Join Mark and Joan in Urging Your Outdoor Recreation Organization to Oppose Quarry MineNov. 4, 2020, midnight
Mark Malone and Joan DeClaire of Marblemount wrote the following superb letter to the Advocacy Director of the Washington Trails Association urging the WTA to advocate against a huge, blast-oriented quarry mine development near Marblemount, Washington. This letter is an excellent example to follow. We invite you to refer to it in writing your letters to organizations like the WTA that consider themselves responsible for protecting the “majestic wild places” we all love.
My wife and I are longtime members of Washington Trails Association. We spend the majority of our time at our cabin two miles north of the small Skagit County town of Marblemount, the gateway to North Cascades National Park. Hiking those mountains is a primary focus of our lives. We’re writing to make sure that you and the Association are aware of the proposed quarry project being planned just outside of Marblemount, and we’re asking you to consider submitting an official comment to Skagit County expressing WTA’s concern.
The short story is this: Kiewit Corporation, a multinational mining and construction business headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, is trying to leverage an old permit for a small, inactive, family-owned gravel operation into approval to blow up a cliff just south of Marblemount, on the opposite side of the Skagit River. They’re wanting to establish a 100-year operation to break this rock formation up into “jetty rock,” massive rocks which will be trucked out to shore up jetties along the West Coast. The plan is to operate six days a week, 12 hours per day, with two blasting operations per day, and 250 vehicle trips per day–of which at least 150 will be heavy semi-trailer trucks.
The immediate community considers this a wholly inappropriate land use for this area. The primary local economy is driven by the nearby national park and eco-tourism. The impact on that economy will be devastating. (And it’s clear from Kiewit’s own paperwork that that impact will not be offset by local benefits from the quarry.) Impacts on wildlife will be numerous. Peregrine falcons nest on this cliff, and all five species of Pacific salmon inhabit the nearby Skagit River. (In the County’s own words, found on their “Salmon Strategy” page, “The Skagit River … is often called the ‘last, best hope’ for salmon recovery in Puget Sound.”) We now have a wolf pack in the area, the Diobsud Creek Pack. Critical habitat units for both the spotted owl and the marbled murrelet have been identified by the US Fish and Wildlife Service quite near the project site. Impacts from noise, traffic, and dust will be unavoidable and near-constant. Contamination of the river, its nearby tributaries, and the high water table are likely.
The negative impacts of the project are so obvious and pervasive that the following organizations have already submitted official comments to the County expressing their concern: Seattle City Light, the National Park Service (NOCA), the North Cascades Institute, the Upper Skagit Tribe, the Sauk/Suiattle Tribe, the Swinomish Tribe, the Skagit River System Cooperative, Conservation Northwest, Wild Steelhead Coalition, American Rivers, American Whitewater, Sierra Club WA, Mt. Baker Group Sierra Club, Cascadian Home Farm/General Mills, and the Skagit Audubon Society. We very much hope that WTA will add its voice to this list. (Many thanks if you have already done so.) The comment period was recently extended to May 13. Comments can be submitted with the online form linked here. The “project name” should be “Marblemount Quarry.”
Other useful links:
— The County’s overview of the project, including a link to all comments submitted prior to the original March 29 deadline.
— The website skagitneigbors.com website, a blog site put together by concerned community members. Some of the submitted comments I cited above have been posted there, including the remarkably plainspoken letter from Seattle City Light.
— A drone overflight of the mountain Kiewit is proposing to destroy.
The immediate community goal is to convince Skagit County Planning and Development to make a threshold Determination of Significance for the project, and require an Environmental Impact Statement in order to properly evaluate it. The State Environmental Policy Act checklist that Kiewit compiled, while generating a large amount of paperwork, was in fact wholly inadequate to the scale of the project. “Nothing to see here” would seem to be their conclusion. If there wasn’t so much at stake, it would be laughable.
Thanks very much for your consideration and help.
Mark Malone (and Joan DeClaire)