Central Samish Valley Neighbors Update / October 4, 2022

On Sept 24,2022, the hearing on the proposed Grip Road Gravel Mine ended at last.  The exceptionally long hearing – seven days spread out over a month – mirrored the long six years that the permit has been under review at the County.  Throughout this time the future of the community has been in limbo. Still, there is more waiting ahead.  With closing briefs due at the end of October, the Hearing Examiner’s decision isn’t expected until November or December at the earliest.  Nonetheless, we can feel good about what has been accomplished so far.  As a community we have come together, pooled our resources, informed ourselves, and we have written letters and testified.  We have exposed the flaws in the environmental studies and permit review process.  And, we have done our very best to make the decision makers pay attention.  Already some concessions have been made.  No doubt that all of this has come at a steep cost, but together we have a strong voice that has already made a difference. 

This story is not over, but it is already worth telling.  A community member has written an article about it for the online journal Skagit Scoop:  Anatomy of a Zombie Permit.  Please check it out and share it with friends.  Exposing the problems is how change begins. 

And, we welcome further donations to our legal defense fund as our bills continue to mount. 

With gratitude,

Martha Bray for CSVN


Central Samish Valley Neighbors Update / September 18, 2022

The Grip Road Gravel Mine hearing will continue into its seventh day later this week, on Friday Sept 23rd at 9AM.  There will be additional testimony by witnesses regarding traffic safety.  And then Miles Sand and Gravel intends to call ‘rebuttal’ witnesses.  It appears that this coming Friday will be the last day of the hearing, regardless of whether there is enough time for the parties to make verbal closing statements.  Instead, if there isn’t enough time, closing statements will consist only of written briefs to be submitted to the Hearing Examiner sometime after the hearing ends.

To log on to the hearing by computer or phone, go to the Hearing Examiner’s website:


Last Tuesday, on day six of the hearing, we heard from County staff in Planning and Development Services and Public Works concerning the County’s review of the application for a Mining Special Use Permit (review that has been going on since 2016).  The overarching theme could be characterized as “it wasn’t me”Time after time, we heard statements such as “I was handed this project at the eleventh hour”; “I wasn’t involved with the review of the project until 2021”; and “I’m not an expert on that”.  This testimony reinforced CSVN’s contention that staff turnover, especially in the planning department, has contributed to the absence of a thorough, independent evaluation of the project and an over-reliance on the applicant’s own reports and studies.  In turn, this has resulted in impacts that have not been fully evaluated, and inadequate conditions being placed on the project through the Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance (MDNS).  This is the basis of CSVN’s appeal.

Questions to County staff were revealing, for example:  Public Works staff could not explain why school bus safety was not evaluated as part of the Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA). They didn’t even explain why it took five years for a TIA to be produced for the project.  They seemed unaware and/or unconcerned about the actual conditions of the road shoulders along Grip and Prairie Roads and the safety hazard they represent.  They acknowledged that the TIA did not conduct a full safety analysis as is required by the Skagit County Road Standards  – instead they explained that allowing up to 30 truck trips per hour was based on road “capacity”.  They shrugged off the substandard conditions along the haul route as typical, and further evaluation and improvements to the route as unnecessary.  A Public Works representative even suggested, absurdly, that adding more big trucks on these roads might improve safety conditions because it would force people to slow down. 

Planning department staff could not explain why a smaller, substandard 200-foot buffer on the Samish River and associated wetlands is allowed in the MDNS.  One of the exhibits in our appeal is a letter to Miles, dated July 6, 2017, from the lead planner at the time (who has since retired), stating that the standard 300-foot buffer would be required.  That letter correctly stated that this mine should be considered a “high intensity” land use, not “moderate intensity” as claimed by the applicant’s consultant, therefore a 300-foot buffer would be required. Nonetheless, when questioned, staff who are now responsible for the review of the permit application stated that they were unaware of this previous planning department decision.  Instead, in the staff report to the Hearing Examiner, they simply quoted the applicant’s consultant’s recommendations for a reduced buffer width.  When pressed, those same staff could not provide the justification for the reduced buffer width.  It was clear that current staff had simply copied the recommendations in the consultant’s report, without making any independent analysis, and without reviewing their own department’s previous decisions. 

There are many other examples of inconsistent and incomplete review of this mining proposal.  This has left us asking the obvious question – when it comes to review of major development applications at Skagit County – who is minding the store?  And why do private citizens have to spend large amounts of their own money and time to try to get the County to pay attention to legitimate environmental health and safety concerns? 

