Responses: Mining DEIS needs overhaul

NORTH BEND _ The public comment period for the proposed

gravel pit on Grouse Ridge ended Aug. 15, and residents, organizations and

companies alike have submitted a stack of written replies, ranging from

simple letters to thick documents.

The comments were in response to the project's phone-book-size

Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which was created under

state and county guidelines to provide environmentally sound options for

the proposed gravel pit's construction and operation.

Officially called the North Bend Gravel Operation, the project,

which is being proposed by Cadman Inc., has been the subject of much debate

since its beginning two years ago.

"Anybody who moved out here knew they'd have Trucktown, but

we didn't know we'd have Trucktown and a gravel pit," said North Bend

resident Jeff Martine, in an interview earlier this summer.

Martine lives near the proposed operation and is the

president of the Cascade Gateway Foundation, a group that was formed to

stop the proposed gravel pit.

Cadman, a major sand and gravel producer in Washington, plans on

constructing a gravel mining site, complete with asphalt and concrete

production, on approximately 300 acres east of North Bend and north of

Interstate 90. The operation is slated to last 25 years and will then be converted

to open space — a move endorsed by the local conservation group;

Mountains to Sound Greenway.

The prospect of having a gravel pit so close to homes, a future school

site, a Buddhist compound and several natural areas and rivers has

been widely unpopular with many North Bend residents.

In fact, some response letters have said the project will ruin the

environment, as well as bring an unbearable amount of traffic to an

already-busy Exit 34.

"Traffic impacts are likely to be the most dramatic impacts," said Dr.

Richard McCullough, superintendent of the Snoqualmie Valley School

District. The district is opposed to Cadman mining gravel at the proposed


He explained that the district purchased a 41-acre middle and

elementary school site across the street from the proposed gravel operation

four years ago, before Cadman had announced its intentions to mine

gravel nearby. Approximately 1,200 children are projected to attend the two

schools, which are scheduled to be built in 2004.

McCullough said more than 900 daily truck trips will be added to

the area, if the project is approved as planned. The trucks would share

the same route as school buses.

The school district's concerns for the project are outlined in its

response letter. If the project is approved, the school district listed measures it

believes Cadman should take to offset the impact a gravel operation

would have on schoolchildren.

"An example would be to limit truck traffic during the (times of)

day when we have buses and parents coming and going," McCullough

said. "Second, (Cadman should) create barriers and patrol that would make

our children safe" if they try and venture within the operation's boundaries.

"Our singular concern is the safety, security, good health and

educational impact on children," he added.

Cadman Project Manager Robin Hansen welcomes the responses

that have been submitted to the DEIS. She said public opinion will help

King County officials to analyze each topic contained in the statement.

"That's how this process is supposed to work is to address some

real concerns about how it will impact them," she explained. "It will create

a better project in the end. I really appreciate the people who took the

time to go through the document in detail and really make some specific


Some responses were nearly as in-depth as the DEIS. The Cascade

Gateway Foundation produced a 50-page comment book in opposition to

the project, and Martine said his group feels the entire DEIS should be

thrown out.

"We are very frustrated by the DEIS. It should have been rejected

by the (Department of Development and Environmental Services) because

it didn't conform to the basic (State Environmental Protection Act) rules,"

he said. "It lacked footnotes, an index and a summary, which are required,

and still exceeded the specified 150-page limit. Worse, it omitted many

issues raised in the scoping process altogether and didn't address key

environmental impacts."

Martine said the document is extremely difficult to analyze, which

he believes helps Cadman, because many people get discouraged when

reading confusing documents and give up.

David Billick, also of the Cascade Gateway Foundation, said the

document ignores the possibilities of water contamination. In a statement,

he said, "While the DEIS authors repeatedly admit that the hydrological

relationships between the aquifers and nearby streams and rivers,

including the middle and south forks of the Snoqualmie, are not adequately

studied, they still conclude there are no significant risks."

He also said the project poses a long-term risk, stating, "A single

mistake, or break in one of the aquifers or a toxic spill could critically

reduce water supplies or pollute them for decades to come."

County officials will continue to read the responses to the DEIS

and decide which studies, if any, still need to be conducted to allow for an

environmentally sound project.

Hansen said the goal is to release the Final Environmental Impact

Statement sometime after the first of next year.

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