March 2009 – State & Province News
Sen. Byron Dorgan, chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, said he plans to push for legislation to change the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ management practices for the Missouri River. The Bismarck Tribune reports that a new report from the Government Accountability Office shows that barges carrying sand and gravel from dredge operations to on-shore processing sites are nearly all that remain on the river. “This report is jaw-dropping with respect to the size and type of barge shipping on the lower Missouri,” said Dorgan. “For the Corps of Engineers to release critically needed water in the upstream dams to support a barge industry that’s largely moving sand and gravel just a few miles is thoroughly ridiculous.” According to the report, commercial barge traffic slipped to around 300,000 tons in 2006 from a peak of 2 million tons. In the meantime, sand and gravel movement remained constant at about 8 million tons, with about half of that tonnage moving less than a mile by barge.
Growing concerns over water problems in Nockamixon have trickled down to a local quarry. Supervisors voted 3 to 2 against renewing Hanson Aggregates’ permit to operate, citing Hanson’s refusal to install an additional water meter. The Burlington County Times reports that the move prompted threats of a lawsuit from quarry managers. Following recent resident concerns, Nockamixon officials asked Hanson Aggregates to place a turbidity monitor near the water discharge point. Quarry manager Bob Melani blames road and bridge dust for the problem, noting that the company already abides by state Department of Environmental Protection standards. In addition, the operation honored the city’s request to plant more trees along the property and to send the township a copy of the quarterly water quality reports it must submit to the DEP.
Sand Springs Materials LLC filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn the city of Sand Springs’ decision to reject its proposed quarry. According to Tulsa World, the company’s request was turned down after several public hearings before the Planning Commission in 2007. The City Council upheld the Planning Commission’s decision to reject its application for a 500-acre site. An attorney for the company told the newspaper that the city’s action was not based on facts, but “merely bent to the wishes of constituents.” City Attorney David Weatherford called the appeal a “last gasp” effort.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski said he wants to bring stakeholders together to resolve gravel mining concerns along the Applegate River. Joan Resnick, manager for the governor’s Oregon Solutions project, says it’s a matter of looking at the river holistically. The Associated Press reports that Resnick will meet with landowners, mining opponents, environmental organizations, and Copeland Sand and Gravel to review the operator’s request to expand its operations. Community forums will work toward development of a “Declaration of Cooperation” which all parties may or may not sign. One government official told the news agency that he sees the project as a way to look at the river as a whole rather than focusing on any specific operation.
The Leader-Telegram reports that a lawsuit over a proposed sand plant in Chippewa Falls is expected to be heard in court next month. The city’s Plan Commission issued a conditional-use permit to Canadian Sand and Proppant last fall. The permit allows the company to build several structures to heights of 90 feet. An opposition group, Concerned Chippewa Citizens, questions the legality of the commission’s vote to allow height variances. Canadian Sand and Proppant purchased 93 acres in an industrial park that is zoned for heavy industrial use. It plans to spend $45 to $50 million to build the plant.
British Columbia’s mining sector went from the best of times to not-so-good times in 2008, and the industry could see new measures to reignite mineral exploration as early as the current federal budget, said British Columbia’s Minister of State for Mining Gordon Hogg. He told The Vancouver Sun that his ministry’s regional offices saw exploration activity begin to slow in early 2008. When commodity prices collapsed later in the year, mining companies began to delay projects and lay off workers. Speaking at the Association for Mineral Exploration B.C.’s 2009 convention, he said that the downturn has brought a renewed appetite in mining communities and among governments to find ways of making it easier for exploration to happen, and B.C. is pushing for regulatory changes aimed at reaching that goal. “More exploration leads to more mines, eventually, Hogg told the newspaper, “and that’s where we want to go.”
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