Quarry

QUARRY UPDATE----Spring, 2014

Approximately a year ago the owners of the Lummi Island quarry were faced with several serious permit violations issued by Whatcom County.  Beyond that they also faced extreme financial problems which subsequently took them into receivership.  Since that time, the heavy mining equipment has been shipped off of the island.  The various distribution centers in the surrounding area have been shut down.  The staff at the quarry has been reduced to a couple of site overseers under the guidance of the receiver.  At present, there are only a few loaders in the quarry to move the remaining rock products around on the quarry floor.  Some large rocks have been dislodged from the upper benches in the quarry and are resting on the quarry floor.  Local island construction people have been stockpiling the remaining rock products for local use.  Otherwise, the activity at the quarry has been very quiet. 

The future of this property is being decided by the court-appointed receiver.  They are currently considering a purchase offer from the Lummi Island Heritage Trust (LIHT), a very successful and fully accredited conservation organization.  LIHT currently owns or manages 283 acres of land on Lummi Island, and has worked with private landowners to protect another 576 acres with conservation easements.  If LIHT is able to purchase the quarry property, then the Lummi Island Scenic Estates (LISE) will see the transition of this neighboring property from an active quarry to a limited use preserve developed on the reclaimed quarry land and shoreline.  Whatcom County has indicated that there may be funding to help develop such a preserve.  This transition would obviously enhance the quality of life for our community.  If LIHT is not successful, then the other possible directions for the future use of the property are not known at this time. 

 

QUARRY UPDATE----Spring, 2012

There have been several developments with regard to the Lummi Island Quarry over the winter. A short summary of the principal developments is provided below, but everyone is encouraged to follow the issues on the website lummiislandquarry.com. This website was established by the Lummi Island Conservancy to reach the entire island community, interested people on the mainland, and as far as the internet will carry the information.

The MRL expansion proposal has been put on hold until Lummi Rock, LLC rectifies several outstanding issues.

  1. The commercial pier/barge loading facility built in 2006-2007 was never permitted. The quarry operators have applied for a retroactive permit for this pier/loading facility. Public comments have been submitted and upon review this month, the county planning department will submit their report to the Whatcom County hearing examiner for a decision. In addition, there will be an environmental review (SEPA) for the affected shoreline.
  2. Another shoreline issue involves the removal of a sunken barge adjacent to the quarry. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has issued a permit for this removal and the project is underway. There is concern that this activity will disrupt the local shoreline environment and the associated fish habitat.
  3. Consulting hydrologists (RH2 of Bothel, WA) on contract with the Department of Ecology (DOE) are beginning their evaluation of Aiston Creek drainage basin. This is a necessary part of the quarry application for a water right to extract water for dust control. Lummi Island Scenic Estates (LISE) holds the senior water right on Aiston Creek. The consultants will determine whether a second water right can be supported by this water resource. Their report will be generated this spring. If this review is favorable to the quarry, then the next phase will be for a formal water right application to the DOE. In which case, the consideration of this water right application will take place during the summer.
  4. A "stop work" order was filed by the county on the road built by the quarry operators to access the north and west side of the quarry. This road was constructed outside of the current MRL boundaries and is very close to LISE. The quarry operators are to develop another access route within the existing MRL and are to reclaim this unapproved road. There is no estimate for the time necessary to reclaim the disrupted land, but activity on the road should be stopped now.
  5. Once these concerns are met, the quarry operators will most likely return to the MRL expansion proposal. The envisioned expansion will increase the size of the current pit by more than a 100% (from 20 acres to 47.5 acres). The west face of the quarry will extend for ~1300 feet and reach a height of 350-400 feet. This pit cuts into the east side of Lummi Mountain and obviously will be a permanent scar in the landscape with associated noise, air and water pollution. This will not only impact LISE residents and their properties but also the wider community of Bellingham as this scenic shoreline is increasingly degraded. Long term sustainable industries like tourism and recreational boating will be impacted, while increasing pollution to the marine waters will contribute to the further degradation of Puget Sound and critical marine habitat needed to support the salmon fishery. You are encouraged to follow this issue closely on the website established by the Lummi Island Conservancy (lummiislandquarry.com). Dates for hearings and comment periods will be posted. It is important that the many concerns of private citizens and organizations be heard. A successful zoning change will insure that this quarry will continue for decades.