We have revealed that serious flaws and biases existed within County departments when conducting the review of this application.  This hearing (and the work leading up to it) has been epic in its duration and scope and has taken a toll, both on us and on County staff.   Regardless of the Hearing Examiner’s decision on our appeal, we are hopeful that one outcome will be improvements in how the County handles this type of application in the future.   

Lastly, of course, this continues to be extraordinarily expensive – we still need help with our legal defense fund – along with any additional fundraising ideas you might have.  Many thanks to everyone who is following and supporting this fight for a healthy and safe future in the Samish Valley!   


Central Samish Valley Neighbors Update, September 12, 2022

Greetings, friends and neighbors,

The Gravel Mine hearing will continue into its sixth day tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept 13th at 9AM.  Because of the complexity of the issues and numerous parties involved, it is taking a long time to get through all the testimony.  So, it will not be finished tomorrow – another day has been scheduled.  And, due to attorneys’ schedules, that seventh hearing day will not be until Friday Sept. 23rd.  Hopefully that will be the last day, but we can’t be sure.

Last Thursday and Friday CSVN presented our exhibits and witnesses.  This included videos of safety issues on the haul route, our own environmental and traffic experts, as well as local citizens who have been working these past six years to expose the problems with the mine as it is proposed.  The testimony went very well.  Of course, Miles’ attorney was very aggressive in his cross examination of our witnesses, but they held up well.

Tomorrow (Tues. 9/13), County staff will be questioned about the decisions they made, which lead to the flawed Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance (MDNS) – and other testimony is scheduled as well.  After all of that, there will be closing arguments and rebuttals, which may include Miles calling more experts in rebuttal. 

To log on to the hearing by computer or phone, go to the Hearing Examiner’s website:


We are putting up a good fight – doing the very best we can!  Unfortunately, because the hearing is taking so long and our attorney must attend the entire time, legal costs are mounting.  This extra cost is inconsequential to Miles – the longer it drags out, the more they can trot out their own experts and drain our resources.  We are so grateful to everyone who has contributed – many of you have given multiple times over the months and years – we would not have been able to sustain this fight without your help! 

Please help us out by spreading the word that we really need additional contributions.  This hearing is about the future health and safety of this community!

Thank you.


Central Samish Valley Neighbors Update, September 6, 2022

Dear friends and neighbors,

The fourth and fifth days of the Grip Road Gravel Mine hearing are coming up — this week, on Thursday and Friday (9/8 – 9/9), from 9am to 4pm.  Last Friday, late in the afternoon, we presented our first witness.  The rest of our testimony will be up next.  We will be refuting Miles’ claims concerning traffic issues and other environmental concerns.  So, these next two hearing days are central to our appeal, and we encourage you to log on and listen.

The hearing is likely to continue to a sixth day – if so, it is scheduled for next week, on Tues (9/13). 

There will be more testimony after CSVN, including County staff. Our attorney will have an opportunity to cross examine them and of course, after all of that, there will be closing arguments and rebuttals; all of this should be really interesting.

So, we are finally getting our “day in court”!  I hope you’ll tune in – it’s what we have all worked so hard on for years!  

To log on to the hearing by computer or phone, go to the Hearing Examiner’s website:


We are giving it our best.  Thank you for your continued support!


Gravel Mine Hearing Continues on Friday, September 2nd

Day three of the hearing on the Grip Road Gravel Mine is this Friday, Sept 2nd from 9am to 4pm.  It will be conducted virtually – there is no in person option.  But you can log on from your computer or call in by phone.  Info below.  

While there is no way to know exactly the timing of Friday’s testimony, we expect that Miles Sand and Gravel will wrap up their witness testimony mid-day.  There is one witness expected to testify for Cougar Peak after that, and then we (Central Samish Valley Neighbors) will begin presenting our case, probably sometime in the afternoon.  Our testimony will continue probably through the fourth day of the hearing.  Days 4 and 5 are next week, on Thurs-Friday, Sept 8th and 9th, and also conducted virtually.  

Those of you who attended the second day, last Monday, know how much is at stake.  We saw how determined and heedless Miles is to our safety and wellbeing, and how poorly conducted some of their expert assessments are. We hope you will support us by attending the hearing.   

Go to the Hearing Examiner’s website for directions to log on:  https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/OfficeofLandUsehearings/main.htm

We are also told that video recordings of the first two days of the hearing will also be posted on the Hearing Examiner’s website soon. (A word of caution: these files are HUGE, on the order of hundreds of megabytes, and could take hours to download at typical speeds.)

