Mining and Concrete Production Continue to Threaten Black River Watershed

Mining and Concrete Production Continue to Threaten Black River Watershed

From 2001 to 2008, BHAS fought a proposal to expand a 26-acre mom-and-pop gravel mine into an industrial operation immediately adjacent to the Black River National Wildlife Refuge (BRNWR). The mine is located in western Thurston County, a few miles south of Black Hills High School.

In 2001, BHAS challenged a proposal by Quality Rock Products (QRP) to construct an asphalt plant, a large concrete plant, and a deep 75-acre lake. BHAS argued that the QRP reports did not assess the effects of the proposed operations on the lowland Black River and its sensitive wetland habitat and resident wildlife, including the Oregon Spotted Frog and spawning coho salmon. BHAS appealed the Hearing Examiner’s approval of the gravel operation to the Thurston County Commissioners; the Commission agreed, and the County carried the appeal forward with BHAS’s assistance. In 2008 a State Appeals Court agreed with the Thurston County Commissioners and denied the entire Special Use Permit (SUP).

In 2009, QRP, with the moniker of Eucon, submitted a revised application to join the original QRP 151-acre site with a neighboring mine, which they bought around 2002. In addition, Eucon proposes to further expand the mine property to the south, which would increase its boundary along the BRNWR. Furthermore, Eucon contends it already has approval for the concrete plant from the original 2001-03 hearings before the Hearing Examiner. BHAS, however, contends that the approval of the concrete plant was thrown out with the Appeals Court’s denial of the entire 2001 SUP, and that a very small, temporary concrete plant, which operated ever so briefly, should not be grandfathered in as a probable 100,000 ton/yr. permanent concrete plant.

BHAS believes the water studies Eucon has submitted, as part of its 2009 application, are insufficient. In early December, BHAS submitted to Thurston County general concerns on the inadequacy of the water model that is being designed to determine the mining operation’s effects on the Black River. Pre-hearing studies and decisions on water issues will determine when the Eucon SUP hearing will occur; it could be any time from late winter to many months into 2017. (from Jan/Feb 2017 Echo newsletter, by Sue Danver)