Quarry Report - Summer, 2011

(Kent Nielsen, Quarry Chair)

It is urgent that LISECC members become aware of recent developments at the Lummi Island quarry which could have significant negative impact on their lives and property.  The Mineral Resource Land (MRL) rezoning proposal by the quarry is moving ahead.  This zoning change is critical for the quarry operators as it will enable them to apply for a permit to continue mining.

The growth of the quarry next door to LISE is a long story in which decisions made 45 years ago and along the way have brought us to this point.  The important part of that history is that the entire debate was regarding a 20-acre parcel.  They are rapidly depleting this resource and therefore approaching the end of their ability to mine on Lummi Island.  This is a critical time for the quarry. This is a critical time for LISECC.  The proposed expansion will mean that we will continue to have the problems associated with quarry activity for years, possibly decades to come.  Some of the negative aspects include:  diminished property values, a range of noise 6 days a week, dust problems, various environmental issues and additional traffic on Beach and Cedar roads. 

The quarry committee has been involved in several hearings to block further expansion of the quarry.  Rather than give a blow-by-blow account at this time, we will cover all of these issues at the August 28th LISECC Board meeting.  The proposed expansion of the quarry is an important decision for our community.  If you possibly can, please come to the board meeting to review the entire story and to decide what you think is our best course of action.  If you will not be able to come and would like to register your concerns by email or snail mail, then send your comments to the person handling this zoning proposal:

 Mr. Joshua Fleischman (Handling the MRL proposal)
 Whatcom County Planning & Development Services
 5280 Northwest Drive
 Bellingham, WA  98226-9097
 Jfleisch@co.whatcom.wa.us

Make your voice heard no later than the middle of September.  The recommendation by the Planning Department to the Planning Commission is an important step in the progress of this proposal.  After that we will be dealing with the larger county issues and politics of the Planning Commission (Oct. 27, 2011) and the County Council (November or December, 2011).   The County Council will be the final word on this proposal.

Please feel free to contact Kent Nielsen (Quarry Chair, 360-820-2148) or LISECC board members Meredith Moench or Leslie Dempsey with your questions or suggestions.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LUMMI ISLAND QUARRY

(Updated form a 2006 Quarry Committee report)

This is a review of the history of the quarry primarily for the new residents in the Scenic Estates and this may stimulate recollections and refinement from long-term residents.  The relationship with the quarry has been an issue for Scenic Estates residents, particularly since the early 1990's.  This interaction has not always been pleasant and will likely become more stressed in the years ahead as our community grows and the quarry plans for the future.

Initial quarry activity in Smuggler's cove began during the depression, in 1933, as part of a government sponsored project.  The low clay content of the rock, the availability of large boulders, and the easy access to the shoreline made this site attractive for building the breakwater in Bellingham Bay.  The project lasted for about four months and operations in the quarry stopped in 1934.  The Aiston family acquired the property as part of three large parcels during the intervening years.  In 1958, the Niedheimers negotiated a purchase agreement and acquired the deed to the property over the next several years.  They decided to reopen the quarry in 1964 and leased a "ten acre" parcel to a private company.  This decision was slightly later than the initial development of the Scenic Estates (platted in 1961-62, the initial water system was installed in 1963).  During the next 20-25 years the quarry activity continued at a generally low level.  In 1978, the Department of Natural Resources issued a permit for a 20-acre site within an area zoned for rural forestry, a "nonconforming use".   The permit allowed mining in a 10-acre section with the understanding that they could expand to the remaining 10 acres with an updated reclamation plan.  A second permit was issued in 1989 to JIJ Construction for the 10-acre mine that was still considered nonconforming use. 

