks in the past, was expected to review the proposal in mid-December.
Nassau town officials will appeal a state judge’s ruling that invalidates a 2006 town law that banned commercial mining. According to The Times Union, Town Supervisor Raymond Sweeney says officials are trying to protect the town’s interests. Mining became a hot topic in 2003 when West Sand Lake-based Troy Sand & Gravel and Callanan Industries sought permits. Troy Sand & Gravel’s state permit was approved in May 2007, but it still does not have a town permit. A state Supreme Court Justice ruled that the local law — which prohibited mining — was illegal because a super majority (a 4-to-1 vote) was needed to pass it. In the meantime, a bill that would block the state from approving mining operations over local objections has stalled in the state Senate.
Carteret County filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from dredging Beaufort Inlet. The Triangle Business Journal reports that county representatives say they believe the federal project harms the ecosystem of Bogue Banks. Through the Morehead City Harbor Project, the Corps dredges sand from Beaufort Inlet to maintain shipping channels and then dumps the sand offshore because doing so is significantly less expensive than placing it on the beach. Carteret County officials have asked the Corps to place beach-quality sand, but federal law requires local sponsors to pay the difference in costs for any beach reclamation projects.
The Hopkinton Town Council discussed, but didn’t take action on a proposed earth-removal and restoration ordinance that would regulate new and existing sand and gravel operations, The Providence Journal reported. Some producers complained that the language in the proposed regulation would favor large operators over smaller ones. Council members agreed to consider alternative language. Another portion of the regulation that troubled producers was proposed language that would mandate that cleared trees, stumps, and brush be removed from the site. Currently, state law allows property owners to bury such materials on a designated portion of their site. Again, the council compromised on a requirement to post a cash bond of up to $2,000 per acre of property being excavated. Finally, the proposed ordinance would require all sand removal operations to obtain an earth removal permit within 18 months of its passage.
The body of Kennard Honore, a 69-year-old Californian who disappeared in October, was found in early December buried in a remote Kane County gravel pit. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that investigators are trying to gather evidence in what the newspaper describes as a “baffling” case. After Honore failed to make weekly calls to his daughter, an investigation began. His Navajo Lake summer home was found empty while his wallet, cell phone, checkbook, and keys remained on a table inside the cabin. His pickup truck was found about three-quarters of a mile from a gravel pit near the cabin. The site was searched and Honore’s body was found covered with 2 inches of dirt. He had been shot to death. The Kane County sheriff’s deputies are still seeking tips and can be reached at 435-644-2349.
Opponents of mining on Maury Island have turned to deeds of sale that are nearly a century old in their latest effort to stop mining, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. According to the newspaper, members of Preserve Our Island say that deeds say that the state holds the rights to “all oils, gases, coal, ores, minerals, and fossils of every name, kind, or description, and which may be in or upon said lands above describe, or any part thereof.” Glacier Northwest currently operates those lands. Spokespeople for both the company and the state say that gravel rights were included in the sale of the property. Members of the opposition group said they will pursue the fight about mineral rights. They have written state and county leaders and are considering legal action to get a ruling on the question of ownership rights.
An Ontario gravel producer received reinforcements from the Wellington County Roads Committee as local citizens lobbied for the company to pay nearly $1.5 million in bridge and road construction. According to the Guelph Mercury, two residents claimed that a 31-year-old agreement required James Dick Construction Ltd. to pay for reconstruction of the 3-kilometer roadway. The two gave committee members copies of several documents, including a 1977 agreement between the former Township of Erin and Premier Concrete Products. In that agreement, the concrete company agreed to pay for improvements to the road. James Dick later bought the site. A county engineer noted that the county did get a legal opinion on the agreement, but that it was not binding. A resource manager for James Dick told the newspaper that it had discussed the matter with town officials years ago and has since paid for improvements to Sideroad 17, has paid for reconstruction of a small portion of the town line road, and has donated a portion of its frontage for the widening of the road.
Mine Owner Suggests Regulations Instead of a Complete Moratorium on Mining
The Indian River County Commission is considering a moratorium on new mining permits in response to concerns about operations, the Press Journal reports. Florida mining already has been deeply impacted by prohibitions on mining within the Lake Belt region.
Scott Sanders, owner of the Wild Turkey Sand Mine, has proposed a series of restrictions that he believes should be upheld by other producers rather than dealing with a moratorium. Because Sanders’ operation was already in the process of being permitted prior to any moratorium, his site would have been grandfathered for production.
“This isn’t the time to shut down business in the county,” Sanders told the newspaper. Instead, the following restrictions have been suggested by Wild Turkey:
Hiring a traffic officer to enforce speed limits during the hours of operation
Limiting trucks per day to 200 round trips
Limited stockpiles to 25 feet
Providing landscaping for the entire perimeter of the site.
Earlier this year, the commission passed restrictions on hours of operation, along with higher fees for users. A discussion, and possible vote, on the moratorium could be held sometime this month.