Miles Protests Critical Areas Review Requirement
In the last few weeks, both Skagit County and Miles Sand & Gravel have taken significant actions on Miles’ Grip Road gravel mine special use permit application.
In our last update, we noted that in response to comments submitted by the public and representatives of local Indian tribes and state agencies, PDS had withdrawn the mitigated determination of non-significance (MDNS) it issued for the proposed mine on April 25, 2021. Subsequently, on June 17, PDS sent a letter to Miles requiring an assessment of critical areas associated with its internal mine haul road. The letter cited PDS’ own critical areas site visit, which had determined “the likelihood of the presence of steep slopes, wetlands within 300 feet, and stream areas within 200 feet of the proposal.”
Good News! Your Comments Helped!
Some good news for a change! After 50+ comment letters were submitted by community members, Skagit County Planning and Development Services (PDS) is having yet another look at the mine development application! A legal notice was published in the newspaper Thursday withdrawing the Mitigated Determination of NonSignificance (MDNS) on the Grip Road Gravel Mine. It states: “Notice is hereby given that on May 13, 2021, Skagit County PDS is withdrawing the SEPA MDNS issued on April 25, 2021. If a new threshold determination is issued, a new notice and comment period will be provided”. There is no explanation as to why, or what PDS plans to do next; in fact, no other new information is provided in the Notice.
ACTION ALERT: Please Submit Comments on Proposed Gravel Mine
Puyallup-based Miles Sand and Gravel is proposing a new gravel mine along the Samish River, accessed off of Grip Road in rural Skagit County. As many of you know, this project has been in the works for over five-years, but it’s basically the same. It would be a 60-acre open-pit mine eventually ninety-feet deep.
This mine would cause significant impacts to the natural environment including to water quality and fish and wildlife habitat, as well as to traffic, public safety and quality of life.
Please join our efforts by submitting your comments and concerns to Skagit County Planning & Development Services.
MDNS and Next Steps
Some of you have contacted us regarding how to submit comments to the County on the new MDNS, and what to say. First of all, thank you for asking. We need as many people as possible to submit comments, and time is pretty short (due by April 30th). However, it will take us a few days to consult with our advisors to write up some talking points that will have the maximum impact. We plan to have something posted by this Thursday. Read more here…
Fundraising update: We are very thankful to the nearly three dozen community members who have contributed to our efforts to raise money to pay for an independent traffic assessment. If you would like to contribute, please visit our GoFundMe page:
Gratitude and Perseverance!
An enormous thank you to the 30+ families who have contributed over the past week. We’ve just passed $6K and are approaching our goal of $10K. Please know that we will use your dollars carefully.
We have just learned that the County Planning Department plans to “reissue SEPA” this week”. As soon as this legal notice is issued, there will be a 14 day comment period. It will be very important for everyone who is concerned about this project to submit comments.
Please stay in touch. We will let you know more as soon as we can.
We also know from our public records requests that the county plans to issue a “Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance” or “MDNS” which means that they will not require an Environmental Impact Statement.
Community Fundraising Effort Underway
We still face the prospect of a massive increase in heavy, industrial truck traffic on our quiet rural roads. We are doing our best to fight this reckless proposal, but we need your help. After five years of pushback from the community, it still looks like the permit will be approved without conditions that will protect public safety and the environment. Once the excavation starts on the 60-acre open pit mine, there is no going back — dump trucks will flood our narrow and substandard roads for the foreseeable future.
Please consider a donation to support our efforts to protect our public safety and quality of life. Even small donations will help! Several Central Samish Valley Neighbors have stepped up and expressed their willingness to match up to $2,000 in new donations dollar for dollar. The funds will be used to hire a a professional traffic engineer who will provide credible input for the permit requirements to protect community safety, and for subsequent legal action if needed.
Update: Action Expected Soon on Gravel Mine Application as Study Shows Roads Are Too Narrow for Large Trucks
It’s been quite a while since our last update on the proposed gravel mine along the Samish River near Grip Road. The most important thing for you to know is that Miles Sand and Gravel/Concrete Nor’West’s (CNW) application for a Mining Special Use Permit is still active, and the County still plans to hold a public hearing before the County Hearing Examiner to consider approval of the permit.
Please keep paying attention, as the notification for the hearing could come before the end of the year or in January 2021. If it happens in the next few months, the hearing will be “virtual” – meaning that the hearing will be conducted in a video conference format where the public has to participate via computer or by phone.