In 1991, Everett Rock Company purchased the lease and began more active mining.  Friction with the residents of the Scenic Estates increased accordingly during the next 4 years.  There were many complaints about the noise, dust, and potential hazards associated with the mine.  In December, 1995 the owner of the mine applied for re-zoning on Lummi Island with the goal of opening up a total of 225 acres for mining.  This application included all three parcels of the Niedheimer property as well as land belonging to other island residents.  This planned operation would have taken active mining high up on the mountain and very near the southern boundaries of the Scenic Estates.  Over the next seven months a group of Lummi Island residents including Scenic Estates residents confronted the county government to oppose this re-zoning request which was eventually withdrawn.  Upon closer scrutiny, people became aware that the mining operations had expanded beyond the 10 acres mentioned in the permits.  This observation led to a "stop work" order in the summer of 1996 and a professional review of the boundaries.  The results of this review were mostly critical of the permitting process in that the property had no traditional survey control.  Boundary lines were poorly defined and monuments were nonexistent except for an orange X on a rock and a few metal posts along the southern boundary.   The most definitive documentation was a sketch map given to Everett Rock by the previous owner.  Based on the limited control, the survey company estimated the area within the various possible boundaries to range from 11 to 17 acres and not 10 acres as referenced in the permit.  Subsequently, operations at the quarry resumed.   In 1999, Everett Rock purchased 104 acres from the Niedheimers for $1.25 million and in July of that year they submitted a new reclamation plan for the "ten" acres.  They are required to reclaim the 10 acres before expanding into the remaining 10 acres. Also, during this time, the 20-acre property received a Mineral Resource Land (MRL) designation which means that the mining operation is permitted (conforming use) within the rural forestry zone.  This MRL designation is controversial in that these lands are not to be created in close proximity to residential areas.  Therefore, you will hear discussion about who was here first, the mine or the Scenic Estates.  After 1999, the quarry operators made several changes to reduce the impact of the quarry on the residents.  These include moving the crusher into a lower and more central location in the quarry, building a berm near the entrance, installing a cover over the crusher, among others. 

In 2004, Everett Rock formed a partnership with Aggregates West Inc. of Everson, WA.  Aggregates West became the operating partner and has made additional changes.  These include the addition of another crusher and screens, a new maintenance building near the entrance, road improvement in and around the quarry, and the overall increase in production.  By 2006, Aggregates West, Inc had nearly completed the mining of the initial "ten" acres.  They applied for and received a permit to mine the remaining portion of the 20-acre MRL in 2007.  These additional acres are located to the south of the active quarry and will fundamentally move the active operations away from the Scenic Estates.  Despite promises of a quieter operation, the improvements mentioned above and the increased production have led to a continuing list of complaints, particularly from LISE members located in the southern portion of the community.

In December, 2010, Aggregates West, Inc. applied for a rezoning of 27.5 acres south of the existing MRL.  They want the county to change the zoning from Rural Forestry to Mineral Resource Land (MRL).  While this does not grant them a permit to mine, it does set aside the land for that purpose.  It is fair to say, that one generally follows the other.  If the county decides that this land is best used for mining, then it is highly probable that it will be used for that purpose.  If approved, you should expect a permit application within the following months.  The proposed zoning change and the prospect of decades of mining next door to the LISE is a significant issues for all members of our community.

Please review the Spring, 2011 Quarry Committee report for further background

QUARRY REPORT (Spring 2011)

A TIME FOR CONCERN ABOUT OUR COMMUNITY

Kent Nielsen, LISE Quarry Committee

The discussion and voting at the LISE AGM precluded our having time for a quarry report.  However, there are significant developments underway with regard to the quarry and the membership of the LISE community need to be aware. 

