by jhwygirl

It could be if you live in an unzoned area of Missoula County – as Greenough and Lolo residents know. It’s also a potential if you live anywhere else in Montana that is unzoned – which is, ah, like most of the state.

Look – this stuff isn’t hysterics here, folks – even though I’ve blogged about this One, Two, Three, Four times here – and even once at Left in the West. It’s reality. The potential of multiple gravel pits surrounding your house, in fact, is a very real possibility.

Just ask Kathy Brekke, of Gallatin County, about the possibility of gravel pits surrounding your home.

And playing the Missoula County Poor Poor Pitiful Me thing after the fact – much like our local officials are doing right now over the whole Plum Creek/USFS fiasco (all an excuse to not zone, if you ask me) isn’t going to work.

Especially here in Missoula, where our county commissioners, supported by County Attorney Mike Sehested, have stood by and done nothing when other counties – Gallatin and Lewis & Clark come to mine – have at least attempted to stop the gravel pit lunacy.

Someone please explain to me how our county attorneys (here and here) can have such a starkly different opinion as to whether citizen-initiated emergency zoning is so impossible due to state regulation of gravel pits when other county attorneys quite apparently think differently?

Once a gravel pit is proposed, it’s already too late. Same with those subdivisions and their exempted 35 gpm wells and their 100-foot well isolations zones that can be on your property and their septic tank seepage zones that can be on your property. State blames county, county blames state – guess who’s left holding the bucket?

Put your boots on folks, ’cause that bucket’s getting mighty full.

With regards to gravel pits, it is already too late thanks to recent court rulings that have directed MT DEQ to issue gravel permits after 30 days irregardless of MEPA review – that is, in the absence of MEPA review.

How our state courts can do this – with utter disregard for our Montana Constitution, Article IX, which requires that “The state and each person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations,” is mystifying.

Frankly, it illustrates quite well the ineptitude of our legislature, at times – because approving a law that requires permits to be issued in 30 days, without addressing potential (potential? who’d of seen that one here, huh?) constitutional conflicts seems pretty inept. And cutting back or not increasing the amount of staff to meet those constitutional obligations also shows ineptitude.

I mean, how do they do this stuff? “Yep, 30 days, sounds good to me – I know I wouldn’t want to have to wait for a permit for a 20 year operation of a gravel pit for more than 30 days – sure, I’ll vote for that,” – is that how they do it? Do these guys even realize the work load of the current staff and that public scoping is, at minimum, typically 2 weeks?

It’s also showing ineptitude on DEQ’s part too – Has DEQ asked for any funding or personnel on their latest wish lists? Nope. That bureaucratic ineptitude, folks, in the face of Judge Sherlock’s recent ruling where he did not fault the DEQ for the agency’s inability to complete the environmental analysis, writing that the department has “insufficient personnel and resources” to do so.

Look Missoula – you have three great-at-playing-the-victim commissioners – Larry Anderson, Bill Carey and Jean Curtiss all standing by and doing nothing. You have a Governor who is also taking a laissez-faire attitude, and a Department of Environmental Quality that is taking a (dare I say) criminally negligent approach to environmental review.

George Ochenski of the The Missoula Independent, writes of the situation – and closes by calling on the Good Governor with this statement:

This is no way to run a state—especially Montana. The “new day” we were promised by Gov. Schweitzer appears to be dawning in the din and dust of unregulated mines. Schweitzer could call a special legislative session to change the law immediately. The question is: Will he?

So here’s my closing statement: Governor Schweitzer – our rights to a clean environment are being ignored by your administration and by our state courts. Open pit mining should not go unregulated or unscrutinized, nor should it be rubber-stamped. The DEQ is showing some serious signs of not only ineptitude, but lack of funding and staffing. DO SOMETHING.

And to my Missoula County Commissioners – QUIT PLAYING THE VICTIM, even though you do it so well, AND DO SOMETHING TOO.

  1. goof houlihan


  2. Mike Sedlock

    My residence faces the new Helena Sand & Gravel pit that is located North of East Helena between Lake Helena Drive and Valley Drive. Our three county commissioners were too chicken to enact emergency interm zoning to stall the permitting of this pit to obtain a proper environmental impact review and I now have an active, noisy, dusty open pit mine operating approximately 4 blocks from my home. As I write this I review I can vividly hear the noise from the crushing plant and I have a 70% hearing loss and I’m not wearing my hearing aids! Myself and other neighbors have sent numerous complaints to various government agencies and their comment is ” the noise is within state standards.” In other words shut up and quit bothering us! Their initial permit disclosed that they had 3 wells under 25 gpm, which exempts them from water regulation, and they stated that their annual water consumption from these wells would be less than what 3 housholds would use. Since June 2008 they have drilled at least 3 more wells that I’ve noticed. I’ve spoke with one of their engineers about water contamination and he said that they would not be contaminating the groundwater. I don’t belive that for one minute because their operation is located on land that was contaminated from the lead smelter in East Helena and the ground has been identified as a “super fund site by Federal Agencies.” Only time will tell what impacts this gravel pit will have on the environment and the 600-800 residential homes that surround the pit. I do know one thing for sure right now is that since the pit was made public knowledge that several realtor appraisals on my property definetly shows that my property has dropped in value from previous appraisals prior to the pit operations. I fail to agree that anything that Helena Sand & Gravel has done thus far makes me trust or believe in their “good neighbor policy!”

  1. 1 State Open Cut Mining Redux, Part 215: Audit Exposes Deficiencies « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] DEQ has a backlog of open cut mining (gravel pit) permits and courts are issuing these things within 30 days, irregardless of review, DEQ employees are drafting the applications for the mine […]

  2. 2 Want Your Voice to be Heard? Vote Michele Landquist for County Commissioner « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] of having multiple pits in your neighborhood (or in your backyard, front yard, side yard) has existed now for more than 2 years, and our County Commissioners have failed to […]

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