The Way It Really Is

The Way It Really Is

Rebecca Winters and her family live near the proposed quarry mine. She knows that Kiewit Infrastructure Company’s application for a special use permit contains a misinformed depiction of the area and the proposed quarry mine’s impact on it. Here is Rebecca’s wonderful description of how it really is, together with her serious concerns about having a huge, blast-oriented, industrial quarry mine operating in her neighborhood.

By Rebecca Winters, Marblemount

It would have a profoundly negative affect…

I have recently become aware of an application to re-open and expand a rock quarry on Rockport Cascade Road in Marblemount. I live just over one half of a mile from where the mine would be operating. This would have a profoundly negative affect on myself and my family, not to mention the other people in my neighborhood, as well as all of the wildlife in the area. 

 First off, to understand some of the impact of this mine, one must know what the area is like currently. This a rural neighborhood with more than thirty homes less than a mile from the proposed quarry, plus over 200 people in the greater Marblemount area. My neighborhood consists of families, couples, retirees and a few vacation type residences. 

It is common to see people out on the road…

It is common to see people out on the road walking their dog, biking, jogging, or pushing their kids in strollers. In the summer, the road often has motorcyclists, car clubs, bike groups and hikers who use Rockport Cascade road to avoid the traffic of route 20. 

This is what people picture when they picture beautiful green Washington State. 

I just went for a walk down my road, Rockport Cascade Road. I walked about one and a half miles down and back, and was out for just about an hour. On my walk I used the road as there is no shoulder or sidewalk. The only sounds I heard were the running of the water down the mountain, the birds chirping and my footsteps as my boots hit the road. To say that this is a peaceful quiet area is an understatement. This is an area where people go to “get away from it all”. They come here to go fishing, to watch eagles, to hike and camp. This is what people picture when they picture beautiful green Washington State. 

My kids have been thriving out here.

I moved to Washington over eighteen years ago and we bought our property here in Skagit County as a second home six and a half years ago. Then we moved up here permanently just over three years ago. I have two kids whom I homeschool. One who is developmentally delayed. My kids have been thriving out here. 

They love how quiet it is, and how they can hear the birds chirping and the leaves rustling as an animal is walking through our forested yard. My kids love to see the many animals that come into our yard, the deer, elk, coyotes, snakes, humming birds, eagles, as well as the other animals that we have seen on our road such as bobcats and a wolverine. 

This is also a perfect place to see the stars

This is also a perfect place to see the stars, the meteor showers and the eclipses, as there is no light pollution. My kids absolutely love it out here and they know that, yes, we have to drive to get groceries and to do other shopping, but they are fine with that since they know it means peace and quiet in their neighborhood. 

I am hoping that all of this information is nothing new to you and that you yourself have been to Marblemount, specifically Rockport Cascade Road, and have enjoyed the peace and quiet. This is why most of the people who live here have moved here. 

     Now I would like to express some concerns that I have with the Kiewit proposal, as well as ask some questions that I have that I do not feel Kiewit has addressed in their paperwork. 

     The first point I would like to address is the issue of sound.

…when there is some noise, it echoes throughout the neighborhood, and across the water.

As I have stated earlier, one of the many benefits of living in this area is how quiet it is. What I haven’t mentioned is that when there is some noise, it echoes throughout the neighborhood, and across the water. I know anytime someone in the neighborhood is using their chainsaw, generator, or tractor. Or when someone down the road is hunting. I can hear cars coming over a mile away. 

In the Sound Analysis Kiewit has filed, Table 5-1 lists the levels for equipment that will be used at this mine. There are versions of some of these machines that are specifically made to create less noise, will the lower noise versions of this equipment be used? if not, why? (Considering that in general this is a very quiet area)  

In section 3.4 of the Project proposal Kiewit lists 4-6 blasts per day for road construction, and section 3.8 lists up to 2 blasts a day for actual mining. There is no chart for the sound levels of the blasts. What levels will the blasts be? 

How will the fact that sound echos off of the mountains effect the noise levels? (When a jet airplane flies overhead it sounds like it’s going to land on my house). 

Several studies have shown the negative impact that sound has on learning, I have two kids that I homeschool. This noise will negatively impact my kids and how they learn. 