Staff at Skagit Planning and Development Services (PDS) continue to give us the same frustratingly vague responses, which is some version of: “We’re working on it, and we’ll let you know as soon as possible what is going on.” They still can’t (or won’t) tell us if they plan to issue a revised “Threshold Determination”, under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), even though they have acknowledged the serious flaws with the original SEPA review, and a revised determination has been promised for more than three years on the County’s website. Either way the project will go to a public hearing, but we argue that the original SEPA review was completely inadequate, and failed to disclose the serious impacts of this proposal. Our recent letter to the County concerning the inadequacy of the SEPA review can be found at: https://www.skagitcounty.net/PlanningAndPermit/Documents/GravelMine/CSVN%20FINAL%20Ltr%2011-24-20.pdf
CNW submitted a “Traffic Impact Analysis” (TIA) in September (prepared by their consultants DN Traffic Consultants). We have been asking for a TIA for years. Unfortunately, we find the document CNW submitted does not meet the requirements for a full TIA as required by County Code, and leaves us with more questions than answers. The community’s serious concerns about public safety from dozens of tandem gravel trucks running back and forth on Grip and Prairie Road every day for twenty-five years have still not been addressed.
This is a direct quote from the TIA: “The Consultant prepared an AutoTurn analysis of these turns on Prairie Road approximately 1200 lineal feet and 1800 lineal feet east of the Prairie Road/Old Highway 99 intersection. Based on this analysis, it was estimated the dump truck/pup combination is expected to encroach approximately two (2) to three (3) feet onto the shoulder or over the centerline.”
Did you know that the application for a 68 acre open pit gravel mine in our community is still active and moving forward? This industrial scale mine is proposed by Miles Sand and Gravel/Concrete Nor’West (CNW) just 200 feet from the Samish River, between Grip and Prairie Roads. A long private haul road crosses Swede Creek from the mine site and enters Grip Road near the top of the big hill above Prairie Road. This is a quiet rural area with substandard road infrastructure — no significant mining activity has ever occurred here before.
AS PROPOSED, THIS MINE WILL HAVE MAJOR IMPACTS ON OUR QUALITY OF LIFE, including:
- Huge open pit mine just 200 feet from the Samish River more than 50 acres in size and 90 feet deep.
- An “average” of 46 tandem trucks per day for 25 years hauling gravel through our neighborhoods – with the possibility of up to 30 trucks per hour (1 truck can be rated to haul GVW of 105,000 lbs – more than 50 tons).
- No limitations on hours of mine operation or gravel hauling — potentially 24 hours a day / 7 days a week.
- Loaded tandem dump trucks entering Grip Road at the top of the big hill, and then continuing on to the blind intersection at Prairie Road, at a rate of a truck every 10 minutes or faster during peak operations.
- No improvements to County roads are proposed other than a blinking yellow warning light at the intersection of Grip and Prairie Roads.
SOME OF OUR CONCERNS:
- Traffic safety for private vehicles, school busses, commuters, pedestrians, children and bicyclists on our narrow winding roads – there simply is not room on these roads for this many huge trucks!
- Significantly slower commute times, traffic congestion, and vehicles stacked up behind slow moving trucks along the route, especially at intersections waiting for trucks to enter traffic.
- Noise, dust, vibrations from on-site mining operations and off-site trucking.
- Major degradation of our quality of life and a decline in property values.
- Damage to substandard County roads from the weight of so many trucks – who pays for this?
- Severe impact to wildlife habitat, the Samish River, and ground and surface water quality. The likelihood of on-site processing of gravel in the future & expansion of the mine to make it even bigger — CNW owns 700 contiguous undeveloped acres at the site.
SKAGIT COUNTY REGULATORS HAVE NOT FOLLOWED THE LAW:
More than 3 years ago, the County was prepared to rubber stamp this permit even though the application materials were incomplete and full of errors. A Mitigated Determination of NonSignificance (“MDNS”) was issued for the application. In short, this means that it was determined to NOT have a significant impact on us or on the environment. But at that time, the County made a big mistake – the MDNS was issued without issuing proper notice to many of the surrounding landowners as required by law. So most of the community didn’t know about the proposal until it was too late to appeal or even to comment on the decision. The County’s efforts to correct this initial error have fallen short, and other serious mistakes have been made since. Unfortunately, the result is that the Skagit County Hearing Examiner recently ordered the County to process the original flawed permit application, and it is likely to go to a Special Use Permit Hearing sometime in the next 2 to 6 months.
Central Samish Valley Neighbors (CSVN) continues to fight to get the County to follow state law, and its own codes and procedures, so that local people will have a say in the future of this community. We don’t know how soon the County will move on processing the permit, but it could be soon.
We need to be prepared to respond quickly. Once a notice of a Special Use Permit Hearing is issued, we may have as little as 14 days to comment and it will be critical to get a big turn out to the hearing. So, in the next few months we will be holding meetings with community members to try to answer questions and help people get prepared for the next phase of this fight.
YOU CAN HELP
- Attend a community meeting. Notifications will be posted on this website and Facebook page.
- Help us organize a meeting with your Homeowners’ Association, or other neighborhood group.
- Email us to get on our contact list — Spread the word to your friends & neighbors
- Give out copies of this flier.
- DONATE – we are all unpaid volunteers, but legal defense is critical and it comes with a price. Information on how to donate can be found here.
Public records, application documents and public comment letters related to the proposed gravel mine can be found @: https://skagitcounty.net/Departments/PlanningAndPermit/gravelmine.htm