State and Province News January 2013
By Therese Dunphy
Decatur police arrested a man who was making false 911 calls in order to burglarize a business. According to Decatur WAFF, Christopher Stricklin made two false calls, including one reporting a shooting at Vulcan Materials in Trinity, before being caught. He admitted to making the calls to distract the police so he could burglarize a business.
Granite Construction Co. announced that it reached an accord with the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians to resolve a land-use dispute involving the proposed Liberty Quarry project in Riverside County and end the proposed quarry. The two groups announced the sale of 354 acres of land that was part of the project to the tribe for $3 million, as well as the completion of a separate inter-dependent and comprehensive settlement and release agreement under which Pechanga will pay Granite $17.35 million to settle the dispute over the proposed quarry project. Under the terms of the agreement, Granite has also agreed to not own or operate a quarry within a 6-mile radius to the north of the property and 3 miles to the south through 2035.
Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea accused Cemex of playing politics with county leaders to push forward a failed plan to mine Jesse Morrow Mountain, The San Diego Tribune reports. In August 2012, the board voted 2-2 to deny approval of the project’s environmental review. One supervisor recused herself from the vote due to a conflict of interest. A second — who voted against the review — was scheduled to step down in December. Perea claimed Cemex was stalling the appeal until a supervisor who is perceived to be more business friendly takes that member’s seat, and scheduled the appeal to be held in mid-December. In late November, however, Cemex sent a letter to Fresno County saying it intends to end its long-time pursuit of a quarry, but wants the county to reconsider granting approval of its failed environmental review. The environmental review, its spokesperson told the Fresno Bee, held significant value and could help plan for other projects on the site.
The Washington Parish Council introduced a resolution that proposes a severance tax on “gravel and other related material” including sand, clay, and top soil. The Daily News reports the resolution states that there are no current severance taxes on these resources and asks the state Policy Jury Association to propose a legislative act to tax the “natural resources severed from the soil or water.” The council’s Infrastructure Committee is now tasked with developing a proposed amount of tax, either per pound or per ton. The council chairman said that the proposal got a good reception at a Region 6 meeting, He also said that he hopes “all other parishes that have gravel will get on board,” and the measure will move forward to the state Legislature.
Sharon Hornsby, dean of Northshore Technical Community College, recently touted the school’s mine safety program. According to the Amite-Tangi Digest, Hornsby noted that students could get mine safety training for $20, $50 less than surrounding programs. She also said the program has a full-time instructor and two adjunct instructors to provide safety training. The Tangipahoa and Florida Parishes near the school have numerous sand and gravel mining operations.
At Aggregates Manager’s press time, Oronoko Township planning commissioners were planning for their third meeting to discuss Dr. Phil Hecht’s special-use permit application. The Herald-Palladium reports that Hecht wants to mine gravel on his property in Berrien Springs, but before approving the permit, commissioners have asked for additional information about the impact of an operation on surrounding property values, as well as how much dust would result from the operation. An engineer working for Hecht reminded the commissioners that, if approved, the pit would be closely scrutinized, and commissioners would be able to shut it down if it did not control dust. Commissioners also heard from Dwayne Knuth who gave anecdotal evidence that houses near his gravel pits did not experience lower property values as a result of those operations.
The Mopa Band of Paiutes brokered a deal with the Los Angeles City Council to provide power from its K Road Moapa Solar plant being built on reservation land in Moapa, The Spectrum reports. Anthony Frank, vice chairman of the Mopa Band, said the tribe has already taken steps to reactivate a sand and gravel pit on its reservation so the Southern Paiute band can produce materials for construction on the project.
More than two years after Thibeault Sand & Gravel filed a suit against the Raymond Planning Board, it is still hoping to come to an agreement with the town without further litigation. According to The Union Leader, the operator filed suit against the planning board after it denied an application to operate a quarry on its Raymond quarry. A third group to the litigation, the Upper Lamprey Neighbors Group, is an intervenor in the case and was recently compelled into mediation with Thibeault and the town by a Rockingham County Superior Court Justice. Finally, the board of selectmen filed a motion seeking to act as intervenors in the case. A motion filed by the operator indicates that it and the board of selectmen began discussions to identify critical areas of the rejected plan so it could ultimately reach some level of approval for productive use of its property.
About 20 Lebanon residents and activists protested Eastern Concrete Material’s request to swap land in Sussex County for 34 acres in the Hagedorn Preserve, which is next to its current quarry, in order to expand operations, the Hunterdon Review reports. In September 2012, the state Department of Environmental Protection approved its application to divert 275 million gallons of water per year from a nearby potable well and two quarry ponds, with the surface water being used for washing and dust suppression. If approved, the permit would run through June 30, 2022. Currently, the company is allowed to divert less than 3.1 million gallons per month. Michael Guida, senior project manager for the operator’s Aggregates Division, told the newspaper that they anticipate using the same amount of water to control dust. Residents expressed concerns about the impact on groundwater, and the Water Authority extended the deadline for comment.
Part of State Route 516 near Dover collapsed in late November. According to wtov9.com, Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) officials say a rapid drawdown of a nearby sand and gravel operation is the culprit. ODOT District Deputy Director Lloyd MacAdams said that an operation about 150 feet from the road was dredging and started a drawdown that just continued to draw down. The collapse took a portion of the road down more than 50 feet, exposed a gas line, and sunk utility poles. Officials told the television station that the road may be closed until the spring. “I’ve worked for ODOT 16 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” MacAdams said. “This is a very unusual situation. You would never think this pond would make it to the state route.” A representative for the family-owned business told Fox 8 WJW that they were thankful there were no injuries, and praised their team for taking control of the situation and contacting authorities to keep the public out of harm’s way.
The Highland Companies’ proposal for a mega-quarry that would be one-third the size of Toronto met its demise as Highland principal John Scherer told The Toronto Star that lack of government and community support have led the company to continue farming the land rather than developing a mine there. Approximately six years ago, Highland President John Lowndes began buying property in Melancthon Township. Locals began to organize opposition to the project before the company submitted its 3,100-page application to the Ministry of Natural Resources in 2011. Thousands of letters of objection were submitted to the project, which would have resulted in the largest quarry in North America. Food-based protests, spearheaded by the head of the Canadian Chefs Congress, drew tens of thousands of people to events such as Foodstock and Soupstock. Once the provincial government ordered a full environmental assessment, the first for an Ontario quarry, the operator abandoned the quarry project and Lowndes stepped down as president of Highland.
Whitehorse city officials put their plans for the Stevens Quarry, a five-pit, 295-acre sand and gravel operation, before the Yukon Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Board, but some neighbors of the proposed site are not happy, according to the Yukon News. A study of the area indicates reserves of at least 3.08 million cubic yards of sand and gravel. The city began plans for the site in 1994, but put them on hold until 2010 when the city and the Yukon government signed a contribution agreement for the planning and design work for the operation. Currently, there are 13 quarries operating in the city limits, but many of those are reaching the end of their life.
Woolwich Township is facing larger-than-budgeted expenses for its Ontario Municipal Board battles regarding gravel pits. The Elmira Independent reported that its 2012 fees, through Sept. 30, 2012, were $146,000 — $121,000 more than budgeted. In 2012’s budget deliberations, councilor Mark Bauman had argued for a higher allocation, noting that the township spent $40,000 on OMB hearings during 2011. Dan Kennaley, director of planning and engineering, said that $25,000 was a placeholder for an amount that couldn’t be accurately estimated.