I have a son who has Down syndrome, like most kids with Down syndrome he has noise sensitivity. Not only will this noise make it harder for him to focus on his studies and learn (which is already a challenge for him) the noise will also traumatize him.

What is Kiewit’s responsibility should something go awry and the noise level would bust windows etc?

     The second point I would like to address is the amount of traffic on our road.

Rockport Cascade Road is not a heavily traveled road and it is not set up to handle large trucks. There is no shoulder area, and no sidewalk area. 

There is sometimes wildlife in the road, often early in the morning and at dusk

In the summer especially, hikers, bikers and motorcyclists use this road

Section 2.2 of the Project Description says that there will be up to 75 round trip truck loads of rocks per day, this is a huge increase in traffic and weight on the road. 

The 75 truck loads per day are not the only amount of traffic this project will add, there will also be the traffic added due to the people working at the site (35 parking spaces are planned at the site), the maintenance vehicles, the vehicles bringing fuel and supplies to the quarry. 

The traffic impact analysis says that it will add an extra 260 trips per day, but that it would not adversely affect the local area. How does adding that much traffic not affect the area?

Rockport Cascade Road is not a heavily traveled road and it is not set up to handle large trucks. There is no shoulder area, and no sidewalk area. 

Often throughout the year cars will be parked on the side of the road due to people hunting and foraging in the area. The large trucks will have to be on alert for these cars which are sometimes not fully off of the road.

There is sometimes wildlife in the road, often early in the morning and at dusk, that the truck drivers will have to watch out for. The drivers will have a hard time stopping for these animals, due to limited sight distance sometimes, as well as the quickness of the animals sprinting in front of the trucks.  

In the summer especially, hikers, bikers and motorcyclists use this road traveling in between SR530 and SR20. This will make driving more challenging for the truck drivers and the route less enjoyable for the hikers and bikers. 

This large amount of traffic, especially trucks, will add to the noise pollution and the air pollution in the area, not to mention all the way to I-5 via SR 20. 

     The third point I would like to address is the issue of pollution. 

The added amount of traffic on Rockport Cascade road will add a tremendous amount of Carbon monoxide

The amount of small particle dust in the air will negatively affect the animals and people living around the quarry, especially the people who already have health issues. 

There will be explosive residue in the area that will be washed into the ground and surrounding water ways.

There are too many ways that this mine can and will cause pollution that I will only list the biggest issues. 

The added amount of traffic on Rockport Cascade road will add a tremendous amount of Carbon monoxide put into the air. 

The vehicles and equipment being used at the quarry site will be adding carbon monoxide into the air.

Water was cited to be used to help reduce the dust in the air. There will be explosive residue in the area that will be washed into the ground and surrounding water ways. The run off from the water used at the quarry will flow into our streams and water system, which will eventually flow into the Skagit River (a protected water source) and could effect the wells of the families around the quarry site. This will negatively affect the fish and the animals that drink from the streams, and rivers. 

The amount of small particle dust in the air will negatively affect the animals and people living around the quarry, especially the people who already have health issues. 

There will be 13,000 gallons of diesel and 1.500 gallons of gas in containers on site for fueling of vehicles. Inevitably some of this will spill onto the ground. 

     The size of the existing quarry compared to the size of what is proposed. 

The original quarry size was 20 acres, the new proposed size is approximately 79 acres. That is almost four times the size of the original quarry.

The original quarry consisted of crushing rock at the bottom of the hill, the proposed quarry will require up to two explosions per day and take down part of the mountain from the top down. 

The proposed quarry requires the removal of six-hundred acres of trees.

The length of time for the proposed quarry is 100 years. That is longer than I will be around, longer than my children will be around, and possibly longer than my grandchildren will be around (should I have any).

The project description lists the possibility of expansion beyond all of this. 

     The next point I would like to address is safety.

What type of security will Kiewit have to protect the quarry? There will be 13,000 gallons of diesel fuel, 1,500 gallons of gas, and 5 buildings (320sf each) of explosives. Kiewit will be responsible for ensuring that none of that gets out into the surrounding area and into the wrong hands. 

With more people and more construction to any area brings more crime. We live in a relatively crime free neighborhood, as such, we have no local police force and we rely on the Skagit County Sheriff’s department. Will they be adding more officers?

