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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


King County.


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,


is problematic."


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.

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