June 2008 – State & Province News
by Therese Dunphy, Executive Editor
Birmingham-based Vulcan Materials Co. was inducted into the Alabama Road Builders Association Hall of Fame. It was the first company to be recognized by the association, which most frequently honors individuals. Formed in 2002, the Hall of Fame was designed to honor, preserve, and perpetuate the accomplishments and contributions of individuals, companies, and institutions that have brought and continue to bring significant recognition in the field of transportation construction to the state. Nominations are made by open call to association members, while the hall’s board of directors designates the nominees to be inducted each year.
The Alaska Journal of Commerce reports that gravel firms “grandfathered in” to mine in the water table in the Matanuska-Susitna borough are safe, but new dredging operations are banned, at least until a proposed ordinance has been finalized. The Mat-Su Borough Assembly passed an ordinance that puts any future dredging operations on new grounds on hold. That prohibition will remain in place until Oct. 21, when the assembly is scheduled for a public hearing on an ordinance that is likely to allow new operations for water table mining, with certain restrictions. Seven companies have established grandfathered rights and have indicated that they intend to dredge into the water table.
The U.S. Department of Labor is suing Aggregate Industries for more than $1 million in back wages it says are due to the company’s 302 employees. The Department of Labor said an investigation determined Aggregate Industries failed to pay employees overtime from June 25, 2005, through June 3, 2006. The company paid drivers per truckload regardless of the number of hours worked, the government said. The Department of Labor said the company has agreed to come into compliance for the future, but has refused to pay the back wages. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Denver.
A dredge traveling from Panama City to Mobile was expected to stop in Destin to excavate sand from outside the navigation channel of the East Pass. The Destin Log reports that U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hired a contractor for the traveling dredge and was able to save the transportation costs since it was already being relocated. Approximately 30,000 to 50,000 cubic yards of sand will be delivered to Norriego Point, the Destin city manager told the newspaper. Originally, only 2,500 cubic yards of sand were to be removed from the pass’s navigation channel. The city manager said the additional dredging would not only clear the pass for navigational purposes, it will also provide sand to help the city’s east beaches.
Palm Beach County commissioners approved plans for decades of digging on 11,000 acres of mostly sugar cane that used to be the Everglades, according to a report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Despite environmental concerns, commissioners voted 4-2 to allow plans for South Bay Quarry, which is located 10 miles south of Belle Glade. Commissioners also approved the Lake Harbor Quarry, which is located 4 miles south of Lake Okeechobe. A third proposal, for the 553-acre Bergeron mine expansion, was postponed and had not been heard at Aggregates Manager press time. “Whether we like or not, they have legally met the criteria,” Commissioner Mary McCarty told the newspaper.
The same woman who stopped a minor league baseball stadium from moving into Hughesville is now taking on Chaney Enterprises as it seeks rezoning of a 150-acre property in order to relocate its gravel washing operation from its current Waldorf location. According to The Washington Post, Donna Cave is organizing an anti-mining effort that includes launching a Web site (www.preservehughesville.org), organizing a letter writing campaign, and recruiting speakers for public meetings. Chaney officials have told the community that they would donate part of the land for a satellite campus of the College of Southern Maryland and for a headquarters for several regional charities. “I remember as a child, Hughesville was a bustling little community, and I’d like to see that happen again,” Commissioner Samuel Graves Jr., told the newspaper. “At some point, somebody has to embrace someone coming in with the financial wherewithal to make that happen.” Graves has not taken a stand on the zoning proposal, but has said that he is determined to make sure Chaney has a fair hearing.
Delaware-based Horsey Family LLC is seeking approval for a zoning exception to excavate material along the Marshyhope Creek in Dorchester County. The Associated Press reports that environmentalists are concerned about the impact on a rare wetlands area along the creek, but Horsey’s attorney told the news service the wetlands will not be disturbed and the environmentalists’ concerns are unfounded. If the county grants the zoning exception, the company would still need a surface mining permit from the state Department of the Environment.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) reported that a 36-year-old maintenance worker was killed following serious injuries sustained in a Jan. 25 incident when the man was hit on the head with a pry bar that fell from an 80-foot-high elevated work platform. Jeffrey King was wearing a hard hat at the time of the accident, but was bent over shoveling. The pry bar struck him behind the hard hat. MSHA reported that the accident, which took place at a surface mine in Bonne Terre, occurred because management policies and work procedures failed to ensure that the work platform was maintained in a clean condition.
Approximately 30 people attended a public meeting held by Albuquerque-based Rockology, Inc., to discuss its plans to mine a 50-acre site near La Bajada Mesa. According to the Albuquerque Journal, residents did not mince words in expressing their resistance to the project. Last year, county commissioners instituted a year-long ban on drilling activities. That moratorium followed a drilling request from an oil and gas company. Rockology’s proposal calls for excavating approximately 20 feet of material and reclaiming the area with unused topsoil. At peak production, the company estimates 60 trucks hauling material from the site each day.
The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that Aggregate Industries and G Avenue Properties are seeking more than $10 million in damages from Oshtemo Township in a lawsuit that claims the township is preventing trucks from accessing its property in neighboring Alamo Township. In February, the Oshtemo Township Board of Trustees unanimously voted to reject Aggregate Industries’ request to amend the township’s ordinance to permit gravel trucks to travel on 10th Street. The lawsuit requests that a judge either invalidate the ordinance or require the township to pay the compensation. The two companies also requested that Oshtemo Township be kept from interfering with the future mining operation or its trucks. Township officials accused Aggregate Industries’ “rush to litigate” and claimed the company refused to explore alternate options. An attorney for the producer responded that the township has denied all access to the property and that it has attempted to work with the township. A group of residents in the two townships has challenged the mining operation for more than a year.
