Lake Erie gravel mine expansion sent back to hearing examiner

Kimberly Cauvel, Skagit Valley Herald, Mount Vernon, Wash.
·2 min read

Feb. 23—The Skagit County Board of Commissioners agreed Tuesday that questions raised by residents west of the Lake Erie Pit regarding groundwater flow and landslide risks require further study.

The three-member board voted unanimously to remand a special use permit for expanding the Fidalgo Island gravel mine back to the Skagit County hearing examiner for a closer look at potential geological hazards.

In response to the mine owner's proposal to expand operations from 17.7 acres to 53.5 acres, residents between the mine and Burrows Bay raised concerns about already eroding slopes in the area.

Following Skagit County Hearing Examiner Wick Dufford's approval of a special use permit for the expansion, the area nonprofit Evergreen Islands filed an appeal on behalf of neighbors fearing landslides. Area geologist Dan McShane provided testimony in support of the appeal.

All three county commissioners — Peter Browning, Lisa Janicki and Ron Wesen — said they were concerned about a lack of evidence for which way groundwater flows off of the mine site and how that may impact already eroding slopes.

"I'd like to see more in-depth information about what's going on there. ... I am concerned about the vulnerability of the hillside," Browning said.

Janicki and Wesen agreed that the dispute between the mine owner and the appealing parties about whether water moves west from the site or northeast from the site could not be resolved based on documents that have so far been provided.

"I didn't see enough information on that to go forward," Wesen said.

The commissioners also said the testimony of McShane and evidence of springs emerging from the hillside in question influenced their decision to require more analysis of the proposal.

The board of commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday that requires the hearing examiner to reconsider whether a geographically hazardous site assessment should be required for the expansion to proceed. If such an assessment is conducted, the hearing examiner is also asked to determine whether the risks can be mitigated.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel