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Bay watchers call foul on process to restart gravel mining

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Citizens for a Healthy Bay (CHB), the non-profit environmental group tasked with monitoring the health of Commencement Bay, wants the city to conduct a full environmental review of a plan to restart surface mining at the former Coski Sand and Gravel Mine facility on the Hylebos Waterway, particularly since plans call for 600 gravel trucks a day streaming from the waterfront location.
The mine had stopped operations about 20 years ago.
News of the permit application came during the holiday season that announced a public hearing would be held this week. Comments are being accepted only until the end of the month, something CHB director Melissa Malott said seemed far short of the “transparency” pledge by city officials, following the outcry regarding news of the now-dead methanol plant and the planned construction of a liquefied natural gas plant.
“We are pretty frustrated,” she said. “We basically think this is ridiculous. I am, honestly, pretty appalled.”
A group called Terra5 Company LLC has submitted plans to the former Coski Mine at 2500 Marine View Dr., which is located between the Hylebos Waterway and 450 feet from the residential area of Northeast Tacoma. Plans call for the removal of about 400,000 cubic yards of sand and gravel from the 17-acre site during the next decade, which would call for about 15 truckloads every hour of operation, or 600 trucks a day. Mining would reportedly take place during the day, and loading could occur both day and night. The permit documents mention two shifts, from 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.
“The mine is directly uphill from the Hylebos, a waterway with numerous environmental problems, and is only 450 feet from the closest Northeast Tacoma home,” Citizens for a Healthy Bay stated in an alert about the project. “Despite this sensitive location, the City of Tacoma is expected to issue a ‘Mitigated Determination of Non-significance,’ meaning that the project will not need to undergo a full environmental SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) review. Proceeding without a full SEPA review means two things. First, we will not have enough scientific information to know if the project is safe for the health of our environment and community. It’s difficult to know exactly what hazards the mine might create without the review, but potential air quality, noise and traffic impacts alone from mining and heavy truck usage are enough to warrant a full review. Illegal landfills have also been found on neighboring sites, making possible chemical contamination from an undocumented on-site dump another major concern. Second, the public will have far fewer opportunities to influence the city's decision. If the city grants the Conditional Use Permit, the company will be able to apply for a mining permit with the state.”
The city is conducting a SEPA review and has conducted all of its checklist except for a noise analysis, project manager Shirley Schultz stated.
“The city has made a preliminary determination that an Environmental Impact Statement is not necessary; the project as presented can be mitigated through either conditions placed on the project (through SEPA or the conditional use permit) or through compliance with adopted regulations and policies. That is not the same as exempting something SEPA reviews; it’s a different path to environmental analysis. However, the determination is preliminary, and public /agency comment can provide additional information about whether an EIS is warranted, and, if so, what the scope of that EIS would be.”
The city will accept public comments until Jan. 27, after which planners will issue a final decision on the project. Information about the project is available at healthybay.org. Permit details are available at tacomapermits.org.

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