County reviews pit proposal
By Soren Velice
Four miles outside Blaine on H Street Road, an almost bare 61-acre tract awaits its fate.
Its future, if Boundary Industries gets its way, is to be a gravel pit. If some residents around the property on both sides of the border get their way, however, it will remain untouched by loaders, dumptrucks or a rock crusher.
According to the permit application submitted by Boundary Industries co-owner Ron Kilmer, the site contains 850,000 cubic yards of gravel, which Boundary plans to extract at the rate of 85,000 yards per year with 14 truckloads per day. The company plans to excavate to less than 20 feet.
When Kilmer applied for a permit to mine the property for gravel last year, Whatcom Countys planning services department sent letters to residents within 1,000 feet of the proposed pit to gather their input. Of 11 adjoining residents on the U.S. side, three responded within the prescribed 15 days, while 60 of the 64 adjacent Canadian property owners responded.
Most responses mention potential effects on the underlying aquifer as a key concern. On both sides, the water issue is the biggest, Canadian homeowner Terry Charles said. Theres also a noise issue and a dust issue; these things are going to affect my life and property values here.
Dolores Jordan, a U.S. resident, is also concerned with water quality. Water quality is extremely important to us, she said. Were on a well here; how are we going to change that fact if theyre digging and they change the water table?
Also concerned with water quality is the Township of Langley. Our concern is that whatever is done is done in such a way that it doesnt result in a negative impact to the groundwater, because we drink a fair amount of it, township engineer Doug Erickson said. We dont have a municipal water system in the area, so people have wells. Our township put in a prohibition on gravel mining to protect our water resources, so as long as we are protected, our concerns are satisfied.
Kilmer, however, said the water table should be unaffected by the pit. Where were at, the waters over 200 feet deep, he said. Were only going 20 feet; theres no water were going to tamper with.
Pegasus Researching Corporation, the firm hired by Boundary to gather environmental data, said water quality shouldnt be compromised by the pit. Were not on any aquifer recharge area, Pegasus wetland consultant Elaine Gold said. Were not near any of the wells. Regarding wetlands, she said they would be protected as well. Weve done our best to be as careful as we can, she said. Were putting in 200-foot buffers.
She also said the company will install silt fences to prevent dirt from choking existing wetlands and also plans to build a wetland next to one the Department of Transportation built to mitigate effects of its gravel mining.
Gold also said the project will move in five-acre phases, with each area to be reclaimed as Boundary moves equipment to the next phase.
County planner Doug Goldthorpe said all sides still have more work to do before the application would be approved. The process is still ongoing, he said. We still have to receive more comments from the neighbors; it may require more study from the applicants depending on reviews by different agencies and neighbors. He said depending on those responses, he may require a study of effects on water resources in the area. I dont want to second-guess myself, but there is a possibility that a groundwater assessment might be necessary, he said. He added a traffic analysis and a critical areas study to examine effects on wetlands and streams will be required for the permit.