Gravel pit next to prairie?
July 3, 2008 · Updated 12:32 PM
"Two proposals for new sand and gravel mines in North and Central Whidbey are now being reviewed by county planners. One of the two, located near a protected prairie south of Coupeville, is being contested by a local environmental group. The proposal and the appeal will get a public hearing May 18 before the Island County Hearings Examiner.The proposed surface mine will sit on 65 acres of Rural-zoned land bordering the Ebey's Landing Historical Reserve off Morris Road. The site plan calls for the removal of 7.5 million cubic yards of material to be carried out over the next 60 years.The county has already given the project one green light by approving a Determination of Non-Significance on the land. The determination means that county officials feel the proposed mine will not cause undo environmental damage. It also means that the mine's applicant, Curt Youderian, will not have to go through the costly and time-consuming process of filing a full Environmental Impact Statement.But the Whidbey Environmental Action Network has already appealed the county's decision. WEAN spokesman Steve Erickson questions the county's claim that the project should be considered temporary.The application is for 60 years, which is a pretty long temporary use, he said. And it will result in a very large hole which will be there forever - or until the next glacier.The plan calls for terracing and replanting the pit as excavation moves from one part of the pit to another, but Erickson said he thinks the restoration efforts will be inadequate.Youderian operates a similar gravel mining operation to the west of the proposed site off Patmore Road. Under the original proposal, raw materials will be trucked from the proposed site to the Patmore site for processing until the new mine is deep enough to hide the processing equipment from view.The proposal states the site will be screened by natural vegetation and a minimum of 50-foot buffers all around - a key factor since the land neighbors the Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve and a prairie study-and-restoration site owned by the Au Sable Institute.Depending upon regular groundwater testing, the mining operation could ultimately reach a depth of 135 feet.The Hearing Examiner meeting will be held at 10:45 on Monday, May 8, in the Commissioners Hearing Room of the Courthouse Annex in Coupeville.Another surface mining application has been filed for a sand and gravel operation on 29.66 acres near Ault Field and Goldie roads just north of Oak Harbor. The application was submitted by Island Construction which plans to extract about 500,000 cubic yards of material from the site.Written public comments on the proposal are being accepted until 4:30 p.m. on May 17. Comments should be sent to Island County Community Development, P.O. Box 5000, Coupeville, 98239 or delivered in person to the Island County Courthouse.The property is located within the NAS Whidbey noise zone and currently contains a Category A wetland."