Community Members Attend and Testify at First Day of Public Hearing on Grip Road Gravel Mine

Community Members fill Commissioners’ Hearing Room at First Day of Hearing

Know Your Local Gravel Mine

Miles Sand and Gravel’s attorney, Bill Lynn, told us during his opening statement at Friday’s hearing that the Grip Road Gravel Mine is a “very small” project. Just for scale, Wikipedia notes that the volume of Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza is about 92 million cubic feet. That’s about 3.4 million cubic yards. By comparison, Miles says they intend to remove 4.28 million cubic yards of material from the mine. That’s 26% more than the volume of the Great Pyramid of Giza!

Hats off to the people who filled the hearing room on Friday, August 26th for the public hearing on the Grip Road Gravel Mine.  We are so proud of our community!  Thirty-eight people testified eloquently – speaking the truth about the real impacts of the proposed mine – despite the absurdly dismissive statements from Miles Sand and Gravel about its “extraordinarily small” mine, and despite the County’s continued acquiescence to their ridiculous claims.  And, our attorney, Kyle Loring, did a brilliant job of countering Miles’ claims in his opening presentation.

The hearing got off to a slow and frustrating start with several technical problems, including that the published conference call number didn’t work to allow people to call in to participate by phone. This was fixed sometime during the day with a new conference call number.  However, we believe there were people who tried, but could not connect and eventually gave up.  If you are one of the people who tried to call-in to the hearing on Friday and couldn’t get through, please know that you will still have an opportunity to testify on Monday morning, either in person or remotely.

Even though everyone still in attendance on Friday afternoon had the opportunity to testify, the Hearing Examiner acknowledged that there may have been some people who couldn’t connect on Friday.  In addition, there were a handful of people who showed up at the hearing in person and signed in to testify but had to leave before they had a chance to speak. If you are one of the people who signed in to speak but left early because you expected to speak on Monday, then you also will be allowed to testify Monday morning, either in person or remotely.   Please take advantage of this opportunity while you can!   (The only people who will be allowed to testify Monday are those who signed in Friday, or tried to call in.)

The Hearing Examiner also said he would accept written comments from anyone who was inadvertently excluded from testifying on Friday.  However, you will need submit those comments in person on Monday or explain in your written comments why they should be accepted late.      

After any additional public testimony on Monday the hearing will shift to the appeal, and no more public testimony will be allowed (but the public is welcome and encouraged to attend and listen).  The applicant, Miles Sand and Gravel, will be the first to present expert witnesses and exhibits. Then CSVN will present our experts and factual witnesses. 

While it is possible that CSVN will start presenting late on Monday, it is more likely that Miles will take up at least one full day.  So, CSVN testimony will probably start on the third day of the hearing, which is Friday Sept 2nd.  This third day of the hearing, and all subsequent days will be conducted virtually, with no in-person option.  Additional hearing days as needed are: Friday Sept. 2; Thurs Sept 8; Fri Sept 9; Tues Sept 13 (all virtual, from 9:00am to 4:00pm)

The Hearing this Monday (8/29) will be 9:00am to 4:00pm, at:

City of Sedro-Woolley Municipal Building Council Chambers, 325 Metcalf St, Sedro-Woolley.   

For information on how to participate by phone or computer, visit the Hearing Examiner’s website:


Please remember that there is a lot of information about the proposed mine on the CSVN website:  https://centralsamish.wordpress.com/

Lastly, we are still considerably short of the funds we need to keep up the effort through the appeal process.  So, your continued support is welcome and crucial.  And, many thanks to all of you who have supported the legal work this far, we could not do it without you!

Checks can be made out to:  CSVN/Linda Walsh, and mailed to Linda Walsh: 21710 Prairie Rd, Sedro Woolley, WA 98284

Or donate with credit card through GoFundMehttps://www.gofundme.com/f/grip-road-gravel-pit-road-safety-environment-csvn


Click here to download this hearing update in printable PDF format.

This will be the last opportunity to express your concerns about the impacts of this mine and the heavy truck traffic on Grip and Prairie Roads.  Please attend!

The first part of the hearing is to consider if a Mining Special Use Permit should be approved.  It is before the Skagit County Hearing Examiner and will be a ‘hybrid’ meeting – You can attend in person at:

County Commissioners’ Hearing Room, 1800 Continental Place, Mount Vernon.  

