October 2009 – State & Province News
by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved the expansion of a Benson sand and gravel pit owned by Huachuca Concrete Inc. According to the Arizona Daily Star, the BLM issued its decision after a “finding of no significant impact” based on an environmental assessment by the agency. The mine’s operating plan has been modified to require the use of a soil binder on roads to reduce dust and water consumption. Operating hours for the crushing operation and wet plant are from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
A planned land swap between the federal government and a regional water agency could help expand gravel mining in the Santa Ana River wash. The Press-Enterprise reports that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would transfer to the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District at least 315 acres near existing gravel mine pits, which are expected to be leased for mining. In return, the district would give the BLM about 320 acres east of the mining area to be used for habitat conservation. Endangered species in the area include the San Bernardino kangaroo rate and the Santa Ana River woolly-star, a flowering plant. The water district currently leases land to Robertson’s Ready Mix and Cemex Inc., which together have paid it about $1 million during the past two fiscal years.
Georgia Limerock Co. LLC is trying to have 854 acres in Houston County rezoned for use as a limestone quarry. The Sun News reports that the land is zoned as agricultural/residential, and the company wants to have it reclassified as general industrial. If approved, site development could begin this fall, with the operation opening in early 2010. Approximately 15 jobs would be created and an estimated $4.5 million in property and equipment investments would be generated. Slightly less than half of the site was previously mined from the 1920s to the 1970s. A 25-foot wooded buffer would separate the mining area from adjacent property owned by Georgia Limerock Co., while a 200-foot wooded buffer is planned to separate the mining area from other properties.
Lafarge North America Inc. won a $3.2 million construction contract for road work near Andover, the Wichita Business Journal reports. The project, the largest on the Kansas Department of Transportation’s list of winners, will consist of 0.8 miles of grading and surfacing work.
Pike Industries has appealed a decision by the city of Westbrook to strip it of its legal right to operate a quarry that has been existence since 1968. According to Mainebiz, the city’s zoning board of appeals ruled that it has no legal rights to operate the quarry it bought from Blue Rock Industries in 2005, and served Pike with a cease-and-desist order. Pike’s motion indicates that since 1971, the city has not found a reason to object to the quarry operation and has issued various permits over the years “in furtherance of the quarry use.” “All we want is basic fairness,” Jonathan Olson, regional manager for Pike Industries said in a statement. “The city granted a permit for quarrying operations at that site more than 40 years ago… Now, suddenly after 40 years and under pressure from some powerful interests, the city is claiming that we never really had a permit and can no longer operate the Spring Street Quarry. This defies common sense. It puts our business in a competitive disadvantage and could cost the city jobs and tax dollars.”
The Becket Land Trust has turned an abandoned quarry into a feature on its hiking trails. Ken Smith, president of the land trust, told The Republican that the abandoned trucks and equipment making up the former Hudson-Chester Quarry are part of the areas history. The land trust created 7 miles of trails, including portions of the former quarry.
Caledonia Township and Kentwood Excavating Inc. settled a 3-year-old lawsuit and cleared the path for the producer to begin operations for its proposed sand and gravel operation. The Grand Rapids Press reports that operating conditions include a 250-foot buffer zone around the perimeter of the property, limitations on hours of operation, and vegetation around the operation. The company must also pave the street leading to the operation and construct a bike path along it.
A federal judge ordered the Clark County Commission to reconsider bids for the Las Vegas Beltway paving project. According to the Las Vegas Sun, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jones also barred two commissioners, Steve Sisolak and Tom Collins, from participating in the discussions and decision to make sure the process is impartial. Attorneys for both Las Vegas Paving and Fisher Sand & Gravel Co. have agreed to send the project back to the commission. Fisher Sand & Gravel earlier requested and received a temporary restraining order, arguing that the commission abused its discretion by awarding the contract to Las Vegas Paving. Fisher’s bid was $112 million, while Las Vegas Paving’s was $117 million. An attorney for Fisher said that the non-union company felt it was fighting a pro-union bias.
The Quinton Planning Board unanimously approved Continental Aggregates site plan, NJ.com reports. A few minor changes were made to the preliminary site plan prior to approval. Continental Aggregates must now receive approval to remove overburden from the township committee. For two years, the company has been trying to get the site plan approved. The planning board originally denied the expansion, but a Superior Court judge overturned its ruling. “I think they followed the law,” Mike Foglietta, owner of Continental Aggregates told the reporter. “That’s all I’ve been asking them to do from the beginning.”
The Onslow Water and Sewer Authority (ONWASA) Board of Directors unanimously approved an agreement with Martin Marietta Aggregates for water rights to its Onslow Quarry in Richlands. According to ENCToday.com, water taken from the quarry flows into an adjacent stream, but the agreement will allow ONWASA to use the water as a viable drinking water source. It will also have the first right of refusal to purchase water from the site at some point in the future. Martin Marietta will provide land for placement of up to 10 well and up to 25 acres of land for a future water treatment plant. Pax Badham, Martin Marietta vice president of natural resources and environmental services, said the land is in the operation’s buffer zone, so the agreement will not adversely affect the operation.
Bart Mathis, a Wilkes County businessman, plans to re-open a granite quarry located on U.S. 421 behind his business. The Winston-Salem Journal reports that there is no zoning in that part of the county and quarries do not fall under the county’s high-impact land-use regulations. Mathis needs an air quality permit and would then be able to open the 35-acre quarry.
Three people are dead and one injured after a pickup drove into a rock quarry, www.kjrh.com reports. Investigators report that the four had been drinking and driving between 60 to 70 miles per hour. When the driver did not stop at a stop sign, the truck hit a rock barrier and went airborne for approximately 240 feet before landing at the edge of the highwall and falling 150 feet into the quarry. All four occupants were ejected. The survivor made a 911 call and was found by emergency crews. She is expected to recover.
Township officials have issued a cease-and-desist order to Gibraltar Rock Inc., and an attorney for the township said it does not believe work can continue on the 302-acre site. Township supervisors have unanimously approved having the attorney file for a court injunction to stop mining, if necessary. According to The Mercury, an attorney for Gibraltar Rock has filed an appeal and said the company will continue mining operations until the matter is resolved at the zoning board hearing. The site development is planned for three stages. The first stage was approved by the zoning board, with conditions, after 67 hearings. Gibraltar appealed some of the conditions, and its attorney says that although it is appealing conditions of the permit, zoning approval stands. An attorney for the township told the newspaper that as long as the operator is appealing, “there is no finality to the zoning decision.”
A judge ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to meet environmental requirements when it issued a permit for Glacier Northwest to build a dock for its proposed sand and gravel mine on Maury Island. King5.com reports that the ruling stopped the project just days before Glacier Northwest was to resume construction. Pete Stoltz, a spokesman for Glacier Northwest, told the media that his group’s science has held up under intense scrutiny. “The project has been reviewed by the Washington State Court of Appeals, Shorelines Hearings Board, Pollution Control Hearings Board, and Office of Administrative Hearings. All have unanimously rejected environmental challenges to our project.” The Corps refused to comment on the ruling saying its attorneys were still in the process of reviewing it.
According to The Pierce County Herald, six homeowners have filed claims against Pierce County, alleging that blasting in a county quarry has caused more than $50,000 in damage for each of them. The new claims join four others filed in July. The families say blasting done by the highway department has caused cracks in the walls, cement floors, foundations, and driveways of their homes.