Study: Kids at risk from mine

SNOQUALMIE - A local non-profit group that is monitoring the progress of the proposed Cadman Grouse Ridge mine pit near North Bend says that, according to a study it funded, the mine would pose a serious threat to children in the area.

The Cascade Gateway Foundation, which was formed three years ago as a direct response to the Grouse Ridge mine and other projects, presented its study's findings at last Thursday's Snoqualmie Valley School District Board meeting. The results of the study encouraged Cadman to use a different highway exit than the one proposed because it is too close to a potential site for a middle school.

"The purpose of this study is to warn Cadman, Weyerhaeuser and King County of the danger to the schoolchildren and also to alert the school district," said Jamison Chochrek, environmental chair for the Cascade Gateway Foundation.

The proposed Grouse Ridge mine would be located on a 317-acre site east of North Bend and north of Interstate 90.

Although a majority of the project is on top of Grouse Ridge and out of the way of pedestrian traffic, the part of the project that worries the Cascade Gateway Foundation is a 33-acre site near Ken's Truck Town at Exit 34. It would be connected to the main site by a conveyer built. Gravel from the main site would travel down to trucks at the lower site, where they would be loaded and driven away.

Since Exit 34 is close to a proposed middle-school site, Cascade Gateway has proposed Cadman use Exit 38 for traveling to and from the main site.

Chochrek said he hopes the project can be stopped, or at least altered, at the county level. Since the county department that grants permits for these projects, the Department of Development and Environmental Services, is under the control of King County Executive Ron Sims, Chochrek hopes a direct plea to Sims will be fruitful.

Snoqualmie Valley School District Superintendent Dr. Richard McCullough said he would present the findings to King County.

Chochrek said the report, which was put together by an independent traffic consulting firm called Gibson Traffic Consultants, has findings that run counter to the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) released last July by King County. He said the study conducted by Cascade Gateway estimated the amount of traffic in and out of the mine would be two to three times higher than amount estimated in the DEIS, which, he said, used dated data.

Cadman Project Manager Robin Hansen said she is leery of the numbers produced by Gibson and that the final environmental impact statement to be released by King County this December will take into account the latest data available.

Hansen also if Cadman develops the lower site, the Exit 34 area would receive substantial improvements. She said about $1 million worth of traffic mitigation would be done to the area to make it safer for trucks and pedestrians alike, such as new sidewalks, crosswalks and traffic lights.

"Wouldn't the city be better served having $1 million of improvements?" Hansen asked.

Hansen also said the use of Exit 38 is not feasible. She said the road is too windy and runs through habitat that serves as home to the endangered spotted owl. Numerous environmental groups have warned against the use of the road, since Exit 34 is already used by a high number trucks going to and from Ken's Truck Town.

"That exit was already designed to handle truck traffic," Hansen said. "Our theory is that the traffic pattern through there is already truck-trip traffic."

Chochrek said if Exit 34 is used, he hopes it doesn't come at the expense of someone's life.

"The lower site is out of the question," Chochrek said. "This is a risk to children."

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