Late last year the quarry operators initiated the process to increase the amount of land designated as Mineral Resource Land (MRL).  This is a zoning change that must be reviewed by Whatcom County.  Currently, the mining activity is constrained by the existing 20 acre MRL located just south of the LISE community.  The current operators have been extracting rock at a much higher rate than the previous operators.  Between 1964 and 2004, all of the previous quarry operators had not exhausted an 11-acre parcel.  The new operators (Aggregates West, Inc.) quickly finished that permit between 2004 and 2006.  They applied for and received a permit to mine the remaining 9 acres in the existing MRL.  Anyone who has seen the quarry recently will recognize that they have removed a large portion of the 9-acre permit.  Not surprisingly, they have begun to think about expansion.  This time they are asking the county for a 27.5-acre zoning change immediately south of the existing quarry.  They own this land, but it is currently zoned as Rural Forestry, not approved for mining. 

In March, their proposal to the county was accepted for consideration.  In other words, the county council has put it on the docket for this year.  The first step in that process is for the Planning Department to review and make a recommendation to the county council.  The first step for the Planning Department is to have an environmental assessment.  To our knowledge this environmental review has begun.  That review will be completed in a month or so.  The Planning Department will then complete their review by compiling all of the other information about the quarry operation with the environmental review in order to make a recommendation to the Planning Commission.  There should be a period for public input at that time and a recommendation generated for the consideration by the county council.  It has been estimated that the entire review along with their recommendation will be completed by early Fall (October). 

Then the county council will take up the issue.  After the initial debate on this proposal, and the recommendation from the Planning Department, there will undoubtedly be another period for public input.  Final decision on the proposal may well occur at the end of the year or early next year.

This zoning change does not give the quarry operators the permit to mine.  It does, however, represent a fundamental revision of the zoning for the land.  By accepting this zoning change the county sets this land aside for mining as its primary use.  Once in place, the logical pathway is to use the land as it is zoned.  Simply put, a mining permit is the most likely next step.  It was this basic fact that made the last permit application in 2006 so painless for the quarry operator. 

It is not in the best interest for LISE to have this MRL established next door to our community.  The impact of a ~50 acre quarry next door will create several negative stresses on our community.  Everyone can generate a list, but here are a few obvious effects.  First, the quality of life will not improve.  We have problems with noise, dust, blasting, and traffic directly related to the mining, processing, and shipping activity.  The larger operation will continue those problems for at least 10-20 years.  These annoyances will directly affect the property values and will most likely reduce the growth and prosperity of our community.  The environment will suffer with the expansion, to include the degradation of the shoreline along Hales Passage and the total destruction of the natural setting just south of LISE.  Remediation will take decades after the quarry operations cease.  If this proposed is accepted then the quarry will be a grim reality for the rest of our life, for most of us.

In that event, our only recourse will be to conduct a sustained effort to keep the quarry operators compliant with their permit restrictions.  If the past is a map of the future, that effort will be a fitful and unsatisfying activity.  Our community will be at the mercy of the county/state regulators and the quarry operators.

The county completed a 10-year evaluation of land use in 2009.  This Comprehensive Plan has been in effect for barely two years.  One conclusion of the Comprehensive Plan was to rezone LISE as Rural Residential in keeping with the fact that there are approximately 200 houses and a combined permanent and seasonal population of 400-500 people.  Those numbers could potentially increase as much as 50% in the time frame we are discussing.  The basic underlying problem is the conflicting land use designations.  Residential development and mining activity are incompatible.  The history of this relationship is clear.  The LISE was purchased, platted, and the basic water system installed between 1960 and 1963.  The modern activity began at the quarry in 1964.  For 20-25 years the activity at the quarry was irregular and generally at a low level.  The LISE was likewise a small community with mostly seasonal residents.  The county did not worry about it.  Since 1990, the quarry activity has progressively increased and the LISE has grown and evolved.  This is an inevitable conflict.  It is time to resolve this incompatible land use issue.  The quarry should not be permitted to expand beyond its current MRL.  The long-term benefit of a healthy, tax-paying community is preferable to the county when compared to the short to medium term benefits and long term environmental problems associated with mining.

You are encouraged to speak out.  There will be at least two public forums on this proposal.  You are encouraged to attend and to contact the members of the county council.  If you would like to help spread the word or would like to work directly on the various issues to help inform our decision makers then contact Kent Nielsen (360-820-2148) or Meredith Moench (360-738-8920).