November 2008 – State & Province News
by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
According to the Anchorage Daily News, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly passed a law permanently banning new gravel mining within the seasonal high water table. In April, the Assembly temporarily stopped mining in the seasonal high water table, but that ban was set to expire in October. The new rules require a 4-foot vertical separation between the bottom of the excavation and the seasonal high water table. The new law is not retroactive and does not apply to operators currently mining in the water table.
In a split decision, the Maricopa County Mining District Recommendation Committee passed a motion recommending a study of whether mining operations have contributed to valley-fever cases near the Agua Fria Riverbed. The Arizona Republic reports that all the mining industry panel members voted against the recommendation and referred to the Arizona Department of Health Services’ position that mining isn’t associated with the respiratory illness. “As a member of the mining industry, it gives implication that we are involved,” panel member C.R. Herro told the newspaper. “The data do not correlate, and it’s difficult for me to recommend a study if mining isn’t the cause.”
According to The San Luis Obispo Tribune, the Board of Supervisors pledged to clean up the process for getting a building or mining permit. The pledge came following comments from gravel operators seeking permits and county planning staff during a meeting designed to clear the air after exasperated miners complained about the frustration of dealing with the county system. Although complaints about permitting are not atypical, those outlined during recent months have been particularly pointed, with some operators bypassing the Planning Commission and going directly to the Board of Supervisors. Specifically, operators complained about ongoing requests for studies, noting that although they were using consultants recommended by the county, they were being asked for additional studies after initial reports were submitted. Supervisor Bruce Gibson called for a review of the list of consultants in order to remove any who are not doing the job correctly. He also said that those who apply for permits should have clearly communicated expectations and should not face expensive and time-consuming surprises later in the process.
The Press Journal reports that people who want to mine aggregates from agriculture-zoned land may face a bevy of new requirements. Currently, mining is allowed on agricultural land as long as the miner gets a permit, subject to inspection and renewal once a year. The proposed expansion of an 835-acre site last year drew criticism from its farming neighbors and others in the area. In January, county commissioners responded with a moratorium on new mine approvals and held a series of workshops into mining issues by the Planning and Zoning Commission. That advisory panel submitted 38 changes to mining rules and would require miners to assure the county that the surrounding environment and water tables can withstand mining; possibly pave their haul routes to minimize dust; and hire an off-duty sheriff’s deputy to crack down on truckers and enforce traffic laws in areas where speeding is a problem.
A lawsuit to stop Destin’s beach-restoration project may delay restoration until after the 2009 hurricane season starts, according to The Destin Log. If that happens, Jerry Stalnaker, general manager of the Jetty East condo association, told the newspaper that the association will look at countersuing in order to get the desperately needed sand. The Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council hoped to begin dredging sand from the Gulf for Destin and Okaloosa Island beaches early next year, but several condominium associations filed suit to block the $25.9 million project. Stalnaker said that the association has contacted an attorney about suing the plaintiffs because of the amount of damage the condo owners could suffer if restoration falls through.
In mid-September, county commissioners gave unanimous approval to renew a permit for a Kansas River sand and gravel dredging operation near Lawrence. According to the Journal-World, the vote came despite the urging of environmental advocates to have the company mine in a sand pit instead of the river. Commissioner Bob Johnson said that Kaw Sand and Penny’s Concrete Inc. has been a good steward and noted that the new permit would run concurrently with the company’s Corps of Engineers permit. Commissioner Jere McElhaney said the only change in the new permit was the stockpile location and criticized members of the Friends of the Kaw and the Kansas Wildlife Federation for suggesting a private business move its operation without “offering any solutions or monetary value for that.” The permit lasts until Dec. 13, 2012. At that time, a zoning administrator can grant an extension of up to six years.
A New York couple who violated federal wetlands protection rules when they expanded a private airstrip and developed a quarry at their seasonal property were fined $115,000, according to the Bangor Daily News. Robert and Gayle Greenhill, who own more than 3,200 acres on Moosehead Lake’s western shore, did not obtain the necessary permits before work was done on the airstrip and quarry. The complaint noted that an access road and equipment corridor for the quarry was developed through several wetlands areas using an excavator and bulldozer. Wetlands areas also were affected by blasting and rock removal and some of the materials from the quarry were placed in wetlands areas. An EPA wetlands enforcement officer told the newspaper that most of the mitigation work had been completed at the couple’s $15.5 million property.
Neighbors of a recycling site that was recently granted permission to add crushing and processing to its operations complained to the state Department of Environmental Protection that the site contains possible violations and breaches in erosion control. The Telegram & Gazette reports that neighbor Gail Dunn charged that the wetlands portion of the site contains tires and trash. Upon investigation, the DEP noted that there were a couple of breaches in the berm along the edge of the property. The site owner told the newspaper that he was made aware of the problems and intends to address them, noting that he planned to run a “clean, neat operation.”
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