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Residents blast Cadman proposal
SNOQUALMIE - Emotions ran high when at least 40 local
residents sounded off at last week's public hearing for Cadman's proposed
North Bend Gravel Operation.
Approximately 160 people attended the meeting, held July 11
at Mount Si High, for the purpose of submitting formal comments for
the project's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).
Cadman Inc., a major gravel and sand producer in the state, is
planning to construct a gravel mining and processing operation between
Interstate 90 exits; 34 and 38 in North Bend. If approved, the project could last
about 25 years, after which the land would convert to open space.
Officials on the hearing panel were Gordon Thomson, project manager
for the county's Department of Development and Environmental Services,
and representatives from Dames & Moore, the firm that produced the DEIS.
Although a few of the speakers opposed the entire project, the
majority of them said the document contained incomplete details and
requested that additional studies be done.
"This is going to change the shape of North Bend. There's going to
be noise, there's going to be dust and there's going to be the possibility
of damage to the aquifer," speaker Sandy Robinson said.
At times, the meeting turned into a heated plea for Cadman to
reconsider its actions.
"I couldn't believe how many times the words `no impacts' and
`temporary' were used [in the DEIS]," said Jacki Taylor, who lives near the
proposed project and belongs to a group called the Cascade Gateway
Foundation that opposes the size and scope of Cadman's project. "I'm sorry
but temporary is my lifetime. And it may be temporary in the big picture, but
to me, my lifetime is pretty serious. And when we talk about noise and
dust we're talking about my lifetime here, so I have serious contentions when
the word `temporary' is used."
Several aspects of the gravel operation were questioned during
the hearing, and the most prevalent were the traffic impacts of using Exit
34, potential damage to the area's water supply and possible excess noise.
The proposed project would be split between a 260-acre upper site
and 40-acre lower site. Besides gravel mining, the company plans on
conducting asphalt and concrete operations. Although four construction
alternatives are listed in the DEIS, Cadman's preferred option is Alternative
2, which would use both sites and transport gravel between them via a
conveyor belt approximately one mile long. With this plan, gravel
trucks would utilize Exit 34 for highway access.
Several residents said Exit 34 simply cannot handle the extra 900
truck trips per day that would result from the project, in addition to
concerns about dust, noise and safety.
In addition, Snoqualmie Valley School District Superintendent
Richard McCullough is concerned about the gravel pit negatively affecting
the future elementary and middle schools scheduled to be built on nearby sites.
McCullough said he is concerned about all but one of the project's
alternatives "from the point of view of traffic safety, security for children
and noise impacts upon our schools." He would like to see the lower site
left untouched, as is done in Alternative 4.
As for water quality, residents were also worried about the lower
site. Plans include mining that would take place above an aquifer. Many said
this could contaminate or interfere with the area's drinking water.
Although Cadman officials claim the mining will not go deep enough to affect
the aquifer, residents said the risk is too great.
Those who spoke out at the meeting also said noise associated with
the mining operation would be disruptive to nearby residents.
Bruce Milliman lived on family-owned acreage near the proposed
pit for 27 years, during which King County mined gravel sporadically
for highway projects. He asked Cadman to consider his personal account
when planning its project.
"The most significant experience of living next to a gravel pit is
the sound," he said. "It is like living
next door to two iron dragons that fight with each other."
Milliman's brother Pierce also spoke out against noise.
"What is at stake is the peace and quiet of a beautiful residential
neighborhood for 25 years," he said, adding that his family hired a company
to analyze Cadman's proposal.
"Residents there are expected to rely on the stated DEIS conclusion
that lower-site operations will have no impact on noise levels at their
homes," he said." I asked an
environmental consulting firm to confirm that
claim, and they could not. They found the DEIS very incomplete."
Cadman project manager Robin Hansen explained in a later
interview that she thought the hearing went well and said feedback from residents is
an important part of the public process.
"I was really impressed by the depth of the comments made and
by the preparation that went into them," she said. "Someone made a
comment that [asked if] Cadman was listening. I was there and I heard them all.
And I'm going to look at [the comments] in detail and figure how to
address them within the project design."
The North Bend Gravel Operation's official public
comment period ends August 15.
"Our job after the 15th is to go through all of those comments
and decide where to do more analysis and studies on the DEIS," Thomson
said, adding that public feedback is taken seriously and can greatly impact
the process of how decisions are made for the project.
The comments, along with responses from the environmental
consultant team, will be included in the Final Environmental Impact
Statement (FEIS) and will be used to make decisions to approve, deny or
conditionally approve the proposed gravel operation.
Thomson guessed that the FEIS could be released as early as
next spring, depending on the number of changes made to the document.
For those who have not yet submitted a comment, Thomson
offered some tips. He said detailed thoughts or objections give the reviewers
something clear to work with, especially when the page number or section
of the document is mentioned.
"The most helpful kinds of comments are those that go to specific
issues on the DEIS," he said.
Copies of the DEIS are available at the North Bend Library, the
King County cashier's desk or at Cadman's North Bend office in Seattle
Comments should be sent to Gordon Thomson at King County
DDES, Land Use Services Division, 900 Oakesdale Avenue S.W., Renton,
WA 98055 or e-mail email@example.com.
The Cascade Gateway Foundation is holding a community workshop
to discuss possible impacts of the North Bend
Gravel Project on the Snoqualmie Valley. The meeting will be held at
2 p.m., July 29 at the North Bend Library. For
more information, call Jeff Martine at (425)
888-1115 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.