September 2008 – State & Province News
Plans for a gravel pit in Dalton were presented at a public meeting held in mid-July. According to The Berkshire Eagle, PBN Realty LLC is requesting a special permit for the removal of sand and gravel from a former gravel pit. A homeowner near the property collected more than 260 signatures on a petition opposing the plan, claiming that only the developer and landowner would benefit from the operation. If approved, the site would be operated from 2008 to 2013 and would be reclaimed upon completion of mining. The landowner noted that large pine trees on the property provide a natural noise buffer and the road was built to accommodate truck traffic.
A tax change may ease tensions between Douglas Township and Kraemer Mining and Materials, www.pioneerpress.com reports. In an article posted on its Web site, the newspaper notes that the producer is currently suing the township for the right to open a 900-acre quarry site. A new state law, which takes effect in January, gives cities and townships greater incentive to host mining operations through a major increase in its tax revenue. The “production tax” rate is currently 7 cents a ton, but will increase to 15 cents. Traditionally, 70 percent of that revenue was awarded to the county, with the remaining funds divided among all its cities and townships as the county deemed. The state law, however, will direct 42.5 percent of the tax to the city or township where aggregate operations are located. A Dakota County commissioner told the newspaper that he believes the new law “provides an incentive…to allow these types of mining operations to happen, because they’re not necessarily the most wanted things in the community.”
At Aggregates Manager press time, Magruder Limestone Co. had nearly cleared the remaining hurdle in its year-long permitting endeavor. According to The Ozarks This Morning, Department of Natural Resources Hearing Officer W.B. Tichenor recommended approval of a permit for it to mine 205 acres near the Osage River. He noted that the Joint Sewer Board of Osage Beach and Lake Ozark and the Concerned Citizens of Camden and Miller failed to establish scientific evidence that the quarry would have a negative impact on health, safety, and livelihood of area residents. Tichenor also recommended five stipulations with the permit including restrictions on hours of operation, boundaries, blasting plans, seismograph readings, and blasting holes.
Neighbors of two gravel sites in the Gallatin Valley want a judge to reverse court orders that required the state environmental agency to issue permits for gravel mining although environmental reviews had not been conducted. The Associated Press reports that neighbors are trying to stop mines planned by Cameron Springs LLC and Spanish Peaks Sand & Gravel LLC. Orders for the agency to issue the permits came after it failed to act on permit requests within a 60-day time limit. DEQ has said that it lacks the personnel necessary to promptly process permit applications. An attorney for the gravel operators noted that one of the companies volunteered to pay for an environmental assessment because DEQ was not prepared to launch one. A DEQ lawyer told Judge Jeffrey Sherlock that the agency said it lacked the resources to review an assessment done at company expense. “You can’t say that the mine operator has to be held hostage to the backlog at the DEQ, can you?” Sherlock told the DEQ lawyer. He then inquired about the possibility of environmental assessments being done after permits are issued and using findings from those assessments to place conditions on permits. At Aggregates Manager press time, a decision had not been reached.
The Bitterroot National Forest approved a controversial plant to allow Ravalli County to mine aggregate in an existing, but unused quarry in Lost Horse Canyon, according to a report at www.missoulian.com. A county ranger said the forest approved a one-time use that would allow the county to remove approximately 1,000 cubic yards of rock from an old quarry. A coalition of homeowners, climbers, and recreationists told the newspaper that the forest violated the National Environmental Policy Act by approving gravel extraction without significant review. It plans to file suit.
A judge threw out nearly half of the 44 felony counts against a town highway superintendent accused of purchasing gravel from an illegal mine and submitting forged documents to cover it up. The Times Union reports that Stephentown Highway Superintendent Neil Gardner was indicted Feb. 15 on 22 counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, 10 counts of first-degree falsifying business records, and 12 counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. He is also charged with one misdemeanor count of operating a mine without a permit. Rensselaer County Judge Robert Jacon ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support 20 of the 44 felony counts. He eliminated 10 counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing and 10 counts of first-degree falsifying business records. Gardner’s trial is scheduled for this month.
In November, Eugene voters will decide the fate of a $35.9 million, five-year bond issue to pay for street repairs. According to The Register Guard, the city council voted to put the issue on the Nov. 4 ballot. Councilors noted that the bond measure would not come close to solving the city’s $173 million backlog of street work, but the majority thought the measure was more likely to pass than an originally proposed $81.5 million, 10-year spending request. If passed, the measure would fund 32 street projects covering 70 miles, as well as 3 miles of bike and pedestrian path repair work. Strategy Research Institute was hired to poll 400 likely voters on the measure and concluded that 66 percent of voters would support paying higher taxes for street repairs.
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