It has been more than two years since a group of Washougal residents living near the sand and gravel operation known as the “Washougal Pit” joined together to voice alarm over unpermitted mining in the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.
“We have spent countless hours reporting violations, attending hearings and pleading with Clark County and the (Gorge Commission) to enforce the stop-work order given at least two years ago but never enforced,” Rachel Grice, one of those Washougal residents, recently wrote in a letter to other neighbors living near the gravel pit located off Southeast 356th Avenue in Washougal.
Grice wants others in the community to know the public comment period for the Washougal Pit’s latest permit application — which would continue mining operations and lead to gravel-hauling trucks going to and from the pit 340 times a day — closes this week on Thursday, July 16.
The Washougal Pit, owned by Judith Zimmerly, of Ridgefield, and currently being mined by the Vancouver-based Nutter Corporation, has long been a source of controversy to nearby neighbors and the Friends of the Columbia Gorge environmental stewardship group.
In the 1990s, the Washington Department of Ecology fined the pit’s owners and operators close to $200,000 after the mine’s settling ponds overflowed, dumping millions of gallons of sediment-laden runoff into the environmentally sensitive Gibbons Creek and Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge.