Tag Archives: gravel mining

Judge puts Maury Island gravel project on hold

Environmental organizations were celebrating tonight after a federal judge blocked work on Glacier Northwest’s controversial gravel-mining operation on Maury Island.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez ruled that no more work can be done on a loading dock until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepares a full-blown environmental impact statement. The Corps also must “consult” with other agencies about harm that the project could cause to threatened and endangered species.

Shortly after Martinez issued his ruling, I received an e-mailed statement from state Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark, who oversees a state lease for the gravel-mining operation.

“Due to the ruling in federal court today, the lease NW Aggregates has with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources is no longer in good standing,” Goldmark said.

“It is imperative that we protect Puget Sound. The judge recognized there are potential impacts from this project on threatened and endangered species, like orca and salmon. The ruling cites many of the same issues that we have raised in recent months.”

The court ruling, combined with Goldmark’s express position, creates a significant hurdle for Glacier Northwest to overcome.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” Pete Stoltz, Glacier Northwest’s permit coordinator, told the Associated Press. “We participated in the entire process, provided all the information required.

“We’re hopeful that the process could happen expeditiously,” he said, adding that the company will cooperate fully with federal environmental reviews.

The case was brought by plaintiffs Preserve Our Islands, People for Puget Sound and Washington Environmental Council.

You may wish to read Martinez’s entire order (PDF 96 kb) for yourself, but I’ll try to summarize it here:
Continue reading

What’s a pit-to-pier project without the pit?

Fred Hill Materials has sold its gravel-mining operation known as the Shine Pit, yet the company plans to move full speed ahead on the controversial pit-to-pier project. See today’s story in the Kitsap Sun.

I’ve been hearing rumors for well over a year that the company was struggling financially, yet I was never able to confirm anything.

With this sale, the company acknowledges that it has been having financial troubles, at least with respect to the construction downturn in the current economy.

Opponents may hope that this new development will mean the end of the pit-to-pier proposal, which includes a four-mile conveyor belt and a 1,000-foot-long pier designed to move gravel by barge and ship throughout the Puget Sound region and along the West Coast. Environmental groups argue that the project could injure Hood Canal, threaten smooth operations at the Hood Canal bridge and interfere with Navy operations.

Company officials insist that the benefits of the project far outweigh the potential problems. They say the sale of the Shine Pit will mean an infusion of money to continue environmental studies and permitting activities on the pit-to-pier project.

It appears the company is staking a good deal of its future on this major project, despite a well-organized opposition.

Today’s story about the sale of the gravel pit was posted on the Sun’s Web site yesterday afternoon. I expected to see a bunch of comments by now, but there has been only one. The writer, didisaythat, makes an interesting point:

I can’t believe that no one’s commented on this story yet. Poor Fred has got to be rolling in his grave about now. How can they have a pit-to-pier project anymore when they just sold their pit ????? Lets see how long they can keep the concrete end up and running before they sell that too…. This story just doesn’t add up.

For permitting details, see Jefferson County’s project site.
For opposing arguments, see Hood Canal Coalition.

Gravel mining project raises long-term planning issues

I attended a meeting this week of residents concerned about a gravel and rock mining operation west of Kitsap Lake. Many of the folks lived along Northlake Way and Lebers Lane, the two roads that would be most affected by the increased truck traffic coming from the Ueland gravel mine.

In my story in Thursday’s Kitsap Sun, I did not write detailed quotes from those commenting, because I plan to cover the public hearing. As “Sassy” noted in a comment on the story, it was mostly a reminder to submit letters on the project to the county by Monday.

I will have more to say about this issue later, but two things stand out for me beyond the project itself, and they are things the county needs to address.

The first is a realization that Northlake Way, a residential area, is taking massive amounts of traffic. If the roadway is not already beyond it’s design capacity, it will be. (Someone who has analyzed the traffic study may wish to comment here.)

Northlake Way is the only real access to Bremerton from the entire west side of Kitsap County, including Holly, Seabeck, Lake Symington, Lake Tahuyeh and everything in between. I hope the county is looking to the future with plans for dealing with growing traffic, whether or not the gravel-mining operation goes in.

The second issue involves the need for gravel. Mark Mauren, who is involved in the Ueland project, said gravel is running out in Kitsap County. Someone else involved in the construction business commented that materials are often trucked in from Pierce County already.

Although Fred Hill Materials’ pit-to-pier project on Hood Canal in Jefferson County is highly controversial, Jefferson County government at least went through a planning process to identify where gravel resources are located and where mining might be allowed.

As far as I know, Kitsap County has never undertaken a similar planning process, yet the potential for conflicts between resource extraction and residential uses is far greater here. I believe Kitsap’s rural areas are still the most densely populated in the state.

There’s much need for long-term planning in Kitsap County. This year, legacy lots and “rural wooded” incentives are likely to dominate the time of a dwindling number of planners. But there are consequences to haphazard development, and these issues will not go away.