Gravel mine gets rocky reception

A proposal for a gravel mining operation has stirred controversy in the Dugualla Bay Heights area north of Oak Harbor.

Krieg Construction proposes excavating gravel on 20 acres the company owns near a gravel pit presently owned by Island County.

The plan is not new to area residents, who met with Krieg representatives a year ago to voice their concerns. But they hadn’t heard back since, according to Toni Lebed-Edmons, and were caught by surprise by a legal notice that appeared in the Dec. 19 Whidbey News-Times.

Lebed-Edmons said neighbors are worried about the project’s possible impact on their property values, increased truck traffic in the area, and the mining operation’s threat to their aquifer.

The property in question is located on the south side of Sawmill Road, east of Taylor Road.

Lebed-Edmons estimated 200 families live in the area. Her house is located on Elderberry Street, about a block away from the mining site.

Another neighbor, Lori Taylor, said the mining site is within 1,000 feet of the community’s aquifer. “Essentially it’s a gravel pit,” she said. “They’re turning our neighborhood into an industrial zone.”

Fakkema & Kingma submitted a detailed description of Krieg’s plans early this month, according to Phil Bakke, Island County Planning Director.

“We haven’t really reviewed it yet,” he said Wednesday. But he described the hefty document as “professionally assembled.”

The legal notice stated the deadline to make public comments is Jan. 2. The neighbors complained that is too soon considering the holidays, and Fakkema & Kingma engineer Garth Cray expressed sympathy when he heard about their concerns on Thursday, so the proponents have re-started the process.

Edie Elerick, office manger in the Planning Department, said Friday that the project will be re-advertised so a new comment period can be set. In addition, Krieg is notifying all property owners within 1,000 feet of the site by mail.

“They’re going way beyond what they’re required to do,” she said.

Bakke said the Island County Comprehensive Plan lists the property as “prime for mineral resource.” The state required the county to identify resource areas, and the Krieg property is so identified in a mineral resource land map.

Before the company can start mining, Krieg will need a variety of permits and approval from the Island County Hearing Examiner, who will take public testimony before making a decision. Bakke estimated the process will continue into February or later.

Karl Krieg, president of the company, said he purchased the 20 acres years ago. The area has long been known for its gravel. Besides the county facility, there’s a nearby gravel pit owned and operated by Concrete Nor’West.

Krieg discounted neighbors’ concern that gravel mining could contaminate the groundwater.

“There’s no way I can contaminate their aquifer,” he said. “I’m not even close to it. It’s just the thought of a gravel pit that upsets them.” According to Fakkema & Kingma, the mine floor will remain a minimum of 90-feet above the uppermost aquifer.

Krieg said residents probably won’t even notice an increase in truck traffic. A typical operating day will include operating a bucket loader or tracked excavator to fill one or two dump trucks, according to the Fakkema & Kingma document.

On an exceptionally busy day, Krieg said, there could be a truck every 15 minutes. But that would be rare. “There will be many days they’ll never see a truck up there,” he said. “Nobody will even know we’re in there.”

The debate is likely to continue. But with a new comment period to be set and a long permitting process ahead, neighbors should have plenty of opportunity to voice their concerns.

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