State and Province News April 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.
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