January 2009 – State & Province News
by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
According to the Athens News-Courier, an agent for the Alabama Rivers Alliance says she thinks she has the key to blocking a proposed limestone quarry near Tanner. Speaking against the quarry, Elizabeth Salter told more than 100 people at a public hearing that a court ruling upheld in Tuscaloosa County prevented any development that would further pollute an already polluted waterway. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management has given preliminary approval for air and water permits for the quarry. Derek Roberts, North Alabama general manager of Rogers Group, said its operation would suppress dust, that no water would be taken from Swan Creek, that any water dispatched into Swan Creek would first go through settlement ponds, and that the company will build a buffer for wildlife along Swan Creek and use it as an outdoor classroom for students. State legislators, including State Sen. Tom Butler, and State Rep. Micky Hammon, are trying to block the quarry via legislation.
Owners of a family farm have proposed turning part of the property into a gravel pit. Anchorage Daily News outlined a proposal from the Wiederkehr family to clear trees and level hills on 26.5 acres of its property, farm 10 acres and mine the remainder. A family spokesman told the newspaper that if it were not for the extension of Bogard Road cutting into their field, they may have never considered the proposition. Although neighbors are upset about the proposal, the spokesman said the family planned to mine in 5-acre increments and leave larger-than-required buffers between the mine and neighboring subdivisions. The family is the first to apply under a new gravel zoning ordinance adopted in 2005 that creates a special temporary zone on land being used to mine gravel and other materials.
Palmdale’s Planning Commission voted unanimously to allow the Vulcan Materials Co. to operate around the clock, expand its mining area, and make other changes at its local aggregates operation. The San Fernando Valley Business Journal reports that John Hecht, president of West Coast Environmental & Engineering, spoke on the producer’s behalf. He told the commission the modifications “are necessary to ensure that this project will be able to continue to supply construction materials to the local community and to Southern California.”
A lawsuit was filed against the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and Syar Industries. It charges that the Napa gravel producer is threatening the county’s groundwater. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the suit asks that a three-year permit granted by the county to Syar be placed on hold while the county conducts a full environmental review of possible damage to the aquifer that lies in the alluvial gravels of the Russian River. The board voted 3-2 to grant a permit for a 28-acre pit up to 90 feet deep. It required reclamation of the pit. Plaintiffs say the county’s environmental review was inadequate. A supervisor told the newspaper that the project wasn’t adding more land for mining, but simply completing mining on an area already being developed.
Bonneville County commissioners approved the expansion of a controversial gravel pit, but opponents say that they plan to appeal the decision to a district court judge. The Idaho Falls Post Register notes that Eagle Rock Construction Co. asked for an expansion of a 100-acre tract. Opponents say they are concerned about dust and property values. In addition, they believe commissioners erred in approving the site based on its zoning because the property is in an agricultural zone. The county planning and zoning administrator told the newspaper that the state has no policy restricting gravel pits to industrial zones. A spokesman for the company said that a pit approved in 1994 will soon be put to use, but the expansion will be delayed to allow it to comply with permit restrictions imposed by county commissioners.
An analysis prepared by opponents of an expansion of Pike Industries claims the asphalt plant has been operating an illegal quarry in Westbrook for 40 years. A coalition of Westbrook businesses commissioned the study, which cites a 1968 conflict between the city and Pike’s predecessor, Blue Rock Industries, according to the Portland Press Herald. The analysis says Blue Rock began operating a quarry without appropriate permits and then refused to stop. Westbrook officials say they have read the report and are awaiting a response from Pike. Several businesses near Pike have opposed the asphalt plant’s plans. In response, Pike eliminated its intended quarry expansion, but has continued to push for a $5 million, state-of-the-art hot-mix asphalt plant.
A report from the state Department of Environmental Protection says the noise levels at the Morse Sand and Gravel concrete facility, which borders a residential Lakeville neighborhood that for years has complained of operating too loudly, are within acceptable limits. The Enterprise Correspondent notes that a Department of Environmental Protection consultant performed sound level tests at the property line abutting the plant’s harshest critic. The consultant reports that of 13 separate on-site activities tested, 11 were within standard DEP sound standards, no louder than 10 db(A) above ambient, normal, sound conditions. Two exceptions were caused by a cement truck unloading and a concrete vehicle climbing a hill at an elevated prep area. In 2008, Morse built a new sound abatement wall at the northern border as an extension to the 16-feet wall approved in December 2005 and built in June 2006.
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