Wednesday, December 27, 2006

County OKs gravel removal project

Neighbors question plan for site south of Bellevue

Express Staff Writer

Chuck Erwin has been permitted to remove and crush gravel from the Big Wood River south of Glendale Bridge. The area already supports a handful of other gravel operations, but none reach as far upstream as Erwin?s. Photo by David N. Seelig

A new gravel removal and crushing operation has been approved for an area adjacent to Glendale Bridge along the Big Wood River.

A handful of other gravel operations already exist in the area, located about three miles south of Bellevue, but none reach as far upstream as Glendale Bridge.

The Blaine County Commission approved Chuck Erwin's operation last Tuesday, Dec. 19, with a couple of caveats: Crushing operations can only occur for a total of 60 days per year and a review of the operation will be required after one year.

Commissioner Dennis Wright said extracting gravel in that area will actually be a "public benefit."

The slope of the Big Wood River flattens out considerably in the Glendale area resulting in a massive buildup of gravel during annual runoff. The debris and low-angle slope also causes the river to braid into several smaller channels.

Wright recalled a period in the early 1980s when a bulldozer spent a few weeks removing gravel and digging a deep hole to foster the creation of a channel.

"And the next spring you couldn't even tell anything had been done," he said.

Commissioner Tom Bowman said he was "OK with everything but the crushing operation."

So did a few residents who live in the Glendale area.

"This will change things in our neighborhood," said Dick Fosbury, a local engineer who lives on Glendale Road.

Fosbury and a couple other area residents expressed concern that the crushing operation will create a significant noise disturbance and excessive dust.

"It will clearly have an impact on our peace and quiet," Fosbury said. "Like it or not, we will probably have to move."

But Fosbury conceded that gravel operations are a necessity in any community and that with the other operations that already exist in the area, "you probably need to seriously consider approving it."

Fosbury also wondered whether the county should look into possible zoning changes to better represent activities in the area, which is currently a mix of heavy and light industrial and agriculture.

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