June 2009 – State & Province News
As the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) studies the environmental effects of proposed aggregate operations on its land, nearly 400 residents attended a forum on the matter hosted by public officials. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Cemex and Service Rock Products would like to lease land from the BLM and begin operations in 2011. First, however, the environmental impact reports must be completed, the companies must outbid any competitors for the leases, and the project must survive public resistance. About 5,500 residents signed a petition opposing the quarries, and U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) told forum attendees that she would try to put a stop to the proposal. If the site proves unsuitable for mining, the BLM will foot the bill for the $350,000 environmental study. If not, the highest bidder will pay the cost and pay the federal government a royalty for mined materials.
Calling the improvement of New Jersey roads and rails “part of our strategic future,” Gov. Jon Corzine proposed a $3.6 billion capital construction program for 2010. According to NJ.com, that figure represents a 9-percent increase over current funding levels and does not include an additional $1 billion in federal stimulus funding for the state that is also designated for transportation projects. Funds will be used toward “interim” repairs to the Pulaski Skyway in Kearney, Newark, and Jersey City; construction of a second commuter rail tunnel to Manhattan and an expanded Penn Station in New York; resurfacing of Route 287 in Somerset County and other highways; and $419 million for infrastructure improvements aimed at relieving congestion.
After a three-year battle, the Skaneateles Town Board voted 3-2 to approve Cemento LLC’s application for a special use permit to develop a 77-acre sand and gravel mine. The Post-Standard reports that the company applied for the permit in January 2006, but the application was placed on hold as the town evaluated its mining laws. The vote followed party lines, with Republicans getting the permit through. The group reviewed testimony that lasted about 10 hours over the course of four nights. One of the dissenting board members asked for his comments to be entered into the record. A future neighbor of the site said those comments may form the basis for a lawsuit from the neighboring homeowner’s association.
Approximately 200 Grove City residents gathered to hear Olen Corp’s proposal that would provide Columbus with a free reservoir – worth more than $130 million – to feed the rapidly growing city. According to The Columbus Dispatch, Olen Corp. would like to pump out an old pit, sending water into Columbus well fields and a local river, and then mine limestone for area construction projects. When the mining is complete, Olen would let the pit fill with rain and groundwater and repeat the process in three neighboring pits. In all, the project would span 70 years. While the proposed reservoir could hold 10 billion to 20 billion gallons, an administrator of the Columbus Division of Water acknowledged residents concerns that it could impact their water supply.
A backlog of big projects now underway is drawing attention from contractors throughout the state. Jack Ramage, executive director of the Master Builders Association of Western Pennsylvania told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the number of bids for private projects has risen about 30 to 40 percent in the past six months. A spokesperson for the state Department of General Services said he has seen the number of bids double during the past six months, even on small projects.
Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) officials said federal stimulus dollars are contributing to what’s shaping up to be a record year for highway construction in sheer number of projects in play. The Deseret News reports that Utah obligated more than half its allocated $215 million by late April. “This is the very largest construction program that we’ve ever reported,” said Jim McMinimee, UDOT’s project development director. “We have 169 projects currently under construction…over $2 billion worth of work out there.” He reported that as he reviewed bids on the state’s last 30 projects, contractor bids came in at 30 percent under engineer valuations.
At press time, the fight over Columbia Ready Mix’s mine expansion was set to be heard in court. According to the Yakima Herald-Republic, a resident who lives 900 feet from the mining operation appealed the county commissioners’ approval of the expansion to the Yakima County Superior Court. The dispute began in 2005 when Columbia Ready Mix got approval to open its 78-acre mine. The county limited operations to nine months a year and prohibited crushing. Last year, the company requested that the county lift those restrictions, and the county agreed to allow crushing nine months a year, with operations year-round.
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