A Washougal family is speaking out against a Kelso company’s plan to construct a quarry near their home in rural Skamania County.
JL Storedahl and Sons, a Kelso-based aggregate producer, has applied for a license to mine and drill, blast, load, haul, crush, screen and stockpile aggregate on a site approximately 10.5 miles northeast of Washougal, according to the Skamania County’s website on the mining proposal.
Aurora, Dwight and Amy Hovland have lived on Mabee Mines Road near the proposed site since 2014. The Hovlands recently wrote a letter to Skamania County community development director Alan Peters telling county officials they “would be directly impacted in many negative ways were the quarry application approved.”
“This is a very special place to each of us,” the Hovlands state in their letter to county official staff. “We highly value the unique beauty, solitude and privacy of our neighborhood, and as local small businesses owners, we appreciate the respite we receive from the hustle and bustle of town. It is truly a value one cannot put a price upon, and we are shocked to hear of and vehemently oppose the applicant’s proposed quarry and all it entails.”
The proposed permit boundary for the 273-acre site includes 180 acres for mineral extraction and other mining purposes, according to the website, which also states the mining is anticipated to occur over the next 30 to 40 years and will involve the removal of approximately 24 million cubic yards of material.
The Hovlands said they believe the proposal threatents the area’s “environment, safety, homes and rich quality of life.”
“To think our natural water sources, established gardens and livestock we rely upon for a sustainable rural lifestyle will certainly be contaminated and polluted is tragic,” they state in their letter. “Many of our properties are in the hands of multi-generation owners, and our fellow neighbors are equally pained over the potential loss of value and of being forced by the applicant to shatter our quiet rural community and memories with operational noise, pollution and disruption. Our neighborhood was not structured to implement such an operation with homes so close to the proposed site and a valley where noise travels freely.
“Negative effects of noise, whether intermittent or continuous, on human and other animal health have been well-documented. These negative effects include physical (cardiovascular and stress-induced hormone responses) and mental/emotional (a wide range, including anxiety, anger over unwanted noise, and depression). The noise would be unacceptable for this rural community.”
The Hovlands also objected to the “enormous negative impact on traffic and safety from the added traffic,” which would “ruin (their) peaceful neighborhood” and congest rural roads and state Highway 14.
“Mabee Mines Road in particular has a number of hills and curves. Many residents, including us, have driveways with limited visibility,” they state in their letter. “Extreme weather conditions often cause the roads to become treacherous. Existing use by logging trucks already creates dangerous conditions for walkers, children waiting for the school bus, domestic pets, cars entering and exiting driveways/side roads, horseback riders, off-road vehicles, farm equipment, cyclists and wildlife. This will be exacerbated as we will be forced to contend with 500 rock-laden dump trucks per day over the next three to four decades. Our roads are simply incapable of meeting the proposed capacity, and the amount of waste and residue that will be left on our local roads will cause damage to residents cars, chips in windshields and leave our neighborhood roads dirty, dusty and destroyed.”
Additionally, the Hovlands contend local wildlife such as elk, deer, bear, eagles, falcons, hawks, owls, bobcats and mountain lions will be threatened by pollution and traffic hazards related to the quarry operations.
“Due to the destruction and disruption of their natural environment in such a location as ours, displacement of wildlife results in an influx of cougars, bobcats and bears anytime there’s a large operation,” they stated. “As the proposed site borders protected wildlife breeding zones, national scenic areas, and spawning streams, crosses creeks that lead to Washougal River and Columbia River tributaries, and includes forests, water, and local wildlife habitat, it seems ironic that this proposal has gotten this far, and we are curious to know how such an incomplete proposal can be reconciled.”
The Hovlands also said they are concerned about a lack of social impact study and the possibility of unfunded liability, noting that “the applicant is well known for violations and failing to comply in many areas” and that “prior attempts by the applicant to mine locally on Livingston Mountain were ruled inappropriate for similar reasons.”
“In light of these unanswered objections to the proposed quarry, it should not be allowed to proceed,” they concluded in their letter to Skamania County staff. “Our Washougal and Skamania County communities envision a bright future, a future of environmentally friendly and sustainable developments throughout our region. This will benefit the whole community and beyond, bringing employment and opportunities. We must preserve our rural neighborhood and pass it onto the next generation in the beautiful state in which we found it — a beautiful place we have had the good fortune to share and call home.”
Storedahl and Sons is applying for a conditional use permit, which can only be approved if Skamania County’s hearings examiner determines the proposed use is compatible with permitted and existing uses in the specific area.
First, the project must be reviewed under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), a state policy that requires state and local agencies to consider the likely environmental consequences of governmental decisions, including decisions on land use permits.
According to the Skamania County website on the project, the county has already, “as part of its SEPA review … determined that the proposal has probable significant adverse impacts,” adding that the county is preparing an environmental impact statement and “will consider all comments received and determine the scope of review for the environmental analysis.”
Skamania County ended the first public comment period on Jan. 7, but stated that it will offer a second period “sometime in 2022” after the environmental impact statement is made available for public review. The conditional use permitting processes will begin after the SEPA review, and “public comments will be accepted by the hearing examiner in writing or orally at a public hearing,” according to the county’s website.
Storedahl and Sons employees did not respond to The Post-Record’s requests for comment and The Post-Record was unable to reach Skamania County staff in time for this newspaper’s print deadline. For more information about the proposal, visit skamaniacounty.org/departments-offices/community-development/storedahl-quarry.