November 2009 – State & Province News
by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
The Tucson Airport Authority agreed to lease 160 additional acres to Granite Construction Co. The company will expand sand and gravel mining south of the Los Reales Landfill. According to the Arizona Daily Star, Granite Construction estimates it would pay the authority $260,000 a year based on how many tons are produced. The minimum annual rent would be $180,000. The site is south of the landfill and east of two other parcels that Granite has leased since 2002. As part of the lease, the company must fill and restore the property to safe conditions.
County regulators cited Fisher Sand & Gravel Co. for failing to minimize dust near 51st and Southern avenues in Laveen, the Arizona Republic reports. The Maricopa County Air Quality Department cited the company because inspectors found that it didn’t have what it considers proper track-out equipment. The violations will go to the county’s enforcement division, which will schedule a hearing and determine the fines. A spokeswoman for the department told the newspaper that Fisher could be fined up to $10,000 per violation per day. Phoenix residents have been pressing city leaders to shut down the company’s asphalt plant, and a rash of regulatory agencies have been inspecting and citing Fisher.
Polaris Minerals Corp. announced that it has secured an option to lease an existing marine aggregate importing terminal in the Port of Long Beach, Calif. According to PR Newswire, the company says the lease would set the stage for a more cost-effective and quicker entry into the Los Angeles market. The site is already permitted to receive and distribute up to 3 million tons of construction aggregates per year and is located in a deepwater channel close to Interstate 710. The option period is extendable to June 30, 2010.
The city of Temecula made a bid to annex 5,000 acres on its southwestern border in an attempt to prevent Granite Construction from moving forward with its plans to develop a 400-acre quarry, but the county Local Agency Formation Commission voted 5-2 against the annexation. Granite Construction spokesperson Karie Reuther said the commission’s decision — reached after a 10-hour meeting — was a “victory for taxpayers,” The Californian reports. If the quarry is eventually approved by the county, the project will generate jobs, tax revenue for the county, and millions of tons of aggregate for local construction projects.
Ojai-based Stop the Trucks Coalition has recruited some big names to help raise funds to fight gravel-truck traffic in Ojai Valley. According to Ventura County Star, Oscar-winner Keith Carradine and musicians Marty Grebb and Julie Christensen will be among those expected to perform at an all-day concert. Proceeds from the concert will be used to fund legal fees and other expenses of the Stop the Trucks Coalition. Tickets were being sold for $25 to $50. Opponents of the mine expansion include Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce, Ojai Unified School District, and Ojai City Council.
The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District unanimously voted to recommend denial of a Lafarge proposal to mine gravel and operate asphalt and concrete batch plants, The Pueblo Chieftain reports. “I think it’s essentially a scarring of the landscape and what this group is trying to do,” claimed Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner, who chaired the meeting. Steve Brown, regional land coordinator for Lafarge, argued that its proposal fits with the collective vision for Fountain Creek and noted that no more than 20 to 30 acres would be mined at a time.
Lewiston Planning and Zoning commissioners approved a conditional-use permit for the expansion of a rock mining operation, according to the Lewiston Morning Tribune. The permit gives Atlas Sand and Rock the ability to expand its operations by approximately 27 acres. The commission excluded a condition proposed by city staff that would have required a visual buffer of trees.
Ed Persico, general manager of Aggregate Industries, presented three options for how the company could close its operation in Peabody. The Salem News reports the first option would allow the company to continue blasting its quarry from the existing 135-foot depth to 410 feet and keep an asphalt plant in its current location. The second option would extend the quarry’s rim, blast to 245 feet, and relocate the plant to a different location on the property. The third option is similar to the second, but would move the plant off site to another location in the city. Aggregate Industries is not obligated to close the quarry, but was required to submit a closure plan as a condition of its city-issued special permit.
The University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents unanimously approved the creation of a limited liability company to manage 5,000 acres of land known as UMore Park. According to the Star Tribune, the university is preparing for its possible development, including gravel mining on the site. The UMore Development LLC will be run by a nine-member board of governors. The news agency says the university hopes that mining income will help offset its $5.9 million investment in the project and another $2.6 million budgeted for this year. “My big fear is that we are going to start mining this gravel, and in 10 or 12 years we won’t have any gravel or any money left,” Regent Anthony Baraga told the Star Tribune.
In the latest installment of the drama involving the Las Vegas Beltway project, Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins filed a lawsuit saying that he shouldn’t be barred from voting on a contested highway contract. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that legal battles have stalled the project. Las Vegas Paving won the contract twice on its bid of $116.8 million, which is higher than Fisher Sand and Gravel’s bid of $112.2 million. In September, a federal judge signed a writ stating that commissioners Collins and Steve Sisolak “by willing agreement” would not participate in future discussions of the disputed contract. Collins says he didn’t agree to such an agreement and opposing lawyers cut a “behind closed doors” deal and got the judge to impose it on him. Collins says the agreement defames him by calling him biased and unlawfully prevents him from performing his duties as an elected official. “Some combination of them cooperated and conspired to gerrymander the Clark County Commission,” the lawsuit claims.
Neighbors of a proposed asphalt plant in Weare are fighting its development. The Union Leader reports that community member Eric Rinehimer expects a group of approximately 150 neighbors to protest the asphalt plant at a planning board meeting. C.J. Bolton Inc. officials are expected to present their plans and solicit public input, but no action is expected to be taken by the board.
Wildlife pathologist Dr. Ward Stone told wten.com that he had found disturbing levels of mercury and other pollution in the Ravena-Coeymans area and blamed it on the Lafarge cement plant there. Stone works for the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The DEC said that, although it is concerned about pollution, the levels of mercury cited by Stone “are in fact within the range of what’s already known about soil in New York State… mercury concentrations found in fish and wildlife in New York are attributable in part to emissions of dozens of sources outside New York State.” Lafarge told the news agency that its plant is safe now and will be even cleaner when it completes a modernization costing “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
North Greenville University dedicated two houses for use by male students in late September. According to GreenvilleOnline.com, Hanson Aggregates Southeast Inc. formerly used the buildings for office space at its quarry and donated them to the university. “We are grateful to Hanson Aggregates for their partnership to recycle these houses for living space,” Alex Miller, vice president for University Advancement, told the news agency. “The easier thing would have been to tear them down. Our students will be able to enjoy a homelike atmosphere in a university setting because of this generous gift.”
Texas Industries worked with the crew of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to build a home for a Texas family. GlobeNewsire reports that the company’s North Texas Ready Mix, Aggregates, Cement, and Package Teams all helped tear down and build a new home in seven days. TXI’s concrete was used in the foundation, the biggest pour done to date on the television program. At Aggregates Manager press time, the episode was expected to air on Oct. 18.
The Washington Department of Ecology has fined an inactive gravel pit operating as Skagit Hill Recycling, Inc. $46,000 for water quality permit violations. A second order directs the facility to immediately remove a 70-foot pile of boiler waste and other improperly stored materials. The piles, which can leach toxic pollutants during rainfalls, sit on porous sand and gravel. The department also cited the company for failing to have and implement a water quality monitoring plan, a stormwater pollution prevention plan, an erosion and sediment control plan, and a spill control plan. All four are needed to meet sand and gravel water quality permit requirements.
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