Second day — Monday Aug 29th (9am – 4pm) City of Sedro-Woolley Municipal Bldg Council Chambers,

325 Metcalf St, Sedro-Woolley [additional Hearing dates, as needed–all virtual: 9/2; 9/8; 9/9; 9/13]

Public testimony will only be allowed during the first day — possibly the second day if enough people show up. 

To participate in the hearing ‘virtually’ call: 1-(323) 553-1010 Phone Conference ID 114451280#

or to join via video, go to: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/OfficeofLandUsehearings/main.htm

For help or issues with connecting, call: (360) 416-1156 or (360) 416-1154

Written comments will only be accepted electronically until the day before the hearing — 4:30 PM on Thursday Aug. 25, 2022, but may be presented in-person at the public hearing.  Written comments can be submitted through the County’s Planning & Dev. Services website at:


(At the web page above, scroll down to the electronic form near the bottom of the page.)

This new, industrial-scale mine will be located next to the Samish River, with a two-mile long private internal haul road that crosses Swede Creek and enters Grip Road at the top of the big hill.  Despite Miles’ claims to the contrary, the proposed conditions for this Mining Special Use Permit are weak and will not protect the environment and public safety.  After 6 years of permit review, little has changed, and many concerns remain.

Still proposed:

  • A 51 acre, 60-foot deep, open pit mine just 200 feet from the Samish River.
  • Gravel truck/trailer traffic “averaging” 46 trips per day, but with the potential of running up to 30 trucks per hour, operating for 25 years.
  • Fully loaded truck and trailer combos entering Grip Road from the top of the big hill and entering Prairie Road at the 90-degree corner.

Half measures are not good enough:

  • The County is requiring restrictions on hours of operation and daily truck traffic, but loosely worded “exceptions” for “seasonal demand” and “extended hours” are included – with these exceptions, the so-called “mitigation measures” are practically meaningless and unenforceable.
  • Miles will be required to fix the two 90-degree corners on Prairie Road just east of Old 99 and install blinking yellow lights at the intersections of Grip and Prairie and at Grip and mine access road.  HOWEVER,
  • No other road or intersection improvements are being required despite the damage that will be caused by high volume of truck traffic, and the extreme safety hazards from these big trucks on the “S curves” on the Grip Road Hill, along narrow parts of Prairie Road, and at other dangerous intersections.
  • There is no requirement for the gravel trucks to stick to a fixed haul route, which means that trucks could go east on Grip Road toward Hoogdal and Mosier Roads, south on F&S Grade Road, or several other possible routes.  This presents many safety hazards that haven’t been considered.

Some of the permit conditions we are asking for:

  • Set firmer limits on hours of operation and daily numbers of gravel trucks.
  • Require cost sharing to upgrade substandard roads and intersections to ensure that roads are safe for pedestrians, bicycles, school buses and commuters with the additional heavy truck traffic — one fully loaded truck and trailer can weigh 105,000 lbs. (52.5 tons)  — Who pays to fix the roads?
  • Restrict trucks to a designated haul route on public roads that have been adequately improved for safety.
  • Protect the Samish River with at least a 300-foot buffer as required by County Code.
  • Fully protect fish and wildlife habitat along Miles’ two-mile long internal haul road, including where it crosses unstable slopes in Swede Creek gorge.
  • Implement a monitoring and enforcement plan with periodic permit review to ensure compliance with permit requirements.

We will have to live with this mine and the impacts for the foreseeable future. This is the last opportunity to speak up.  Please spread the word and attend the hearing!

As many of you know, Central Samish Valley Neighbors have appealed the County’s Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance (MDNS) for this project. The Aug 26 & 29th Hearing will be a “consolidated” hearing. This means that immediately after the Special Use Permit portion of the hearing, the Appeal will be heard.  The appeal portion is a “closed record” hearing, so members of the public can listen, but not testify. We have hired legal counsel and expert witnesses to represent the community’s interests during the appeal hearing. This comes at a steep price.  Contributions to our legal defense fund are welcome and encouraged.

Checks can be made out to:  CSVN/Linda Walsh, and mailed to Linda Walsh: 21710 Prairie Rd, Sedro Woolley, WA 98284

Or donate with credit card through GoFundMe:  https://www.gofundme.com/f/grip-road-gravel-pit-road-safety-environment-csvn

Public documents about this Mining Special Use Permit Application, including application materials and public comments on it, can be found at: https://skagitcounty.net/Departments/PlanningAndPermit/gravelmine.htm

Older updates can be found here.