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Grouse Ridge mining plan receives permit

NORTH BEND - King County issued a grading permit to the international mining corporation, Cadman Inc., for mining on the upper site of Grouse Ridge and for a conveyor to carry the material to a lower site.

If the permit goes unchallenged by Cadman's longtime opposition, the Cascade Gateway Foundation, the company will finally go ahead with a mining plan that has been fought by the nonprofit group for seven years.

Now the Cascade Gateway Foundation has 21 days from Aug. 12 to decide if it wants to challenge the permit in King County Superior Court.

"We have not yet made the decision, but I think we're going to challenge it," said Cascade Gateway Foundation's president, Jeff Martine. "We raised enough money and I think our board wants to do it. Our attorney thinks we have a good chance ... unless our attorney finds something we didn't suspect, I think we will."

The Cascade Gateway Foundation is expected to make a decision this week.

Since the late 1990s, the Cascade Gateway Foundation has been working to adjust a proposed 25-year mining operation on land Cadman has leased from Weyerhaeuser Co. located between Interstate 90 exits 34 and 38. The plan calls for rocks to eventually be transported via a conveyor belt from a location on Grouse Ridge to a lower site for processing near TravelCenters of America- Seattle East.

The Cascade Gateway Foundation has long said it does not oppose gravel mining in the area, but would like to see the operation use Exit 38 rather than Exit 34, which is 450 yards away from the future site of two Snoqualmie Valley School District schools. The foundation feels the expected 900 daily gravel-truck trips will endanger students.

"All the kids south of I-90 on Edgewick Road will have to go underneath the freeway with all those trucks to get to school," Martine said.

Foundation members hold that the county made a mistake by issuing Cadman the original permit. Since the site was composed of two separate parcels, the Cascade Gateway Foundation believed it conflicted with the King County code's requirement that mineral processing be limited to the parcel upon which it was excavated, or upon parcels contiguous to it.

In 2003, its case went to court. The lower site is a mile away from the upper site, which violated the county code that stated a mine must be on one parcel or two or more contiguous parcels.

Since the parcels are not contiguous, Weyerhaeuser initially settled for just the lower site, but then went back to the county and filed for a revised application in December 2004. During the interim, DDES proposed and the County Council approved a change to the code to the effect that parcels sharing an easement could be considered one site for the purposes of mineral processing.

"A lot of people don't realize every inch of forest land is automatically permitted for gravel extraction but to protect communities like ours, the code has provisions like that you can't process within a quarter mile of a home and can only process material in mines on one parcel so it can't be a permanent operation."

Recently, an addendum to the 2001 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the operation was issued to update the visual impact analysis for the proposed conveyor. The conveyor would be visible on the far right of Grouse Ridge if driving east on I-90.

The revised alignment is approximately 900 feet longer than the alignment studied in the FEIS. The main differences between the conveyor alignment analyzed in the FEIS and the revised alignment are the locations of the endpoints at the upper and lower mining areas, the use of different technology that allows more flexibility of the alignment route and the height of the conveyor support structure. But overall, the visual impacts of the revised alignment are substantially similar to the visual impacts identified for the alignment analyzed in the FEIS.

The Cascade Gateway Foundation has to be certain about its plan to appeal the decision because if they lose the appeal, they could end up owing millions of dollars in legal costs to Cadman. If Cascade Gateway Foundation challenges the permit, a trial would be scheduled within six months.

* For more information, visit www.cascadegateway.org.

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