Proposed gravel mining project gains silence on Jefferson County commissioners, public opponents

PORT TOWNSEND — A lawyer for Fred Hill Materials Inc. on Monday successfully halted public comments to Jefferson County commissioners on the company’s proposed 165-acre Wahl Extraction Area.

James Tracy, land-use counsel for Fred Hill Materials, said allowing public comments — written or spoken — “creates the appearance or impression” that the commissioners are attempting to influence county Department of Community Development officials, who must issue permits for the project under state law, not by the approval of the commissioners.

Tracy on Monday objected several times to attempts by environmental activist Nancy Dorgan to discuss the application.

Dorgan told the commissioners: “There seems to be nothing this county won’t do in the name of jobs.”

Fred Hill seeks a stormwater permit for excavation within the Wahl Lake sub-area approved for a mineral resource lands overlay last year.

137-acre mining area

The permit area includes a proposed 137-acre mining-excavation area, 19 acres identified as regulated critical areas and/or required mining setback areas, and a 60-foot easement from the extraction area to the company’s Shine hub near state Highway 104.

A conveyor belt is proposed to move sand and gravel from the 137-acre extraction area to the Shine hub.

In a letter dated March 31 to County Administrator John Fischbach, Tracy wrote that under the county’s unified development code, the commissioners are not included in the decision-making or appeal process for the stormwater permit application.

Tracy said his letter was not to argue the merits of the company’s permit application.

“I am very concerned, however, that correspondence relating directly and indirectly to this administrative/ministerial Type-I permits has recently and repeatedly been published in the agendas for the board of county commissioners.

“Further, the correspondence actually published in the commissioners’ agendas represented only a one-sided portion of voluminous correspondence received by the administrator as part of the comment process on the application’s threshold determination . . . and includes improper attempts by the writers to link this administrative/ministerial type permit with other [Fred Hill] permitting activity.”

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