After more than 10 years of intensive environmental study and review, six local, state and federal agencies have issued nine permits or letters of concurrence with findings that the proposed resumption mining and barge loading at Glacier Northwest’s Maury Island site will not harm the environment, endangered species, other fish, or their habitat.
Agencies who have issued permits or letters of approval:
- King County
- Washington State Department of Ecology
- Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- National Marine Fisheries Service
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Permits and letters of approval that have been issued:
- Shoreline Substantial Development Permit from King County
- Shoreline Conditional Use Permit from King County
- Building Permit from King County
- Hydraulic Project Approval from the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife
- Coastal Zone Management Certification from the Washington State Department of Ecology
- Water Quality Certification from the Washington State Department of Ecology
- A determination by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the project is not a danger to endangered species and their critical habitat
- A letter of concurrence with the Corps' determination from the National Marine Fisheries Service
- A letter of concurrence with the Corps' determination from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Washington State Shoreline Hearing Board reviewed the project proposal and concluded that it was consistent with both King County Shoreline regulations and the State Shoreline Management Act. The Washington State Court of Appeals ruled in a unanimous decision that the Hearing Board's decision was correct.
On January 8, 2008, a five-justice panel of the Washington State Supreme Court denied without comment an appeal of the lower court decisions, in essence upholding the prior opinions issued by the Appeals Court and Shoreline Hearings Board.
Throughout this process, many agencies have weighed the scientific studies and arguments for and against the proposed increase in mining at the Maury Island site within the framework of local, state and federal environmental protection and growth management laws. In every case they have determined that the project can go forward.
The truth about the proposed increase in mining at our Maury Island site is that:
- Any potential negative effect on the environment will be avoided by implementing protection measures,
- Barging sand and gravel from a new dock at Maury Island will not harm Puget Sound because the proposed dock complies with all our environmental laws,
- Barging sand and gravel from Maury Island will decrease vessel traffic through primary Orca habitat in Haro Strait and will in no way harm protected salmon,
- Barging sand and gravel from Maury Island will decrease vehicle traffic congestion on our roadways and the associated greenhouse gas emissions,
- The project will provide an affordable source of materials for sediment cleanup and habitat restoration projects around Puget Sound,
- Because an average barge carries about as much sand and gravel as 186 trailer trucks, barging keeps heavy trucks off the region's roads, reducing traffic congestion, transportation-related construction costs, and costly road repairs, saving taxpayer dollars for construction and maintenance projects vital to the region,
The Maury Island site has been zoned for mining for more than 40 years and mined for decades. It is a rare and valuable sand and gravel deposit known for its cleanliness and quality. King County, as part of its Growth Management Act plan adopted after a full public process, designated the Maury Island mine site as a mineral resource land of long-term commercial significance.
Sand and gravel are combined with water and cement to make concrete. Many areas of Maury Island are comprised of sand and gravel deposits left by the glaciers that formed Puget Sound during the Ice Age. In the 1970’s there were four gravel mines on the southeast shore of Maury Island where barges were loaded with sand and gravel to supply regional construction projects. Today, Glacier’s mine on Maury Island is the last operating sand and gravel mine with water-front access in King County. The Gold Beach housing development adjacent to Glacier’s Maury Island site sits on one of the former mine sites.
Glacier Northwest has owned its site for more than 30 years, and mining has been permitted there for more than 40 years. The sand and gravel extracted from the first Maury Island mines were used to build vital infrastructure in the Port of Seattle and other surrounding areas, including what is now Seattle’s Myrtle Edwards Park. Glacier and its predecessors have held the Maury Island site in reserve; the site remains forested and existing bluffs along the shore will remain intact through the life of the mine.
High demand for concrete aggregates in the Pacific Northwest is expected to continue into the future. Glacier Northwest’s proposal to increase the level of mining at its Maury Island site is consistent with the state Growth Management Act and King County’s Comprehensive Plan.