Northwest Aggregates (Lone Star Northwest) has submitted a request to King County to significantly increase mining over current levels at its Maury Island sand and gravel mine. King County issued a Determination of Significance (DS) for the proposal on August 11, 1998, based on its review of the project grading plan and environmental checklist dated May 1998 (this checklist is available for review at the Vashon library). The DS documented the County's determination that significant environmental impacts could result from the proposal and an environmental impact statement (EIS) is required. This EIS is being prepared to meet the requirements of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), per Washington Administrative Code, Chapter 197-11.
The proposal would require revisions to the applicant's existing King County Grading Permit and their existing Surface Mining Reclamation Permit issued by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), as well as a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit through King County.
Lone Star Northwest wishes to increase its maximum production rate at the Maury Island mine from roughly 10,000 tons of sand and gravel per year (the level of production that has occurred in recent years) to up to 7.5 million tons per year (that is, 5.5 million cubic yards).
The applicant also wishes to be able to barge mined materials 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This level of barging, which would occur periodically as contracts are awarded and completed, increases the applicant's ability to win contracts and to take advantage of peak demands in a variable market.
The applicant's purpose and need for this project is to meet the anticipated high market demand for sand and structural fills (materials which are abundant on the site). While the applicant operates several mines in the region, the Maury Island site contains a high amount of quality fills, products that are not as abundant at other sites operated by the applicant.
This environmental impact statement (EIS) analyzes the applicant's Proposed Action, two additional alternatives that include mining with reduced hours of barging, and the No-Action Alternative. Each of these alternatives is described below. Features of the alternatives are summarized in Table S-1 at the end of this chapter.
Under the Proposed Action, sand and gravel extraction could approach 7.5 million tons per year (or 5.5 million cubic yards), with essentially all of the increased material being sent to off-island markets via barge. No barging has been conducted at the site for 20 years, although the dock used during previous barging remains onsite. Mining rates would depend on the number of large sand and gravel contracts for off-island markets.
For purposes of predicting the environmental effects of the mining operation, this EIS assesses the site at full production with the mining and barging of 7.5 million tons per year.
When demand for sand is low, the level of operation at the site would also be low. It is even likely that the site would be idle for periods of time, again depending on the market.
It follows that the overall life span of the mine depends on market conditions and the number of large sand and gravel projects secured by the applicant. At full production, the site deposits could be mined out in 11 years. Of course, the lower the level of production, the longer the operation could last. The analysis in this EIS assumes a 35-year operating window before the site is closed.
As under current practices, operations would also provide materials for the local market (Maury Island and Vashon Island). The amount of sand and gravel extracted for the local market was estimated to average approximately 15,000 tons in 1998 (range of 10,000 to 20,000 tons per year) with an annual increase assumed to be 2.5 percent for this EIS analysis; actual increases would depend on market needs and local growth. This would be delivered via truck, at a rate not to exceed 20 trucks per day. At some point, the increase in extraction for the local market would slow and eventually halt, since demand for sand and gravel within the confines of Vashon/Maury Island is limited.
Clearing of the site would be phased with mining activities. Clearing would occur at scheduled phases of approximately 32 acres each. No more than two phases, or 64 acres of mining/reclamation activities, would be in process at any one time. Prior to mining of each approximately 32-acre phase, vegetation would be cleared and chipped onsite to be used in reclamation. Some large woody material (stumps and logs) would be kept intact to be used as part of the restoration effort, aiding in soil stability, soil organic content, and wildlife habitat.
To address public safety concerns regarding arsenic contamination of site soils, the applicant is proposing to fully contain contaminated materials at the site within a sealed berm. No contaminated materials would be removed from the site. At full capacity (when mining is complete), the berm would measure up to 30 feet high and 2,100 feet long. The berm would be located on the northern edge of the site, but outside of the 50-foot vegetated buffer (see next paragraph), which would be maintained.
Along the edge of the mining pit, a 50-foot-wide naturally vegetated buffer would be retained around the perimeter of the site. With the exception of the existing dock area, a 200-foot-wide naturally vegetated buffer would be retained along the Puget Sound shoreline. No mining or other activity would be permitted within this buffer.
