DNR SEPA Determination: Mark Your Calendars for April 6, 2022 Because of Last Minute Extension

March 1, 2022, 8:55 p.m.

We stand at another crossroads with the proposed Big Bear Mine. On December 6, 2021, Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued an initial Determination of Significance (DS). This means that the applicant has 90 days to agree to go forward with an Environment Impact Statement (EIS) or to withdraw the application. On March 6, 2022, DNR is required by SEPA regulations to issue a final determination, or to announce withdrawal of the application. **Update 3/1/22: DNR has granted the applicant a 30 day extension to April 5. This is allowed under WAC 197-11-310.** 

As interested parties, you should all be expecting an update no later than April 5. Start calling and writing to DNR on April 6 if you don't hear anything. They need to know we are keeping track of this process and expect proper notification.

Reference “Cascade Big Bear Mine” permit number 70-013279. Email [email protected] or call 360-902-1750.

The article below is a draft that will be published in The Wild Cascades, the journal of North Cascades Conservation Council http://www.northcascades.org/wordpress/the-wild-cascades in March. 

Residents have remained actively opposed to this mine for over two years now. This article is a succinct history of attempts to destroy the natural beauty and ecology of our area.

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North Cascades Conservation Council – The Wild Cascades Journal, February 2022

As you wind your way east, up the North Cascades Highway, along the Wild and Scenic Skagit River, on your way to the North Cascades National Park to enjoy an outdoor adventure in some of the finest mountain country in North America, or maybe for a relaxing river float on the Upper Skagit full of eagle and other wildlife watching, or maybe just to enjoy an amazing drive across one of the most spectacular and scenic high mountain passes to be found, you will eventually make it to Marblemount, the “Entrance to the American Alps”.

When you see this old wood sign on the side of the road you will know you are at the gateway to your adventure. But what you may not realize is that directly across the river from this sign welcoming you to “the American Alps” is a sheer rock face called Big Bear Mountain that rises almost 900 feet above the river valley; a rock face that has been proposed three times since 2019, without adequate environmental impact studies, for decades of heavy industrial jetty stone mining operations with blasting and elevated mining work that would significantly impact this scenic, environmental, and culturally important area and forever degrade a place we value so much.

The first mine proposal handled by Skagit County resulted in a SEPA intended Determination of Significance (DS) but was not pursued because the applicant (Kiewit Infrastructure) decided they did not want to go forward with the required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The second proposal handled by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) resulted in a SEPA intended Determination of NonSignificance (DNS) which was eventually withdrawn by DNR due to lack of adequate study when the public reminded DNR that, just as with the Kiewit proposal, the second proposal lacked adequate study.

The third proposal, handled once more by DNR, was discovered by us before DNR made its initial determination. As soon as the new documents were made public, the many interested individuals and groups reminded DNR of all the known missing studies of likely significant impacts identified in the two previous proposals.

On December 6, DNR said they had completed their review of the mining application documents and made an intended Determination of Significance with requirement for an EIS. DNR informed us that, in accordance with SEPA regulations, the applicant had 90 days to decide whether to go forward with the EIS or not.

An independently produced full-scope EIS is what is needed to evaluate all of the potential significant impacts that would result from this proposed industrial mining operation at the confluence of the Wild and Scenic Skagit and Cascade Rivers at the entrance to the North Cascades. We have not received any updates from DNR since early December. The 90 day period to finalize the SEPA determination expires on March 6.