Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter
Half-Baked Coastal Proposals
Kiewit Sixes River Mega Quarry: New and Alarming Information  
Kiewit Edson Creek Quarry Proposal. Courtesy Curry County
The applicant has the final opportunity for rebuttal during local land use hearings, after all public comment is closed. So after the June 20th hearing on the proposed Kiewit mega quarry on the Sixes River watershed, Kiewit had the final opportunity to reply to and rebut the public testimony.

Instead, the company submitted a 123-page document containing much new information: their application to the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries for an operating permit, including maps showing the enormous "undersize jetty stone" stockpile, the location of settling ponds, and processing areas; the reclamation plan; a change to the haul route to be used down to Sixes River Road; and a stormwater management plan that includes more information about settling ponds, among other things. This plan also casually mentions the life of the quarry to be "25-50 years or until the resource is exhausted" - potentially 25 years longer than the original application materials described. Confusingly, Kiewit also submitted "empty" materials: the blank application form for the Army Corps of Engineers and for the Department of Environmental Quality, for example.

This avalanche of new information at the last minute - none of which the public had seen - triggered a reopening of the record by Curry County for another seven days, so the public could provide testimony on the new materials. Curry County planning commission will make a final decision, probably at its next meeting, after reviewing the additional public testimony.

The new information makes it clear how highly damaging this mega quarry would be to the region. Perched high in the Sixes River watershed, the vast active mine and constant deep excavation - performed by regular blasting - for up to half a century would permanently destroy some of the most sensitive upper headwaters of Edson Creek, and leave a moonscape highly resistant to serious reclamation. Reclamation does not consist of dumping stockpiled topsoil on top of deeply gouged mining scars filled with unusable waste rock, and it is willful blindness to think it does.

This project has scores of unanswered questions, including local employment figures and economic impact of so damaging a quarry; the traffic impacts of gigantic equipment and fuel transport activity on small rural roads; the enormous waste rock stockpiles and the use (or non-use) of so much material, most of which will probably be left on site. Oregon Coast Alliance continues to participate in the local hearings, and will bring forward the many hidden questions Kiewit so far has failed to answer.

Instream Gravel Mining on the Pistol: More Information But Nothing New  
Mouth of the Pistol River, Oregon. Courtesy of Michelle Kinsey Bruns/Wikimedia
Ronald Adams, the applicant for a permit to undertake instream gravel mining on the Pistol River, submitted a final applicant's testimony after the record closed to the public, as applicants are allowed to do. It was very short, but even so he brought forward new information the public had not seen.

Adams described the method of gravel removal he proposed to use: bar scalping - that is, scraping the gravel off the top of the bar. His submittal is once again very vague, a temporary and poorly described possible "fix" for this highly eroded stretch of the Pistol. Adams wrote, "I am proposing to remove the gravel from this site by scalping the river bar that is up away from the river. It is new gravel to the site, which means, it will be free of vegetation. I am proposing to scalp it, which will leave a smooth area without holes. When the next high water period comes the gravel I take should be replaced. At no time will I be anywhere near the water...If you deny this permit, you will only be contribute [sic] to the paper shuffle and hoping it will fix itself."

Any proposal to mine from an instream gravel bar needs to be accompanied by studies that investigate the current state of the river, provide a gravel budget and analyze how the gravel removal will change the river's flow and sedimentation, as well as salmon habitat. Adams provides none of these.

In this letter, Adams stated, "I am not a gravel company if this permit is granted I will need to find a buyer for the gravel. I have not talked to anyone about selling gravel." Adams had to pay a hefty application fee, and is now embroiled in public controversy. Has he really not spoken to anyone about purchasing the gravel? If not, perhaps he should, and make the complete plan public, so everyone can see how this proposal will affect the Pistol, its fish, and the landscape many rural residents call home.

This lower stretch of river, by all accounts, is heavily abraded and eroded. It needs a systemic restoration project, a dedicated collaboration between all landowners and users of the watershed - not a quick fix gravel removal that will further stress the river, and cause unanticipated headaches for the many people who rely on its waters. 
Gearhart's Tree-Trimming on the Dunes for Homeowner Views  
Heavily Trimmed Tree on City of Gearhart Park Lands. Courtesy ORCA
The city of Gearhart owns quite a lot of parkland, much of it the low swelling dunes between the town and the sea. These dunes, covered with beach grass and, often, pines or spruces, are beautiful and a signature aspect of Gearhart. But they also interfere with the views of some landowners, and this has led to a controversy in the town.

Gearhart recently added new ordinance language to its Beaches and Dunes Overlay Zone allowing "pruning, trimming and removal" of vegetation and trees. There are several allowable grounds, including public safety, fire risk and elimination of diseased or dead vegetation. But one of the allowable reasons is "managing views," allowing the homeowner to cut their own trees - but also the City trees, with a permit from the city.

This is where the controversy begins, as many of the taller trees are on the city parkland, and it is these the owners wish to trim or cut down. The city has been granting permits for these activities more than generously, leading to butchered trees and stumps on city land.

Most disturbing about the process thus far is that Gearhart has no Parks Master Plan, which would curb over-zealous tree-cutting or trimming on city land. Nor is there a parks master planning process in the works. Oregon Coast Alliance urges Gearhart to begin the public processes for a Parks master plan before the simmering controversy over tree "management" for the sake of homeowner views erupts into full scale dispute over how the city's lands - which belong to all residents - should be managed. 
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