Jefferson County Land-Use Designation - Gravel project clears first big hurdle

Fred Hill Materials now may submit a controversial plan that includes expanding its Shine pit, a 1,100-foot pier and barging gravel through Hood Canal.

Chris Barron
Bremerton Sun Staff

December 10, 2002

PORT TOWNSEND, WA-- After a confusing hour of adding and amending, the Jefferson County commissioners approved a controversial gravel-mining operation proposed by Fred Hill Materials by a 2-1 vote.
The county commissioners, after tinkering with several conditions set forth last month by the county planning commission, approved that 690 acres near Shine be designated as "mineral resource lands."

At one point, the amendments became so intricate that Commissioner Glen Huntingford, who approved the proposal along with Dan Titterness, halted the meeting.

"This is really getting confusing now," said Huntingford, who asked staff to put the changes on paper for all to see.

Three proposed conditions were amended and one was added.

The amendments were made to provide more oversight, the commissioners said.

Outgoing commission chairman Richard Wojt voted against the proposal, saying it should be studied in more depth.

"With all the things that have been brought up, I think this is premature," he said.

The land-use designation allows Fred Hill Materials to submit a "pit-to-pier" plan to the county to expand its existing gravel pit near Shine, build a 1,100-foot-long pier and begin barging gravel through Hood Canal.

The approval does not guarantee that the project will happen. The new designation must undergo an environmental review and a series of state and county permits before it's finalized.

James Tracy, attorney for Fred Hill Materials, said the proposal likely will be filed within the next month.

As for Monday's decision, Tracy, like many others, wasn't able to comment definitively about the commissioners' decision.

"The company's happy at this point that a decision has been rendered," he said, "and we look forward to a detailed review of the written decision. We'll have additional comment at that time.

"(The decision) was modified, and we have to study the modifications."

Larry Mayes of Hood Canal Coalition, which mobilized much of the opposition against the plan, said the commissioners were not informed about the decision they made.

"The only thing that was clear about this meeting was the confusion," Mayes said. "To say they're doing this to better benefit the public to provide oversight is absolutely bizarre. It's taking blowing smoke to a whole new level."

Huntingford and Titterness had emphasized that the pit-to-pier plan shouldn't be an issue Monday, especially because a plan still has to be filed. However, opposition groups say it's ludicrous not to link the land-use designation decision to the pit-to-pier plan because the latter can't be done without the former.

"They started this whole smoke-and-mirrors thing trying to keep the (mineral resource lands) separate, but they're inextricably linked," Mayes said. "They're one and the same, and everybody's admitted that."

Mayes said his group's attorney will review the decision before Hood Canal Coalition moves forward. But, he said, numerous appeals can be expected to be filed.

"There's so many violations in this process," he said.

And if Hood Canal Coalition doesn't find justice in the appeals process, Mayes said, his group will eventually end up fighting the plan in court.

"We fully expect -- and we expected from the start -- that this is going to take years and be decided in a court somewhere outside this jurisdiction, and we'll prevail," he said. "It's part of (Fred Hill Materials') tactic. The company tries to wear down the opposition, and it's not going to happen."


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