By Julie McCormick
For Peninsula Daily News
Want more top stories? Sign up here for daily or weekly newsletters with our top news.
For Peninsula Daily News
PORT LUDLOW -- Jefferson County planning officials and their attorney will meet Friday with the attorney for Iron Mountain LLC, the Bothell-based firm that wants to develop a new 142-acre quarry on Pope Resources land near Port Ludlow.
And today, the Port Ludlow Village Council will hold a meeting of its own at 3 p.m. at the Beach Club, 121 Marina View Drive, to update residents on the current status of what is called the New Shine Quarry, which is next to the 40-acre Shine quarry operated by a different company.
The council has tried to weigh in on the proposed new rock mining operation, which some believe poses a potential hazard to the reliability of the community's water supply, the underlying aquifer that supplies the community's three wells.
The quarry approval process has been going on since 2007, complicated by the company's successful appeal of the need for a conditional use permit, the county's challenge to a hearing examiner's recommendation of approval, replacement of a judge on the case and, finally, a lawsuit by the company against the county over its declaration of significance.
The county's declaration would have triggered an independent environmental impact statement, paid for by the company, which says it has already spend $500,000 on documentation and studies.
Instead, it triggered a lawsuit by Iron Mountain, and an eventual finding by Judge Anna Laurie that the county had not devoted enough analysis nor sufficiently documented the time it claimed it spent on analyzing the company's application for a stormwater permit.
Dale Johnson, attorney for Iron Mountain, said last week he could not comment without the approval of his client, and had not responded by the end of the business day on Friday.
The county recently lost a bid to have the state Court of Appeals review Laurie's decision, and the lawsuit is essentially on hold until the county's renewed environmental review is completed.
The judge hasn't made any decisions on the merit or substance of the company's lawsuit, said David Alvarez, chief civil attorney for the county, and how it goes forward will likely depend on the outcome of the county's review.
The county's meeting is among the steps it's taking to comply with Laurie's decision in October, which essentially sent it back to the drawing boards on its environmental review of the project.
"Per Judge Laurie's decision, we're providing more written analysis and documenting our review," said Al Scalf, director of the Department of Community Development.
Scalf defended his department's previous handling of the application, and said the lack of documentation for what he said was a thorough previous review was standard procedure, an effort to complete review in short timeline.
"We don't typically load the record with all kinds of analysis up front," he said.
The company's proposal includes mining in some of the 12 wetland and wetland buffers areas on the property, and the landowner Pope has proposed compensation by deeding over 55 acres of other property it owns along Shine Creek.
"There may be some additional studies needed and some additional analysis," Scalf said, maybe even additional mitigation.
The stormwater permit, which is the focus for all this, does not require a public hearing.
A conditional use permit, the need for which was rejected by Jefferson County Superior Court Judge Craddock Verser, would have demanded a public process.
Two adverse decisions by Verser led the county to seek a new judge. Laurie, a visiting judge from Kitsap County, was assigned the case.
More public comment will likely be solicited once the environmental determination is made, Scalf said, but there's no schedule for it to conclude.
The county permit process is not the only hurdle the company must jump. The rock quarry operation will also need to face state scrutiny for mining reclamation, water and air quality.
And the Port Ludlow Village Council is gearing up for the long haul.
It has an appeal pending before the state Court of Appeals challenging Laurie's decision to deny them standing in the lawsuit.
And it has a new report on the issues at stake to distribute at today's meeting, at which they will also solicit donations from residents to help defray their costs.
"We're very concerned about the whole situation. . . . and it seems the quarry has got considerable momentum behind it at the moment," said Tony Simpson, who heads up the council committee tracking the quarry.
Julie McCormick is a freelance writer and photographer living in Port Townsend. Phone her at 360-385-4645 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.