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NORTH BEND - One of the most prevalent questions asked about the proposed Cadman Inc. Grouse Ridge gravel mine on the eastern outskirts of North Bend has been, "Where's the water?"
The question was addressed on Monday, March 18, at the Mount Si Senior Center in North Bend where the state Department of Ecology (DOE) held a public meeting to solicit comments about the controversial project.
The mine, which has been in the planning stages since 1994, has met stern opposition from residents living nearby the site who say it will cause traffic, noise and environmental problems.
The meeting specifically addressed the issue of water quality since the DOE controls all water permits granted by the state.
Many in attendance yielded their comment time to the Cascade Gateway Foundation's environmental chair, Eric Doremus, who gave a presentation outlining the group's objections to the gravel mine.
"Any operation on the lower site imperils the community and the aquifer for the eastside of King County," Doremus said.
Doremus presented the numerous problems he saw in the final environmental impact statement published by King County in December 2001, and with the proposed building site plan by Cadman.
Doremus said the DOE is still unclear how much the mine would affect the surrounding water sources, which he said are vital to any future development in the area. He also said no water permit for the project should be given since North Bend lacks water rights and is under a building moratorium.
He added Cadman, which punctured an aquifer at a site in Monroe, has ignored the obvious hazards and will continue to develop the project because it is in the company's financial interests to do so.
His comments were echoed by other residents who agreed that the plan lacks sufficient data to make them feel safe about drawing water close to the mine. Since Cadman is responsible for monitoring any hazardous waste leaking from its site, many felt the company wouldn't be sincere in its studies.
"We're fighting a permit for profit mindset," said Michelle Eastburn. "We should have a preservation mindset instead."
Henry Firchau gave a short presentation with photos he took of other mines that showed what he said was illegal dumping. Even if the water permit is granted to Cadman, he said, he will constantly have an eye on whether the gravel company is living up to its end of the bargain.
"Know that we will not give up," Firchau said. "We will be watching you."
Public comments can be submitted to the DOE until April 1. A ruling on the water permit should then come within 30 days.