January 17, 2000
DUVALL--If rock was gold, the hills surrounding the Snoqualmie Valley would be the mother lode.
They are chock full of Mount Persis Andesite--high quality rock needed to fill the needs of a growing region. In decades past, it was economically unfeasible to mine. But recently, it has become so valuable that the owners of some of those hills, like the gold miners of old, are prepared to fight for the right to extract it.
But for every owner of a potential mining claim, there are hundreds of people who live nearby who are committed to stop the mines from being developed.
Last week the battle against one proposed quarry continued, in the school gym at Cherry Valley Elementary, where quarry opponents questioned state and county government staff on the status of the mine application. Logistically, it was a good location, with a clear view of the site and where the effects of the quarry on the school could be demonstrated.
The quarry site looms on the other side of Cherry Valley--a cliff with a spectacular waterfall that can be seen from the highway.
"That is what we are trying to preserve," say members of a group formed to oppose the quarry. "That and our way of life."
The battle began last March, soon after area residents learned of a proposal to mine 83.3 acres above Cherry Creek. At the meeting last week, the group, Friends of Cherry Valley, told the government representatives how much their lives would be impacted by the quarry. They said they were concerned over increased dump truck traffic, noise from blasting, and the effects to two natural resources--McCauley Falls and Cherry Creek.
Greg Kipp, Department of Development and Environmental Services (DDES) director, assured the 150 residents that the agency is "not at a decision stage yet," and emphasized that there is "a lot of analysis yet to be done, but that we would be looking at all of the aspects of the proposal."
He said that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will probably be required and it will be completed by an independent consultant. DDES representatives have made site visits and expect to be making many more before any decision making, said DDES planner Fereshteh Dehkordi.
The city of Duvall and the Duvall Chamber of Commerce have also taken a stand against the proposal. Duvall City Engineer Elizabeth Goode said the city is working with the state and county with regard to traffic concerns.
"If that many more trucks came through the city, it would be a major problem for our town," she said.
Chamber of Commerce President Joan Ramsey said the Chamber's position is that Duvall is a special and unique place to live with a setting of unmatched beauty.
"Our mission is to encourage growth ... but this quarry would take away from our quality of life," she said. "What we have could be lost forever."
But the determination of the local groups to oppose the quarry hasn't made the company change its plans one bit. The quarry applicants are banking that the need for rock and the zoning of the property will help them to prevail in the end.
Joe Jackels, coordinator for Duvall Quarry, L.L.C., said last week he expected there would be protests against the company's proposal.
"Anything different wouldn't be realistic," he said. "I expected opposition and I understand it." The company is ready for it, he said, and they expect at least five years of appeals and lawsuits.
"I understand that trucks aren't pretty," he said. "They are noisy and there are a lot of them ... but without them we wouldn't have schools, parks, and houses. Everyone says 'not in my backyard,' but if the rock wasn't close by, the cost of transportation would make it unaffordable. Transportation is a high budget item."
He said 16 tons of rock (one truck and trailer load) is used by every man, woman, and child in the county per year. "This high quality of rock will save the taxpayers a lot of money," he said.
In answer to concerns about the noise from blasting, he said the company will be inviting some of the residents to attend a blasting demonstration. "Tests have shown that the noise will be no louder than a basketball bouncing, plus we will only be blasting one day a week at a specific time."
As far as the waterfall goes, he said, it will not disappear. "We are going to expose it, so it can really be seen," he said. "Not for the people here today, but for their kids and grandkids. Someday it will be a landmark ... but some people just can't see beyond today. That is why we count on our politicians to have foresight. A lot of people say this should be a park instead of a quarry. I agree, but you have to be willing to put the money out. Everyone wants beauty, but they don't want to pay the price."