News From Your Friends

Mining in Clark County – March 2023

March 18, 2023 in Mining, Position Statements & Policy Recommendations, Rivers, Lakes & Aquifers, Wildlife Habitats

Washougal Pit

Cathy Morton, Steigerwald Refuge Steward

The Washougal Pit has been the object of debate for years. Currently, owner Judith Zimmerly and operator Nutter Corp, are seeking permits from Clark County land use to conduct surface mining and material processing. This is being reviewed by the county. This location is within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area as well as close proximity to the Steigerwald Refuge. The Friends of the Columbia River Gorge and residents near the mine are involved in a lawsuit to stop this proposed mining.

The concerns are breathtaking.

Water quality and habitat could be severely impacted by drainage from the mine activity. Runoff and spillage would carry heavy sand and silt into Gibbons Creek and then directly into Steigerwald refuge smothering salmon and trout habitat. It would also raise the temperature of the water leading to further environmental destruction.

Noise level from the proposed operation has been studied. The number of large trucks, their size, the proximity to neighborhoods has also been demonstrated by experts as above allowed levels.

Steigerwald has undergone an extensive, award winning restoration the past couple of years. This area also incorporates one of the last stands of white oak which sits directly next to the pit. Recovery of salmon after the completion of the restoration work has been already deemed a success as there has been salmon spawning activity in Gibbons Creek for the first time in decades.

Attorney for Friends of the Columbia River Gorge brought in expert testimony at the hearing on March 1. The focus was on noise levels and safe ground water protection for the Gibbons Creek and Steigerwald refuge. Residents of the nearby neighborhood also spoke up as well as community activists.
Next steps: The hearings examiner is looking to have closing arguments from both sides (applicant and Friends of the Columbia River Gorge) by April 12. No date for a decision yet. All who testified will get a copy. Staff contact is Joe Daviau

Chelatchie Mine

In 2022 there  was a request to change the zoning in the Chelatchie area from forest 80 to a surface mining overlay. The area contains the headwaters of Cedar Creek, where many fish preservation projects have been installed. Cedar Creek is a spawning area for salmonids and other types of fish, many of which are endangered. Any interruption of the quantity and quality of Cedar Creek waters will be a serious impediment to the habitats there.

Friends of Clark County appealed the mining overlay designation through our attorney David McDonald, to the WA State Growth Management Hearings Board. We are awaiting their decision now, expected by March 22nd.

Cardai Hills Mining Overlay Request 

The people who live in the Cardai Hill neighborhood were alarmed to see notices for a mining proposal that was next to some of their properties going to the Planning Commission in two weeks. They frantically scrambled to revive their neighborhood association, which had been disbanded several years ago, and many wrote to the Planning Commission members and county councilors objecting to what would be a very intrusive operation. They were assisted by some other neighborhood association members and staff, and are now recognized and active.

It is always a benefit to have a neighborhood association established with the county so they can have a newsletter published and mailed by the county to reach every residence in that area. Being ready to deal with a new development by using the tools supplied by the county neighborhood outreach department is a huge asset when working to resolve problems that will affect the neighborhood.

This proposal was denied by the Planning Commission in a 3 to 2 vote. Don’t breathe easy though. Planning Commissions have been overridden before, and it is our experience that mining companies do not give up easily.


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