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Gravel company wants to blast

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SNOQUALMIE — Sand, gravel and concrete supplier Glacier


Northwest recently filed an application to mine hard rock, expand hours and


extend operations until 2050 for its Snoqualmie Sand and Gravel location.


Neighbors of the gravel pit have expressed concern over


possible noise, vibrations, water and housing impacts associated with the


expansion. But Glacier representatives said they have studied plans and


believe the proposed changes will have no significantly adverse impacts on


the surrounding area, if mitigational efforts are taken.


The gravel pit is located approximately one mile north of the city


of Snoqualmie, near the Weyerhaeuser mill. The land is owned


by Weyerhaeuser and leased to Glacier Northwest.


The proposal would revise the pit's current grading permit to allow


blasting and extraction of approximately 25 million tons of rock found


underneath the site. The proposal would turn the pit into a quarry operation and


essentially double production of rock materials.


Homeowners located within one-half mile from the approximately


270-acre pit are worried that several dynamite blasts per week would be


highly disruptive.


"I don't believe Glacier has adequately addressed impacts to


the community," said Tim Welborn, who lives within 500 feet of the pit.


The Welborn family and other residents gathered for a meeting to


discuss possible effects from the mining expansion. In addition to noise


and dust, they said nearby water sources could be affected as well as their


property values.


When the Welborns bought their home, they knew a gravel


operation was next door. But they didn't count on it being expanded.


"We look at our homes as an investment, and we want to hand


them down to our kids," Tim Welborn said. "And what will your kids think


of property that's been impacted by a pit?"


The pit originally took up 60 acres and has been used for several


years by Weyerhaeuser and other gravel companies. It was expanded in


1995 when 212 adjoining acres were rezoned to mineral classification.


That action, along with the current grading permit, requires


environmental review before other types of mining are allowed. As a result,


Glacier prepared an environmental checklist for the proposed permit revision.


Glacier representative Ron Summers said his company did many


studies before submitting the application and explained that its' proposal


calls for mining on land already zoned for that purpose.


"I think it's important to remember to look at the fact that we've


been operating up here for many years and we've had no complaints as far as


I know, and we feel we're an important part of the Valley," he said. "As an


average, each person uses 12 tons of sand and gravel and six tons of hard


rock per year for schools, highways, hospitals, homes, factories and


shopping centers."


According to Glacier's checklist, hard-rock mining would take up


60 acres within the site and would not expand the operation's boundaries.


It also reports that if properly mitigated, proposed operations will not have


significant adverse impacts on the surrounding area.


Neighbors don't believe this claim.


"It's a significant expansion and don't let anyone tell you it's not,"


Tim Welborn said, explaining that he and other homeowners would like to


see further studies done. "If we don't get all of these potential


environmental problems addressed adequately, we will all be in trouble."


Noise from blasting and the accompanying warning siren is one


of the residents' biggest concerns.


Even though much of the noise would be regulated by King


County, neighbors allege that the pit already fails to comply with noise


standards and said they are the ones who monitor the discrepancy.


"It's an on- going burden," Pam Welborn-Whittington explained.


"It's set up where we have to be King County's watchdog."


Noise expert Curt Horner, senior environmental specialist for the


Department of Health, said if done properly, the blasts will not be heard,


but slight vibrations could be felt.


"Cars create more vibration (than a blast)," he said.


Horner is studying Glacier's application and has not yet made any


conclusions.


However, he said he would be interested in finding out how much


additional machinery would be needed for the proposed upgrade.


"The handling of the material after a (blast) would probably have


more impact than the (blast) itself," he added.


In addition to blasting, four daily operating hours would be added.


Currently, the operation runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Glacier plans on


extending it from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. This time period does not include


maintenance that is allowed to occur after-hours.


Neighbors said this is unreasonable and invades the only quiet time


they had in the evening and early morning.


The third component of the application is to extend the project's


life until 2050, an option local residents said is inappropriate and would


effect the Valley area far too long. Glacier contends it will take that many


years to mine the amount of rock located at the site and that the Valley and


county will always need construction materials.


As the debate goes on over if, how or to what extent possible


impacts could be, some county officials have said there is no doubt that


hard-rock mining will impact the area surrounding it.


"There is impact," said Paul Meyer, site development specialist


for the Department of Development and Environmental Services, the


agency that reviews environmental documents for permits and developments.


He added that whether the impacts can be mitigated through the


grading permit's conditions or has to go through the Environmental


Impact Study (EIS) process has yet to be determined.


The proposal's official comment period ended on Monday and


county officials will study both the document and residents' letters to determine


the plan's outcome.


The three options would be to issue the mining permit without


additional study, approve the application with mitigational measures or to


have Glacier go through the EIS process, which involves further studies and


a public hearing process. A county decision on the matter could take a


few months.

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