Robert R. Mierendorf Says No to Proposed Quarry Mine

Nov. 4, 2020, midnight

Retired archaeologist Robert R. Mierendorf lived in Marblemount for many years and spent most of his career in North Cascades National Park. Here is his letter to the Skagit County Planning Department regarding the proposed quarry mine near Marblemount.

April 29, 2019

Please consider the following review comments regarding the project proposal for expansion of the Kiewet rock quarrying and mining operation near Marblemount.  As a resident and property owner in Marblemount for over 20 years, it’s important to me for you to know that the scope of this project far exceeds the planning effort and environmental review that it has received.  The project’s implementation will have far-reaching direct and indirect negative effects to the river, the community, the natural setting that makes Marblemount attractive, and quality of life for all those who live here and travel through.

This proposal for industrial development is incompatible with its proposed setting, and as a result, it will eliminate Marblemount as a gateway community to North Cascades National Park and adjacent protected lands enjoyed by visitors from around the world. It will also undermine progress made over decades to promote collaboration among parties with a goal of long term economic sustainability.

A short list of project effects includes:  

1.  Visual intrusion.  A quarried mountainside will be a prominent visual intrusion not just for the Marblemount vicinity, but for higher points of the landscape for miles around.  For example, hikers on the trail to “Cow Heaven” and Helen’s Butte will be confronted with the vision of an alien rock scar in the verdant upper Skagit River valley below them.  Any bright night lights required by this project will pollute the night sky, negatively altering the entire feel and character for the Marblemount vicinity at night (see 4. Below).

2.  Audio intrusion.  The volume of industrial noise pollution will be excessive and incompatible with the serene mountain setting of the Marblemount community and its environs, and these effects are both direct and indirect.

3.  Traffic hazard.  Due to the large size of the quarry trucks and the volume of associated traffic, it’s clear that this project is incompatible with the small county road (runs between SR-530 on the west and the Cascade River Rd. on the east) providing access to the project area.  Furthermore, the junction of SR-530 with SR-20 is currently well-known as a difficult turn for logging trucks and this will only be exacerbated with the much larger trucks associated with this project.

4.  Traditional Cultural Setting.  I have reviewed the cultural resources report by Baldwin et al. 2019, titled “Cultural Resources Assessment of a Proposed Marblemount Quarry Project, Skagit County, Washington” and submitted pursuant to this project.  Based on my 40+ yearlong professional career in cultural resource management, I assess this report as woefully inadequate for several reasons:

  – the area surveyed for cultural resources covers only a small portion of the project footprint, leaving open the possibility for their presence elsewhere in the project boundaries,

  –  for any project of this scope, adequate field coverage cannot be achieved in two partial days, indicating that the cultural resources reconnaissance effort fell far short of the proposed project scale,

  –  the literature review fails to acknowledge that not far from the project is the Big Eddy, a notable hydrologic feature of the Skagit River; located north of the project area, it was an important traditional fishery of Upper Skagit Indians, particularly for those who lived in the village before Marblemount existed; any effects to this resource remain unassessed,

  –  the literature review fails to acknowledge the visual intrusion that the project will create at “Cow Heaven”, the historic local settler name given to the alpine prominent meadows that are a traditional berry gathering grounds of Upper Skagit people; any effects to this resource remain unassessed,

These issues might be resolved by full areal-coverage of the field inventory and by a thorough, rather than superficial, review of the cultural significance of the project area and its effects to traditional cultural resources, both direct and indirect.

5.  Loss of environmental qualities.  Effects of the proposed project to wildlife (large and small mammals, eagles), fish in the Skagit River, clean water, clean air (vs. rock dust), mountain scenery, and mountain stillness, are potentially significant and need to be assessed in a thorough manner–the present effort fails.  At stake is the long term economic viability of Marblemount, which is clearly not served by a resource extractive industry of the kind proposed in this project.

Thank you for considering these comments,

Robert R. Mierendorf