April 15, 1995 in Washington Voices

People Vs. Pit When Central Pre-Mix Activated A Gravel Mine Near Starr And Trent, Nearby Residents Reacted

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Central Pre-Mix Concrete Co. has begun operations at its 300-acre pit near Moab Junction, reviving a 15-year-old controversy.

The company received a zoning change for the project in 1980 but just recently began work at the site.

Crews last fall erected a six-foothigh chain-link fence topped with barbed wire and constructed earthen berms around the perimeter of the property, which is located between Starr and Idaho roads, just south of Trent Avenue.

They also began digging gravel.

Some residents living near the mine are upset about the work, just as many were in 1980.

“A lot of people are upset,” said Cathy McBeth, who is helping to organize the meeting. “There’s a lot of complaining going on in the community about that gravel pit.”

Company spokesman Mark Murphy said his firm is doing what it can to alleviate concerns over the pit. Central Pre-Mix held an open house last summer to give residents advance notice and answer questions about the operation, he said.

“Ninety-five percent of the people at that meeting didn’t have a problem with what we planned to do,” Murphy said. “There’s always some people who you can’t convince.”

McBeth said many residents are concerned about noise and traffic generated by the mine.

“The noise is horrible,” she said.

There also is a concern that the mine may pollute ground water in the area by exposing the aquifer to dangerous runoff, she said.

The Moab Irrigation District’s pump station is located across Trent from the gravel pit.

“At the very least, we’d like to get their attention and make them behave themselves,” McBeth said.

Most of those issues are similar to the ones neighbors raised in 1980.

More than 350 people signed petitions asking that Central PreMix’s request for zone change for the property, from agriculture to mining, be denied.

Another 25 people attended a December 1980 hearing examiner committee meeting to testify against the proposal. Four people spoke in favor.

Despite the opposition, the hearing examiner granted the company’s request. County commissioners upheld the decision after neighbors appealed the decision the next year.

Back then, company officials said conditions placed on the project would protect the ground water and nearby residential neighborhoods.

Central Pre-Mix agreed not to penetrate the aquifer that runs beneath the site. The company is not allowed to dig within 10 feet of the aquifer’s annual high-water mark.

The underground water source provides drinking water for most of the county.

The company said it would operate the mine only between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. to reduce noise during the evening and early morning hours.

It also agreed to build the berms as a noise and sight buffer.

“It is not anticipated that the proposed project will affect existing housing,” stated a 1980 environmental review prepared by a company consultant.

Many more homes have been built in the vicinity of the pit since then, McBeth said, and a lot of the people who moved into them didn’t know the pit existed.

“At the very least we’d like a review of the decision,” she said.

Murphy countered that his company is trying to be accommodating and agreed to move an access road for the pit from heavily populated Starr Road to Idaho Road, where there are few homes.

The company will dig gravel from the site each year but has no plans to relocate an asphalt plant or concretemaking equipment to the site, he said.

“Those are the things that most people are the most concerned about,” he said. “We’re trying. That’s all we can do.”

Spokane County planning officials are watching the company’s actions closely to make sure it adheres to conditions placed on the operation, said Tom Mosher, a senior planner.

“That 1980 file should be in storage in the basement now, but it’s still on my desk,” Mosher said.

One of the things he’s working with the company on right now is a requirement that it create more than 50 acres of habitat for the upland sandpiper, a bird that is becoming increasingly rare in the West.

The habitat project is supposed to be “accomplished during the first year of any on-site operation associated with the pit,” according to the county commissioners’ 1980 decision.

The company waited until just recently to begin developing the habitat.

Murphy said the 57 acres recently was seeded with native vegetation that was required by the state Fish and Wildlife Department. Other requirements will be met, he said.

“There’s some progress being made,” Mosher said.

The company estimates it can get gravel from the site for as long as 50 years.

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: MINE MEETING The group has scheduled a community meeting for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. to discuss the mine. The meeting will be at the Tri-Community Grange in Newman Lake.

This sidebar appeared with the story: MINE MEETING The group has scheduled a community meeting for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. to discuss the mine. The meeting will be at the Tri-Community Grange in Newman Lake.

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