Ohio Gulch gravel gripe
"We are willing to work with the county, but were not
willing to have the county say we cant do something. We are interested in mining the
Stanley Hamilton, department of lands director
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
As much as 65 acres of sand and gravel in Ohio Gulch could be mined to a
depth of 18 feet, garnering Idahos schools $2.25 million over the next 10 years.
Those figures are contained in an Idaho State Land Board interdepartmental
The land board proposes to lease two portions of its square mile of Ohio
Gulch to the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and private contractors, partially in
conjunction with state Highway 75 expansion.
But the Blaine County Commission and a group of Ohio Gulch homeowners are
challenging the land boards authority to do as it sees fit with state school
endowment land in Ohio Gulch.
County zoning does not permit such uses in the Ohio Gulch area. Mining in
one of two zones there would be allowed only as a conditional use.
"We are willing to work with the county, but were not willing
to have the county say we cant do something," department of lands director
Stanley Hamilton said in a recent interview. "We are interested in mining the
According to an attorney generals opinion cited in the Idaho Code,
"The land board is not bound by the terms of the Local Planning Act and is not
required to abide by county zoning ordinances."
Ketchum attorney Ned Williamson said in an interview Monday that the land
boards authority over state land, in respect to county zoning, has never been tested
in Idahos appellate courts. Williamson is representing a group of Ohio Gulch area
homeowners called the Mid-Valley Owners Association. The group was formed primarily
to address the legality and impacts of the proposed gravel mining.
The association "supports the construction of a safe highway system
in Blaine County, but believes the state and all local contractors who will be excavating
gravel or storing fill material should be required, like any other citizen, to seek and
obtain a conditional use permit in a public forum," Williamson wrote in a Monday
"We have been assured that the county will insist upon compliance
with the local zoning ordinance."
Though the county commissioners did not return the Idaho Mountain
Expresss phone calls yesterday, they have publicly expressed concern over the
states plans and an intention to maintain the current zoning.
Such local concerns will likely rub the land board the wrong way.
In a Jan. 19 letter to the Blaine County Commissioners, Hamilton
please consider this letter as the boards direction to remove
from endowment lands in Blaine County.
"We hope for a quick resolution to the planning and zoning issues in
Ohio Gulch and we would like to move forward with lease issuance as soon as the zoning
issues are resolved."
According to the department of lands interdepartmental memo, dated Dec.
14, "General operating plans will remove the gravel to nearly the same elevation as
the adjacent [Ohio Gulch Road] and provide a suitable site for future development, which
could include light industrial uses, commercial uses or residential lots."
If gravel excavation goes ahead as planned, it wont be the first
time in Ohio Gulch. In fact, an existing lease would continue if Blaine Countys
intervention ceases or when a cooperative agreement is reached.
In December 1998, the land board issued a 10-year mineral lease to local
contractor McStay Construction to operate a commercial sand and gravel pit in Ohio Gulch.
On Sept. 28, 1999, Blaine County issued a stop work order to McStay
Construction to stop gravel excavation in Ohio Gulch because the use does not conform to
the areas zoning.
McStay Construction removed approximately 60,000 cubic yards of gravel
from the site before the county issued the stop work order. About 400 cubic yards of that
material were used in the Triumph Mine remediation process.
As much as 100,000 cubic yards may be needed from the Idaho Transportation
Departments gravel deposit in 2000 to satisfy highway construction needs, the land