Lummi Island Quarry EXPANSION 2011

 

The Lummi Island quarry is located on the east side of Lummi Mountain and is approximately ¼ mile south of the Lummi Island Scenic Estates (LISE)(see the aerial photograph).  The close proximity of these two conflicting activities has been problematic, particularly in the last 15 years.  The operation and principal ownership of this quarry was taken over by Aggregates West, Inc. in 2004-2005.  Since then the mining activity has increased: a new permit was granted to mine the remaining 9 acres of the existing 20 acre Mineral Resource Land  (MRL) and several changes were made to the operational infrastructure (a new loading facility was constructed, the mining equipment was enhanced, the crushing and sorting facility was increased, and new access roads were built).  With the increased capacity, the resource within the existing MRL is rapidly being excavated.  Most islanders have not seen this quarry simply because of its location.  However, Bellingham residents along Chuckanut Drive, within Fairhaven, and along State Street to Boulevard Park can easily make out the quarry in the morning light.  Anyone sailing out of Bellingham Bay toward Elisa Island or Hales Passage can get a clear view of the forest clearing and the current ~20-acre pit.

 

This is a critical time for the rock quarry, the residents of Lummi Island, and Whatcom County generally.  Because the operators are approaching the end of the existing permit, they have applied for a zoning change to create a 27.5-acre MRL overlay on the existing Rural Forestry zone just south of the current operations.  If successful, they will surely apply for a mining permit to expand the quarry, doubling the size of the current pit.  This activity will impact the environment of Lummi Mountain and Hales Passage, the tourist industry of Whatcom County, and the residents of Lummi Island for years to come, If they are not successful, then the life of this quarry will be limited to a few more years with the existing permit. 

 

Impact

 

The positive aspects of this proposed expansion include a continuing source of employment for an estimated 6-10 people related directly to the quarry; a continuing source of rock products for the county with the largest portion servicing the entire Puget Sound area; and a viable corporation in the county. The time frame for the positive effects will be approximately two decades.

 

The negative aspects of this expansion begin with the increasing environmental degradation of the habitats on Lummi Island and in Hales Passage, the direct devaluation of the tourist experience with the associated financial impact, the decrease in property values and associated tax revenue of the residential community (LISE) located within a ¼ mile of the quarry, and the continued decrease in quality of life for those residents near the quarry.  These effects will be long lasting with the topographic and environmental aspects lasting well beyond the life of the active quarry.  Reclamation will take decades more and will never return the land to it’s initial state.       

 

The Process

 

There are several more steps in the county review of this proposal.  The Planning Department has completed their review of the environmental impact (SEPA) of this zoning proposal.  They issued a “determination of non-significance (DNS)” on September 22, 2011.  The Lummi Island Conservancy appealed this decision and a hearing for this appeal will be held later this fall or early spring.  Once the SEPA is resolved, the Planning Department will submit a recommendation to the Planning Commission (Spring, 2012).  This commission will review the proposal and, after a public hearing, will submit a recommendation to the County Council.  The council will make the final decision (Summer, 2012).  While the zoning change does not permit the quarry to mine, it establishes the probable land use and sets the stage for the permit application.  In this case, that permit application will be quickly submitted.

 

Your Input

 

All residents are encouraged to consider the idea of a 47-acre quarry pit on the southeast side of the island.  When fully developed, the west wall of this proposed quarry will be an exposed rock face 300-350 feet high that will extend approximately 1400 feet in a north-south direction.  A proposed 200-foot wide buffer along the shoreline will rise to a maximum of 100 feet.  In other words, the west wall will be clearly visible from the water of Hales Passage and Bellingham Bay, from Boulevard Park in Bellingham, and will be more apparent as you come and go at Gooseberry Point.

 

Your concern about this issue should be forwarded to:

 

                        Mr. Joshua Fleischman

                        Whatcom County Planning & Development Services

                        5280 Northwest Drive

                        Bellingham, WA    98226-9097

                        Ph# 360-676-6907

                        Jfleisch@co.whatcom.wa.us

 

After he makes his recommendation to the Planning Commission, then comments should be directed to members of that commission.  As indicated previously, there will be a public meeting of the commission to permit public input.  After the Planning Commission makes their recommendation, this proposal will be in the hands of the County Council and obviously comments should be directed to them.

 

A Brief History of the Lummi Island Quarry at Smuggler’s Cove

 

1.               1933-1934 during the Depression a small quarry was operated for 4 months at this sight to provide rock for a breakwater in Bellingham Bay.

2.               1940-1950’s the Aiston Family bought a ~100-acre property that included this small inactive, overgrown quarry. .  From their personal reflections, they apparently thought that the quarry had been in Inati Bay.

3.               ~1958 the Neidhamer family purchased the property. 

4.               1959-1963 Lummi Island Scenic Estates (LISE) was platted, initial stages of the water system approved and installed, road construction was begun.

5.               1964 Neidhamer family grant a lease to a small company to begin quarrying in a “ten acre parcel”

6.               1964-1990’s intermittent quarry activity was permitted for “nonconforming” use of the land.

7.               ~1993 Ace Rock Inc obtains lease and develops plans to significantly expand operations.  This led to a confrontation with LISE and the island community in 1996 with a “stop work” order until boundary issues were resolved.

8.               1997 county zones 20-acre parcel as MRL with mining to continue in the same “10-acre” parcel.

9.               Ace Rock Inc purchases the Neidhamer property for $1.25 million

10.            2004 Aggregates West becomes the operating partner in quarry

11.            2006-2007 quarry operators received a new permit to mine the remaining 9 acres of the 20-acre MRL.

12.            2010 Lummi Rock (of Aggregates West Inc.) applies for rezoning of 27.5 acres just south of existing quarry.

 

It took the earlier miners 42 years to mine out the initial “10 acres”.  The current operators will take ~6 years to mine the remaining portion of the 20-acre MRL.  These operators are aggressive and efficient miners.  It is estimated that it will take them 20-25 years to mine out this new parcel.

 

Submitted by Quarry Committee Chair, Kent Nielsen lummikent@yahoo.com