Gravel-mining plan under review - Enviro groups criticize the pit-to-pier project
April 1, 2003
Jefferson County, WA - Facing criticism from environmental groups, Fred Hill Materials of Poulsbo has filed a formal application to build a pit-to-pier gravel-mining project near Hood Canal.
The operation eventually could handle up to 6.75 million tons of sand and gravel annually, according to the application. That's enough material to build about 450 average schools or hospitals each year, experts say.
Company spokesman Dan Baskins said barging sand and gravel is better for the environment than trucking, and the operation would improve employment in Jefferson County.
As a side benefit, the company would supply free sand for local beach restorations, he said.
Fred Hill Materials last week applied for four kinds of permits from local, state and federal agencies.
Jefferson County has 28 days to determine if the application is complete, said planning director Al Scalf. After that, the county will hire a consultant to draft an environmental impact statement, funded by the company.
Scalf said the environmental work is likely to take between two and five years.
Hood Canal Coalition, an environmental group formed in response to the pit-to-pier project, vows to block the development.
"It's incomprehensible that such a massive and destructive proposal has gotten this far," said John Fabian, one of the group's founders. "Our 1,600-member coalition and 30 allied organizations are 100 percent committed to stopping this outrageous project before it can damage Hood Canal and its priceless environment or harm Jefferson County's economy or damage the Hood Canal bridge."
Hood Canal Coalition is among seven environmental groups appealing the county's recent designation of 690 acres of forest as "mineral resource lands." Under the designation, the company can mine the area, 40 acres at a time.
That appeal, before the Western Washington Growth Hearings Board, need not delay the review, said James Tracy, attorney for Fred Hill Materials.
"FHM firmly believes that this project can and will be constructed in an environmentally sound manner, to benefit not only the applicant but also the taxpayers of the county, the region and the state," Tracy said.
The 4-mile-long conveyor would start at the existing Shine Pit, off Highway 104 west of the Hood Canal bridge. It would run south to the water, a mile northeast of Thorndyke Bay.
Conveyors would be covered to keep out rain and wind and to prevent the escape of dust, sand and gravel. The belts would be fully enclosed at the Thorndyke Road crossing and from the shoreline to the end of the pier.
The route, said Tracy, "was specifically selected to avoid and/or minimize impacts to environmentally sensitive areas."
The pier would be supported on pilings 100 feet apart. Ships and barges of varying sizes would to tie up perpendicular to the end of it.
Ships would require opening the Hood Canal bridge, but barges would not.
Only U.S.-flagged ships would be allowed at the pier, officials say. No such ships are available on the West Coast today, but they could be operating within eight years of the pier's completion.
Initially, only barges would dock at the pier. About 2 million tons of sand and gravel could be transported the first year, building up to 4 million by the 10th year.
After 25 years, barges still could be hauling 4 million tons a year with ships hauling another 2.75 million tons.
Reach Christopher Dunagan at (360) 792-9207 or at email@example.com.
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