April 1, 2010
By Therese Dunphy, Editor in Chief
A Maricopa County advisory board comprised of five residents and five industry members should be expanded by another member to make it more effective. According to The Arizona Republic, that was the opinion of a resident member who suggested the expansion to break a pattern of deadlocked votes. The Maricopa County Mining District Recommendation Committee mediates disputes between residents and mining operators in the Agua Fria riverbed and makes recommendations to county supervisors. Committee Chairman Joe McCord told the news-paper that “the way this committee is set up almost guarantees a stalemate.” He suggested adding a state mine inspector or a representative from that office as a board member or dissolving the committee. The board will vote on the proposal at its next meeting, to be held in June.
After a seven-hour hearing, the Azusa Planning Commission voted 3-to-1 to recommend the city council approve a new mining plan for Vulcan Materials Co. Pasadena Star-News reports that Vulcan has a permit for 190 acres and wants to swap 80 acres of land on its eastern boundary for the ability to mine 80 acres near its western property line. The company has agreed to mine with micro-benches that are much smaller than the 40-foot ones used in current mining. City staff members who recommended the project noted that the mining technique was much more natural and appealing. Azusa City Council is expected to hear the proposal this month, but officials in neighboring Duarte continue to oppose the proposal.
Palm Beach Aggregates officials have asked Palm Beach County for permission to mine another 2,300 acres of their operation 15 miles west of West Palm Beach. The Palm Beach Post reports that a group of Palm Beach County and Broward County water utilities have expressed interest in buying a pit there for use as a reservoir. The utilities have commissioned a study that concluded another stadium-sized rock pit could help meet some of South Florida’s future water needs. The county’s zoning commission was expected to hear the mining petition at the beginning of the month, while the county commission will consider it on April 22.
Mining in Hernando County has been hard hit by the wounded housing market and the economic free-fall, according to the St. Petersburg Times. Allen Keesler, chief executive for E.R. Jahna Industries, told the newspaper that his company’s business has dropped by 75 percent since the recent boom years. He said that he’s had to lay off employees and hopes for a turnaround, but is not optimistic. “I see nothing on the horizon that’s going to change this,” he said. “We’re in for a tough dry spell. The trick in business is, how do you stay afloat until everything turns around?” More than 18,000 acres in Hernando County are dedicated to mining operations.
After seven years of planning and debate about the future of Aggregate Industries’ quarry in West Peabody, the city council approved a closure plan. The Salem News reports that Peabody’s Quarry Closure Committee endorsed a plan that allows the company to blast in its existing quarry, currently 135 feet deep, until it reaches 410 feet. An asphalt plant will also stay on site. Scott Colby, Aggregate Industries’ environmental and estates manager, told the newspaper, “We were very happy with the cooperative effort.” He estimated that the reserves would allow the company to mine for at least 20 years, depending on the economy and demand for stone.
Officials with the Nevada Department of Transportation say that fixing the cause of a series of cracks — up to 30 feet long — in four areas of the Galena Creek Bridge could cost up to $900,000, but the structure’s safety is not jeopardized and construction remains on schedule. According to RGI.com, the cracks occurred March 5 when a project subcontractor conducted air pressure testing of post-tensioning ducts that help support the structure where the bridge deck meets its supporting arch. The state will pick up the tab for the repairs. The bridge was the focus of controversy years ago when a previous contractor, Edward Kraemer and Sons, halted construction in 2006, citing a concern it could collapse in high wind during a particularly vulnerable point in its construction. The project is expected to be finished in fall 2011.
Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) officials lauded Egge Sand & Gravel for a turnaround in its behavior with regulators, noting that after a recent minor spill, an Egge official immediately notified regulators, accepted culpability, and took — in the regulator’s view — “extraordinary efforts to ensure the violation would not be repeated. According to The Register Guard, the operation (purchased in 2006 by Oldcastle Materials) had a couple employees who decided to wash 10-inch cobble stones for a customer and washed it on the ground with a water truck, turning it over with a loader. When Dale Fortner, the company’s local environmental and land use manager, saw what happened, he stopped the activity, shut down the pump, and notified DEQ. Since then, the operation has retrained yard staff, erected signs marking clean water areas, and made maps explaining the system.
Richmond Township supervisors holding a series of closed-door meetings regarding contentious plans for a quarry expansion may be doing so in violation of the Sunshine Act. The Reading Eagle reports that the supervisors announced meetings with neighboring municipalities, Lehigh Cement officials, and members of the East Penn Valley citizens group, which is opposed to the proposed expansion. The town solicitor said he could not divulge what was being discussed other than to say that discussions dealt with litigation about the quarry, noting that a zoning hearing constitutes active litigation. Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, told the newspaper that the body can deliberate during an executive session or meet with its attorney, but neither appears to be the case with these meetings.
In response to neighbor complaints about a proposed 2,000-acre quarry, Austin City Council members asked the city staff to look for ways to more effectively regulate projects near the city limits. According to the American-Statesman, Texas Industries Inc. contends that it has met all applicable laws for the site. State law gives cities some authority outside their boundaries through “extraterritorial jurisdictions” created by the Legislature to protect neighborhoods near city limits from incompatible use, but is mainly limited to ensuring the project does not pollute local waterways.
Menzel Lake Gravel’s plan to nearly triple the size of its pit faces opposition in Granite Falls. The Daily Herald reports that the operator has applied to Snohomish County to increase its operation by 91 acres, with an additional 141 acres around the perimeter set aside for wetlands protection. The operation is not inside the city limits, so the county rather than the city will decide on its request, but city officials are fighting the expansion. The proposal would increase truck trips allowed in and out of the pit over the course of a year to an average of 200 per day, from the current 68 per day. Rob Hild, owner-manager of Menzel Lake Gravel, said while the size of the pit would grow, the operation would not. It is a family operation with six employees, including Hild.
The Port of Tacoma approved the sale of its Maytown property to Maytown Sand and Gravel for $17 million, The News Tribune reports. The move was delayed at the end of 2009 because of concerns raised by an environmental group opposed to mining in the habitat. Thurston County officials have said that the port is not in compliance with the gravel mining special-use permit, and they haven’t granted go-ahead on mining.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has scheduled an informal conference for April 14 at 7 p.m. at the Mountain Ridge Intermediate School in Gerrardstown. According to the Charleston Daily Mail, the state regulators are seeking information on private water intakes in streams near a shale quarry proposed by North Mountain Shale LLC. The operator is seeking a pollution discharge permit from the DEP for a quarry on its 100-acre site that would discharge treated water and storm water into tributaries of Mill Creek.
Two Kraemer Co. employees, Richard Marino and Roger Osegard, answered questions about its proposed operation during a recent Kinnickinnic Town board meeting. River Falls Journal reports that the company would like to develop two parcels of land currently owned by Cudd Trust Co. and develop a 40,000-ton-per-year operation. Mining would take place in 3-acre increments. Residents voiced concerns about horses being spooked and environmental issues. A town supervisor requested the names of homeowners near Kraemer’s other quarry sites as references.
The Hudson Plan Commission recommended approval of a 9.6-acre expansion of the Mimbach limestone quarry over objections of neighboring property owners. According to the Hudson Star-Observer, a member of the Plan Commission recognized Milestone Materials management, a subsidiary of Mathy Construction Co., as “good and responsible people” and the motion carried with no objections. The Hudson City Council will have final say on whether to amend Milestone Materials’ conditional use permit for the quarry to clear its path for expansion.