Water more precious than gravel?

by Barbara Mondrow

This article was originally published in July 2001

proposed mine site near North Bend.

A computer-generated model of the proposed mine site near North Bend.

If you live in the Puget Sound region, a gravel mine proposed for Grouse Ridge, near North Bend, threatens your future water supply. Surprised?

Through a series of deft political moves, Weyerhaeuser, the landowner, set in motion a proposed gravel mine (size of downtown Seattle) to be positioned right at our beautiful gateway to the Cascade Mountains. This proposed mine will be directly over the North Bend Aquifer, our region’s largest, purest aquifer. Why excavate there? Because a huge gravel deposit with easy I-90 access offers low extraction and transportation costs. But it also serves as nature’s protection for the clean water we’ll soon need.

Weyerhaeuser chose Cadman as its mining contractor. This company accidentally breached the Monroe aquifer in 1992. Surrounding residents’ wells ran dry.

Mining and asphalt and concrete plants are planned over the aquifer. A two mile conveyor belt will zigzag down the ridge in plain view, bringing gravel to 450 trucks coming and going throughout the day along I-90 to Seattle. Annually, they’ll carry 1.5 million tons of gravel for 25 years minimum.

According to the Environmental Impact Statement, trucks and heavy equipment with their related fuels, leaks, and chemicals, will operate within 15 vertical feet of the aquifer until winter, at which time the water table will rise to greet them at surface level! How is it that all this was put together without attracting more attention?

The Cascade Gateway Foundation (CGF), a non-profit, grassroots organization of volunteers, has fought this plan for more than three years, urging mining be restricted to the much safer upper site containing 95 percent of the gravel sought.

Other concerns include air pollution, noise, nearby schools, traffic congestion, wildlife, and using “biosolids” (soil amended with sewer sludge) as a fertilizer on the area to be re-forested over the aquifer.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement will be out soon, possibly in July, at which time CGF must act quickly, within six months, to contest it in court (the public comment period is over). CGF is confident its court case can protect the aquifer and is currently raising a legal defense fund to do so.

Opposition has been financed by local families. It’s not too late to stop this mine!

Cheap gravel is not worth risking your water.

For more information
See www.cascadegateway.org or call 425-831-1606, Cascade Gateway Foundation, PO Box 1906, North Bend, WA 98045.

Also in this issue

Letters to the editor, July 2001

More on value of membership, To all employees of PCC

Your co-op, July 2001

40th anniversary next month, New Board begins to meet, Book review