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Residents: Proposed mine would destroy their neighborhood
Northlake Way is already not the safest of roads.
The mile-long stretch has small shoulders, three blind curves and 38 bus routes.
It also is the entrance to a proposed 152-acre gravel mine inside Ueland Tree Farms.
“I’m not saying they want to destroy our neighborhood. But it will,” said Jack Stanfill, a member of the Concerned Citizens of the Chico Creek Water Basin, which filed an appeal in November to stop the project.
At the third hearing on the issue at Kitsap County Court on Monday, representatives from each side addressed the disputes involving the proposal. Twenty members of the neighborhood also spoke out in opposition to the project, which includes two sand and gravel mines, three basalt quarry areas, a concrete batch plant, a railroad spur line and a topsoil production facility.
The hearing board has 60 days from this Monday to respond to the appeal.
Joel Adamson, an environmental engineer who has volunteered to help the concerned citizens for the past two months, said he is concerned the county had not done a traffic impact analysis as part of its environmental impact statement on the project.
The environmental impact statement stated the project would add 35 vehicles each hour during peak hours to the road’s traffic. When the report was released, the county required a traffic impact analysis for any project that exceeded 50 peak hour trips. That threshold has since been reduced to 10 amid concerns with various projects which persuaded the county to return to its old standard.
Adamson said the number of vehicles was only less than 50 because the report assumed all the trucks are filled to maximum capacity, and that the larger size of the trucks compared to regular vehicles were not taken into consideration when analyzing the impact on the road.
Craig Ueland, owner of Ueland Tree Farms, agreed to limit the number of vehicles to 186 trips per day, regardless of operations in the mine.
Ueland said he agreed with many of the safety concerns and agreed to pay more for the road’s renovations. However, he said many of the safety concerns were overblown because of preexisting issues on the road, adding that the 186 vehicles would only add about a 3 percent increase to the overall traffic. The road already has about 6,000 road trips a day, and has the capacity for 11,000.
“We care about the road being adequate for long-term needs,” he said.
Ueland plans to not open the mine until 8 a.m. during weekdays to avoid potential interactions with children heading to school. Though three of the bus routes begin after 8 a.m., concerned citizens board member Linda Laine said the group is still worried about the children’s safety. They contend that nine bus routes are really affected because the timing is so close to when the trucks begin rolling in.
options to the south
Stanfill said that previous studies in the area when it was Port Blakely Tree Farms, before being bought by Ueland in 2004, approved the use of some of the existing southern routes into the area for various operations.
“I don’t know why they paid again for all those studies,” Stanfill said.
Ueland said that extending any of the southern routes would involve building on steep slopes and that one of the routes goes through a watershed.
“We are worried about going through a wildlife corridor,” he said.
Laine countered that the watershed is not used as a local drinking source because of past pollution issues, and that Ueland, the former CEO of Tacoma-based Russell Investments, has enough funds to expand these roads.
“He’s got other options and we don’t,” Laine said. “He’s a multimillionaire.”
What about the water?
Holly Hunt, another concerned citizens board member, said the mine would infiltrate much of the water that naturally replenishes Dickinson Creek, home to salmon and other wildlife.
Adelson said one of the proposed quarries was being built directly next to a wetland, which would significantly reduce the amount of water flowing into it.
The proposal also misjudged the direction of the wind in the neighborhood, Hunt said, hence distorting estimates for how toxins from the gravel mine would affect local residents.
“There was a lot of digging that needed to be done around these issues,” she said. “They certainly haven’t providing enough information on them.”
Stanfill said the decrease in the quality of life in the neighborhood will slash property values.
Ueland said the supply of gravel must expand to keep up with growth in Kitsap, and that there is no scientific basis for concluding the mine would damage wetlands or other critical areas at the site.
“We are happy that they are getting a chance to speak, but it is quite rare that a single neighborhood appeals,” he said. “The Department of Ecology and other major groups have done the science, done the biology and they see nothing wrong with this.”
Adelson said the basic issues he sees with the environmental impact study from an engineering standpoint undermines the system of checks and balance in the whole county.
“If Kitsap approves a project and it’s something that wouldn’t be approved practically anywhere else in the United States, it makes me feel insecure,” he said.