Marblemount has one small volunteer fire department, and last I heard, the one truck that they had had a leak in it. Who will be responding if there happens to be a fire at the quarry? With all of the fuel and explosives on site what is Kiewit’s plan if a fire should occur? Our local fire department will not be able to handle that. 

As with the fire, what happens if there is some sort of injury accident?  The backup fire department is Grassmere out of Concrete, they are responsible for an area that extends all the way to New Halem. Our EMT’s and firefighters are already overextended, will Kiewit be taking these resources from local families? 

There are some extra considerations that I would like to address.

I feel that this is the first step in losing the peace and beauty in this area. 

I am asking that an Environmental Impact Study be done on this.

Light pollution. One of the wonderful things about living out here as I had mentioned earlier, is being able to look at the stars at night. This is especially important as part of my kids’ education. What type of lights and light pollution will this quarry be adding? 

Hours. The hours listed for mining is 6AM to 6PM, the hours listed for maintenance is 6PM to 12AM, then the added section that they may need to do work sometimes additional hours. The amount of noise that this quarry is going to add will be a lot, but to have the noise starting as early as 6 am and possibly go on til midnight and beyond is totally unacceptable. In most neighborhoods and even at campgrounds there are quiet hours from 10 PM til 8AM. The running hours will make it nearly impossible for anyone living close to get an appropriate amount of sleep. 

Water. Kiewit says that they will be using water to prevent some of the dust, yet they say that they will be getting rid of the one existing well. Where will they be getting their water from? Is it legal with our current water laws?

Power. There will be several buildings that will need power even if just for lighting. Where will this power come from? Will they be hooking into the power lines or will they be running off of generators? If they will be using generators that will be adding to the noise. Will the generators have down time or will they be running constantly? 

Animals. This one I could have addressed in its own section, but I am assuming that we all know that this quarry is not good for any of the animals in the area, getting rid of 600 acres of trees will only deplete their homes and food, which will have a negative impact on the entire surrounding area.

Reclamation. In section 2.4 of the project description, Kiewit states that the length of the project will be 100 years or whenever the rock is depleted. After such time the land will be returned to forestry land use. What specific steps will they be taking? How will we know this will happen? (none of us will be around) In 100 years, we have no idea what the surrounding area will be. After having blasting for 100 years, I truly feel that the surrounding area will not be kept as forest area. I feel that this is the first step in losing the peace and beauty in this area. 

EIS. I am asking that an Environmental Impact Study be done on this.

Landslides. As we just passed the fifth anniversary of the Oso Landslide, we are all more aware of how common and dangerous landslides can be. What assurance do we have that after taking all of the trees off of the mountain and then blasting that this will not cause landslides and lead to much loss of life?

Property value. I have never concerned myself with the value of my property here in Marblemount, because I have never considered selling my place. People move here and tend to stay here. I know quite a few families who have been here for 30 or 40 years. If this mine gets approved the property values will immediately go down and there may be some instances where people may have to sell their homes, and won’t be able to. Please take this into consideration. 

Who are we kidding?

As this will have an extreme impact on myself, my kids, my neighbors and the entire community of Marblemount. If this proposal gets approved and the quarry opens, my walks will become very different, according to the paperwork Kiewit has filed. Instead of listening to birds, and streams. I will be hearing heavy machinery, and possibly blasting as I am walking past. In addition to the two cars that passed me, there will be 12 large trucks as well as 4 additional service vehicles. I will not be able to walk on the road because there will be so much traffic, I will have to walk beside the road, but there is no real space to walk beside the road. In all honesty, I would not be going for a walk in those conditions anyway. Who are we kidding. 

I have many concerns and questions about the applications and plans by Kiewit. I would greatly appreciate you extending the comment period so I can further review the paperwork and plan that is proposed.

Rebecca Winters 

2 comments

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2 Comments

  • CHRISTIE FAIRCHILD
    May 7, 2019, 5:35 am

    Way to go, Rebecca! I am proud to be your friend and neighbor. We can beat this together…

    REPLY
  • Andrea Weiser
    May 11, 2019, 5:26 pm

    Great comment, Rebecca. Thanks for capturing these issues!

    REPLY

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