Grouse Ridge Draft EIS delayed

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NORTH BEND_Proponents and opponents of Cadman Inc.'s

planned Grouse Ridge mining operation have received a little breathing room,

after the recent announcement of a delay in the issuance of the project's

Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

The document's release would start a 45-day comment and

review period. Reportedly, the King County Department of Development and

Environmental Services (DDES) had planned to issue the DEIS

Friday, which had some of the opposition crying foul. They suspected the

delivery date was deliberately timed to coincide with the holidays.

However, according to DDES Senior Planner Gordon Thomson,

the report will not be released until some time after the first of January. In a

conversation Tuesday, Nov. 23, Thomson indicated the DEIS still needed

some work and additional research before it could be published.

Now, everyone can step back and concentrate on working their

particular points of view.

Cadman has steadfastly maintained that it requires the full use

of two sites _ referred to as upper and lower _ totaling about 317 acres

of Weyerhaeuser land. The upper site is Grouse Ridge, while the lower

facility is near 468th Street and Exit 34.

Under their proposal, mineral extraction would initially take place

at the lower site, with it ultimately becoming a processing plant for the

upper site. Material from the Grouse Ridge area would be conveyed to

the lower site via a covered, ground-hugging conveyor system.

Cadman anticipates that mining operations would continue for

about 25 years.

Jacki Taylor and Jeff Martine of the Cascade Gateway Foundation,

one of the groups working to modify Cadman's proposal for the site,

took the news of the delay with a sense of acceptance. Their organization

maintains it's not against gravel mining on Grouse Ridge, but is more

worried about the impacts of the lower site on traffic and the aquifer.

"One main concern is the amount of traffic at the lower site," said

Taylor, Middle Fork resident and contact chair for the organization.

"They're estimating about 900 trucks per day through Exit 34. Two schools are

going in there and the school district is against the project. They're

concerned because school buses will be competing with these trucks.

"(The project is) also within one-quarter mile of the Buddhist's

property line, which means they'll need more permits _ a Conditional Use

Permit (CUP) _ to proceed. Cadman doesn't want it, because it

means they'll have more hoops to jump through.

"We're willing to compromise with Cadman and

Weyerhaeuser," Taylor continued. "if they're

willing to relocate to Exit 38."

The question of Buddhists and a possible Conditional Use Permit

revolves around the property of Grand Master Sheng-Yen Lu, who moved

to the Middle Fork area earlier this decade. His facility borders the

north side of Cadman's lower site and incorporates several structures, one

of which is within one-quarter mile of the proposed gravel pit. Cadman

and groups like the Foundation are debating with the county over whether

the building qualifies as an "established residence."

If the county decides it is an established residence, a CUP could

be mandated. That would mean tighter environmental restrictions on

Cadman and probable public hearings on the entire project.

For Jeff Martine _ another Middle Fork resident and media chair for

the Foundation _ it comes down to the mine's impact on the property

owners, recreational users and the aquifer located under the lower site.

"The lower site is only 20 feet above the aquifer," he commented

recently. "At the top, they have 80 vertical feet to the aquifer. It's a no-brainer.

"Our strategic objective is this: we believe they can get the gravel

without the lower site, and therefore don't need a conveyor."

Rod Shearer, Cadman's manager for technical services and the

chief spokesman for the project, maintains the company is environmentally

sensitive and will treat both the site and its neighbors with respect.

"We are committed to protecting the environment," he said

Monday, Nov. 22, during a tour of the property. "We are also committed to traffic

improvements. There has been some misinformation but we looked at

access to I-90 and don't have neighborhoods to drive through."

He also pointed out that the only access to the Grouse Ridge site _

located near the state fire training facility _ is via a steep, winding

narrow road, with no direct access to westbound I-90. If the company is

forced to work out of the upper site, the road will require substantial

modification, widening and improvements for safety reasons. If direct access to I-90

cannot be obtained, the company's trucks will have to pass through Olallie

State Park.

As for water concerns, Shearer said the company will maintain a

deep layer of sand and gravel between the lower site and the aquifer, and

will monitor the site closely.

"Our commitment is we want to be able to provide adequate

protection for the aquifer," he added. "The site

is designed to reduce noise, protect the view, and protect the aquifer.

"The total estimated deposit (of gravel) is about 220 million tons.

The project will take about 60 million tons. We have to think of the future."

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