Northwest NEWS

April 12, 1999

Front Page

Irate neighbors pledge to oppose gravel pit

by Lisa Allen, Valley View editor

   DUVALL--It may be called a "neighborhood-friendly quarry" by the owners, but the neighbors of the proposed Duvall Rock Quarry planned for about two miles north of town claim it will be anything but friendly. They say the quarry will produce dust, traffic, noise, cause environmental damage, and could even affect their water wells.

   But the mine owners, Seattle General Corporation (SGC), dispute those contentions, saying all the problems community members are worrying about can and will be mitigated, and when the property is reclaimed, it will be in a usable form by the community.

   The 83.3-acre proposed gravel mine is part of a 92-acre site that was purchased in 1963 by Ed Hayes of Edmonds, who owns SGC. The plan states that when the mine is worked out, the land will be converted to parks and ballfields.

   "Rock today, recreation tomorrow," the proposal says. But that will be 60 years down the road, and after the spectacularly beautiful cliffside above Cherry Creek is moved back 800 feet.

   And in the meantime, the proposal says, 182 truck trips are expected in and out of the mine daily, moving 500,000 tons of material per year by the year 2003.

   "This will be going on for 60 to 80 years," said resident Clarise Mahler at a meeting last week of the Cherry Valley Neighbors, a community group that has banded together to fight the quarry proposal.

   Mahler, one of the group organizers, said she had been completely unaware of the proposal until representatives from DDES (King County Department of Developmental and Environmental Services) showed up to check on access to the site and told her about the plans for the mine.

   Helen Lashway, another group organizer, said the mine operators plan to start at the top of the hill, using a narrow road that is frequented by children and horseback riders. "It's terrible to think they will be using that road with that type of equipment," she said.

   Lashway noted that there are wetlands at the top and bottom of the hill and that Hanstead Creek, originating at the top, becomes McCauley Falls, then turns back into Hanstead Creek which flows into Cherry Creek. McCauley Falls can be easily seen to the east by motorists traveling on SR-203 going north from Duvall towards Monroe. In the proposal, it is also called Dry Falls.

   The plan states that studies indicate that McCauley Falls appears to gain most of its water from rainfall rather than from under the ground and that mining would require rerouting of the falls. "Reclamation calls for using this feature to create a dramatic scene with the falls and high walls," the proposal states.

   However, many members of the Cherry Valley Neighbors insisted at the meeting that they have never seen the falls go dry.

   Lashway added that Cherry Creek is a salmonid stream and at the back of the fields is a wild bird sanctuary. "The whole site is surrounded by rural residences and farmlands," she said. "Some homes border the site. Noise echoes across the valley. There is no place less suitable for a quarry."

   Jim Eldridge, president of Novelty Neighbors, a group that has been fighting another proposed gravel mine south of Duvall for the last two and a half years, told the group that they should plan for a "long, drawn-out process."

   But, he said, "we are sharing a common goal, which is a group of independent landowners that are focusing on the health and well-being of the community."

   Eldridge said the group needs to focus on potential legal issues relating to the county's comprehensive plan and its compliance with the state's Growth Management Act. "The King County Code says mining is incompatible within one-quarter mile of an established residence," he said. "This is a powerful legal tool. This entire site is within one-quarter mile of established residences."

   He noted that it is important to let DDES know that policies should not be waived for an individual. "There are sensitive areas here, wetlands, and steep slopes," he said. "The county must comply with the sensitive areas ordinances. DDES must not take this watershed lightly."

   Eldridge told the group they needed to be able to respond in a timely fashion to legal and environmental issues.

   Steve Nichols, who lives adjacent to the proposed mine, said he was concerned over the effect the mine could have on the aquifer. "We don't know until they start digging what will happen," he said. "If a well dries up, it poses an interesting issue. The very same thing happened when Cadman blasted into an aquifer and drained it. The well levels there (near Monroe) are still not up to par."

   Aesthetic impacts and the affect on property values also cannot be ignored, he said. "Anyone with a view of the Valley will be impacted visually by this," he said.

   But Merle Ash, of Land Technologies, Inc. of Arlington, who wrote part of the proposal, countered in a separate interview that much of the operation will be hidden from view. "They won't see it at all from above," he said.

   Indeed, the proposal states that visible exposure to the west will be limited because progression of the mine will take place behind an existing slope that would "provide a 280-foot high screen."

   Ash also stated that due to the hydrology in the area, there wouldn't be the risk of the loss of the aquifer. He did say the traffic on the Woodinville-Duvall Bridge is a concern, but that some of the truck traffic will be replacing that which would otherwise come from Cadman.

   The quarry proposal, available at Duvall City Hall, also noted that a traffic study claimed that "eastbound traffic on the Woodinville-Duvall Road approaching the SR-203 intersection utilizes the wide pavement areas to effectively operate as a two-lane approach," an observation that can no doubt be challenged by anyone who has been stuck behind more than one car at that intersection.

   Responding to that, Ash said he would recheck that part of the traffic study. At any rate, he said, the property is zoned for mining and will most likely end up being a quarry no matter how much the neighbors oppose it.

   "We need the material for our basic standard of living," he said. "The mineral is too valuable not to use. We want to listen objectively to people's concerns, but I think instead of spending money on lawyers, we could sit down together and work out a plan ... that money would be better spent on the neighborhood."

   Another meeting of the Cherry Valley Neighbors is set for April 29, 7 p.m., in the Duvall Library.