Maintenance of the 200-foot shoreline buffer and a 50-foot buffer between the site and neighboring properties would result in approximately 14 percent of the site being retained as open space and upland habitat.
Table S-1 outlines other major features of the Proposed Action.
Alternative 1 differs from the Proposed Action in that barge loading would be restricted to 16 hours each weekday and 9 hours on Saturday (Monday – Friday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.). This alternative was developed by the EIS team in response to public comments and is intended to allow the applicant, public, and decision makers at King County to compare the environmental impacts of the Proposed Action to this hypothetical scenario of reduced hours for barge loading.
The reduced hours would reduce the ability of the applicant to provide sand and gravel products on demand, and, therefore, does not meet the applicant's project objectives as well as the Proposed Action. The applicant's daily capacity to move material offsite during peak demands would be about half that of the Proposed Action.
Table S-1 compares other features of this alternative with the Proposed Action.
Under Alternative 2, barge loading would be restricted to 12 hours each weekday and on Saturday (Monday - Saturday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.). As with Alternative 1, Alternative 2 would reduce the ability of the applicant to provide sand and gravel products on demand, and, therefore, does not meet the project objectives as well as the Proposed Action.
The applicant's capacity to move material offsite during peak demands would be only about one-quarter that of the Proposed Action. Again, as with Alternative 1, this may affect the operation in two ways, but potentially at a greater level than with Alternative 1. First, the applicant may receive fewer contracts than under Alternative 1, since the 75 percent reduction in maximum daily production rate may be too low to meet the required delivery schedules of certain contracts. Secondly, for contracts that are secured, the mine would need to operate at maximum capacity for approximately four times the period that would be required under the Proposed Action.
Table S-1 compares other features of this alternative with the Proposed Action.
Under SEPA, King County must evaluate the "No-Action Alternative", which is defined by the state SEPA Handbook as "what would be most likely to happen if the proposal did not occur".
Because the SEPA rules do not define what the No-Action Alternative must entail, King County has some discretion in its formulation. The applicant already has a permit to extract sand from the site up to roughly 50 feet from the property boundaries (200 feet from the shoreline). For the purpose of comparative analysis and to understand the environmental effects of the applicant's proposal, this EIS considers the No-Action Alternative as the status quo, or essentially how the mine has operated on average over the past 20 years.
It is important to note that should King County decide to not approve the applicant's proposal, something other than the No-Action Alternative evaluated here may result, particularly in light of the current and expected high demand for gravel in the Puget Sound region. However, it would be highly speculative to predict exactly what would result following possible legal challenges or other forms of negotiations. King County determined that to attempt to predict a level of operation that may result from denying the current proposal would confuse the issues, rather than clarify them. Therefore, No-Action is evaluated in this EIS as a continuation of current mining levels and practices.
No-Action, then, assumes ultimate excavation and resource recovery of the mine identical to the Proposed Action, but over a much longer period. It would result in a similar level of terrestrial impact, over a much longer period. The most significant difference under No-Action is the assumed lack of barging. (Again however, this is not to say that barge loading would be prohibited if the applicant's proposal is denied. The applicant's existing mining and barging rights are not necessarily limited to the No-Action Alternative.)
The features of the No-Action Alternative are summarized and compared to the Proposed Action in Table S-1.
As required under SEPA (WAC 197-11-408), King County conducted scoping to "narrow the scope of [the] EIS to the probable significant adverse impacts and reasonable alternatives, including mitigation measures." Toward this end, King County invited agencies, affected Tribes, and members of the public to comment on the Determination of Significance (WAC 197-11- 360).
The major controversial issues identified during this process include groundwater supplies, visual and noise disturbances, arsenic contamination of topsoils, removal of madrone forest, and potential effects on marine habitat. These issues, and others questions raised during scoping, are listed at the beginning of Chapters 3 through 12 of this EIS in the sections titled "Primary Issues". These issue questions are then addressed in the impact analysis in each chapter.
No phased review is anticipated.
Tables S-2 through S-11 at the end of this chapter summarize impacts, mitigation, and significant unavoidable adverse impacts for each of the alternatives.
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