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Weyerhaeuser suit against Homestead approaches
NORTH BEND _Weyerhaeuser and Homestead Valley Sand
and Gravel will soon face off in court in a battle over property rights to land
the gravel company is currently mining.
Sept. 18 is when Weyerhaeuser will present its case against
Homestead, which is owned by Dan, Joe and Randy Fiorito. The Homestead
pit, located just off Exit 38 on Interstate 90, has been operating on
approximately 15 acres of Weyerhaeuser land on Grouse Ridge in conjunction
with a sand and gravel mining lease.
Those 15 acres are part of Cadman Inc.'s proposed gravel mining
operation, which is currently working its way through approval stages.
Homestead representatives said both their company and
Weyerhaeuser agreed that the Homestead project would last well past the initial
four-year lease with three-year extensions.
Weyerhaeuser Manager Grant Newport said the company does
not comment on matters currently under litigation, but company officials
have said in the past that after the initial lease ended in May of 1999,
the Fioritos should have terminated their project.
But Homestead General Manager Jason Fiorito said it's not as simple
as that. He explained that when his father and uncles took over the
mining operation in 1992, it needed major repairs and was a potential
environmental hazard. Their objective was to clean up the area and stabilize the steep
slope that runs up to Weyerhaeuser's property by taking layer after layer of
soil and gravel off the top.
He said Homestead had a "court ordered" reclamation agreement,
and the company then entered into a lease with Weyerhaeuser because the
slope would cut into Weyerhaeuser's land.
Homestead's gain from fixing the slope is financial. The company
has generated revenue by selling material taken from the slope.
Weyerhaeuser has been receiving a portion of the proceeds.
However, Weyerhaeuser terminated the Fioritos' lease in May
of 1999 after both parties, "did not agree to essential lease terms," which
lead to the lawsuit that was filed in the Superior Court of Washington for
Jason Fiorito contends that everything was running smoothly
until Weyerhaeuser entered into an agreement with Cadman for the
proposed North Bend Gravel Operation on Grouse Ridge.
"I understand their motivation, which is to permit the lower
(Cadman) site," Fiorito said. "My operation
on the ridge, concurrently with them trying to get a (gravel mining) permit,
He added that only 25 percent of Homestead's reclamation project
has been completed _ something that he said Weyerhaeuser was well aware
of. He said the reclamation plans were to take at least 20 years.
"Weyerhaeuser does have corporate amnesia over this deal,"
Fiorito said. "We're not prepared for Cadman and Weyerhaeuser to get a big win
in their corner and have Fiorito brothers take a big loss in ours."
Chief Circuit Judge J. Kathleen Learned will hear the case at 9
a.m. Sept.18 at the Court of General Jurisdiction, Superior Court of
Washington for King County.