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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


location.


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


comments."


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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