County approves increased mining at Hot Lake Lane Quarry

·3 min read

Sep. 22—LA GRANDE — More extensive mining can now be conducted at Hot Lake Lane Quarry.

The Union County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the second reading of an ordinance on Wednesday, Sept. 21, that allows a greater amount of mining to be conducted at the quarry, which is 8 miles southeast of La Grande. The ordinance took effect immediately.

A first reading of Ordinance 2022-03 was approved Sept. 8 following a public hearing.

"We are pleased that the commission is allowing it to go forward," said Carol Boothman Byron, a co-owner of Boothman Ranches Inc., the firm that owns the quarry.

Prior to passing Ordinance 2022-03, the board of commissioners approved an amendment to it, adding to the roadways where dust abatement must be conducted when trucks working at Hot Lake Lane Quarry are using them. The added stretch runs over over a small portion of Foothill Road just south of the Pierce Road intersection. The addition was made at the request of Margaret Mead at the Sept. 8 hearing. Mead lives in a home on this stretch of Foothill Road.

Ordinance 2022-03 will allow for extended mining to be conducted at the quarry for essentially two reasons: It allows blasting to be done, after permits are obtained, so that more rock can be removed, and it does not limit how much rock can be removed in a year, according to Union County Planning Director Scott Hartell.

Previously, when blasting was not allowed, miners could only take rock that could be obtained with their excavators, Hartell said. In addition, the total amount of rock that could be removed in a year was limited to 40,000 cubic yards

Union County Commissioner Paul Anderes said the paperwork and forms requesting the comprehensive land use plan for the Hot Lake Lane Quarry area be amended were complete and "thorough."

"I thought the applicant was very thorough and because of that, it was a relatively easy decision to make," the commissioner said.

The application for the change in the comprehensive land use plan for the Hot Lake Lane Quarry site was made by Luke Hines, of LJH Construction, which does mining work at the site, Boothman said.

Land purchase

The board of commissioners, in another action item, voted to approve the $100,000 purchase of a 10.1-acre parcel for the Mount Emily Recreation Area's Lower Igo Trailhead area. This is a bargain for Union County because the land has been appraised privately as having a value of $210,000.

The land was purchased from the Ronald and Carol Westenskow family.

"I am incredibly grateful for what the Westenskow family did. It in effect donated more than $100,000 to the citizens of Union County," Union County Commissioner Paul Anderes said.

The land purchase means that MERA will continue to be easily accessible from its east side, Anderes said, adding there is no chance that this land, which has been part of MERA via an easement, will ever block access to it. The commissioner said if the property were purchased from the Westenskows in the future by a private individual, that individual could have built a house or put a fence on the land, making it harder for the public to enter MERA.

Anderes said he is thankful for the help John Howard, the owner of John Howard Real Estate, played in helping broker the sale, while working as a volunteer.

Dwayne Westenskow, a son of the late Ronald and Carol Westenskow who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, said he and his brothers and sisters made the decision to sell the land to Union County. He said he and his siblings enjoyed playing on the property while growing up.

"It was our playground," he said. "We now wanted it to be used by the public."

Dick Mason is a reporter with The Observer. Contact him at 541-624-6016 or dmason@lagrandeobserver.com.