Michael P. Millican, a 43-year-old truck driver, was killed on Jan. 26 when he was struck by a haul truck, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) reports. The accident took place in an underground gold mine in Golconda. Millican parked his truck in an intersection near the loading area and left. Shortly afterward, another miner got in the parked truck to move it out of the way. While backing up the truck, it struck Millican as he was returning to his vehicle. MSHA says the accident occurred because management procedures and controls were inadequate. Those measures should have ensured that equipment operators sounded a warning or used other effective means to warn persons who could be exposed to a hazard from the equipment.
Neighbors of Thibeault Corp.’s proposed aggregates operation in Raymond say they plan to appeal the town’s decision to permit the site because a handful of them were not properly notified of the company’s plans. The Union Leader reports that the town originally considered a portion of the company’s proposal in 2005 and subsequently approved a two-year extension. Thibeault is currently seeking permission for processing material at the site, but that request has not yet been addressed. In addition to their concerns about notification, neighbors also claim that because no work has been performed on the site it has been abandoned. A representative for the company told the newspaper that it does have plans to extract gravel from the site for use in area construction projects.
Town officials in Nassau adopted a new zoning law that includes a ban on commercial mining that they hope has firmer legal footing than a previous attempt. The Times Union reports that the town board passed the comprehensive plan unanimously. It is the culmination of a process that the town began in 2000 and was stalled until 2006 when a series of legal battles erupted over the legislation. The new law covers mining, but also includes procedural updates to streamline the regulatory process, an outline for an Aquifer Protection Overlay District, agricultural protections, rules governing subdivision development, protections for open spaces, and regulations for wind farms. The previous law was thrown out by a judge who ruled that elected officials erroneously dismissed petitions from those objecting to it. An attorney for Troy Sand and Gravel — one of two companies seeking to locate aggregates operations in the community — told the newspaper that the state’s overriding authority under current mining laws supersedes local laws.
A state panel is expected to recommend two courses of action to remedy North Carolina’s transportation funding shortfall: ending an annual transfer of highway dollars to other uses and supporting an infrastructure investment bond package. According to The Associated Press, Gov. Mike Easley and legislative leaders created the 21st Century Transportation Committee last fall to find a way to narrow the difference between transportation revenues and highway and public transportation needs. During the next 20 years, that differential is estimated to be $65 billion. Representatives of a coalition of environmental and social service advocacy groups asked the panel to refrain from recommendations that would encourage sprawl.
A proposed limestone mine near Sallisaw in Sequoyah County faces concerns from residents, the city of Sallisaw, and the Sequoyah County Conservation District, Tulsa World reports. In February, T&M Sand and Gravel Co. applied for a mining permit for the 220-acre site. Since then, residents have organized meetings to discuss their concerns and local government officials have considered the impact of the site on water transmission lines, a local dam constructed to protect farmlands, and truck traffic. Representatives from the aggregates company did not comment on the proposed site.
Residents opposed to a proposed sand and gravel quarry in Mahoning and Cooper townships were set to make their case to state officials who will determine the next step in the project. According to The Daily Item, about 15 residents who live near Haggerty Sand and Gravel’s 51-acre site in Danville voiced their concerns to Mahoning Township supervisors. Those officials said their hands are tied until the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Mining and Recreation decides on the company’s mining application.
Kelso-based J.L. Storedahl & Sons won a major victory when the Court of Appeals ruled that the Board of Clark County Commissioners has to grant its request for a zoning change. The Columbian reports the appellate court ruled 2-1 to reverse a Clark County Superior Court judge who upheld the commissioners’ denial. The decision will force the county to approve the zoning change and will allow mining at the company’s Daybreak site. An attorney for Storedahl told the newspaper that the company will proceed with plans to mine up to 12 million tons of sand and gravel from its 100-acre site near the East Fork of the Lewis River.
Glacier Northwest is working to expand its 387-acre operation in DuPont by 50 percent, according to The News Tribune. Pete Stoltz, permit coordinator for the company, told the newspaper that it took four years to address water, cultural sites, and other concerns such as noise and dust. Glacier’s goal, he said, is to replace area production lost when the Chambers Creek mine closed in 2004. The company would like to mine 30 million to 40 million tons of gravel during the next 15 years. Approximately 80 percent of the company’s aggregates are shipped by barge. According to the company’s environmental study, its proposed 80-foot mining depth would break into an aquifer and the adjacent water table would drop 10 to 30 feet in the immediate area, however no local drinking water wells would be impacted. Glacier would also replace 4 acres of wetlands that would be affected by mining with new wetlands along the 4,000-foot-long stream it creates to carry off water from the pit.
La Prairie Township is exploring the option of purchasing an 18-acre pit owned by Rock County for development as a park. The Janesville Gazette reports that the town has offered to buy the pit for $100. The Rock County public works director recommended selling the pit. The La Prairie Township chairman added that the idea would benefit his community because parkland is a rare commodity. Currently, the county uses the pit — which has been closed for many years — as a staging area or to store construction rubble. To facilitate the sale the full Rock County Board would need to approve a resolution endorsing the sale.
Opponents of a gravel pit for the North Saskatchewan River valley anticipated a turnout of approximately 1,000 people at a public meeting sponsored by the group. According to the Edmonton Journal, the Community Gravel Pit Opposition Committee has hired a lawyer, set up a Web site, and tried to rally support to stop a mine operated by Qualico. The company’s manager of land development told the newspaper that he was surprised by the amount of resistance, particularly since the company has offered to remediate the 46.5-hectare site and donate it as a park once the gravel is removed.