Better Late Then Never: Missoula Emergency Zones Away Lolo Gravel Pit

by jhwygirl

On the heels of recent District Court rulings from Judge Jeffrey Sherlock and Judge Dorothy McCarter, which require DEQ to issue open-cut mining (i.e., gravel pit) permits without the constitutionally required environmental (MEPA) review, Missoula County Commissioners – sounding somewhat reluctant – emergency zoned an area south of Lolo for only residential uses.

For example, regarding my “reluctant” assessment of their vote, there was this lovely quote from Bill Carey, one of our County Commissioners:

“It’s unfortunate that JTL has had to go through this,” said Commissioner Bill Carey. “It is a vital product and they’re good corporate citizen and they have a legitimate grievance.”

At the same time, Carey went on to say that, “we have to protect the public’s health, welfare and safety.”

Good corporate citizens Bill? What about those other regular ole’ citizens living next door? What are they? Chicken feed?

Then there was a quote from Commissioner Jean Curtiss, saying that Friday’s action “puts us in a bad position.” The Missoulian goes on further with that citation, saying that commissioners said they felt they had to act quickly, because Knife River is going to court Monday to seek permission to force the state Department of Environmental Quality to issue a permit for the plant.

And – just who’s role is it to protect Missoula County’s health, welfare and safety? That, Missoula County Commissioners, is delegated from the state to local government. Just so you know

Now I find myself digressing to a lecture on our local government’s role in protecting our rights, and my disgust with our local government in passing-the-buck to the State which results, frankly, in bigger government for everyone in the state when our problems should be kept here in Missoula.

While DEQ, yes, should be doing its MEPA reviews and DEQ, yes, should be staffed and funded adequately – it’s Missoula County’s tendency to play the victim (Plum Creek Timber? Oh, I forgot, that’s the USFS’ fault. Exempt wells and well seepage zones? Oh, I forgot, that’s DEQ’s fault.) that drives me nuts.

Are Missoulians supposed to wait around for the state to solve our health, safety and welfare problems? Apparently, according to our county commissioners.

Does the state have a role here, too, to protect our rights? Absolutely. But – a big BUT, I guess – given the circus that is our state legislature, and the competing politics and the role that lobbyists play in our laws, Missoula can’t afford to sit around and wait for the eons it will take to get legislation to the legislature, yet along put into action. If other areas of the state want to sit around and wait – and this, apparently, isn’t what Lewis & Clark and Gallatin counties are doing – then by all means, go ahead. Missoulians, I suggest, demand action now.

Just one more, before I walk away from this for now, lest I regress further – A short comment on a statement made yesterday by David Zinke, vice president and general manager of Knife River Corp., the subsidiary of JTL Group Inc. Zinke is bringing his call to the courts this upcoming Monday to force DEQ to issue his open cut mining permit ASAP, on the heels of those recent court ruling (story linked to above).

Zinke lamented yesterday “It’s sad for business and land-use rights.”

No, Mr. Zinke, it’s a triumph for citizens and private property rights.

{addendum: There’s been a ton of posts in this blog regarding this issue, and the broader issue of zoning. Too many to link to in this post, but if you have time, I suggest using our nifty search engine there on the upper right and entering either ‘zoning’ or ‘gravel’ or ‘lolo’ or ‘DEQ’ and you’ll come up with a bunch of older posts on the subject of zoning and/or gravel pits and/or DEQ.}

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  1. goof houlihan

    Now they’ve got two years or it goes away.

  2. Yeah – and it will probably end up like the citizen’s initiated zoning district in Rock Creek that they screwed up so bad it is invalid. The “zoning that never was” zoning.

  3. curious about Zinke

    How is Dave Zinke of this particular gravel pit project related to Republican State Senate candidate Ryan Zinke in Whitefish?

  4. ryan Zinke

    Dave Zinke is my Uncle. I also have a cousin (Alrick Hale) who also works for Knife River in the Flathead Valley. In addition, my father was a master plumber like his father before him and my other younger brother. Like most families, we agree on some issues, disagree on others. I would be happy to discuss my positions specific to the gravel issues or responsible environmental policies. I am straight-forward, honest, and always willing to listen to all sides of the issue. all the best, ryan

  5. This comment has been moderated until it can be verified – jhwygirl

  6. Looks like your site is getting alot of visitors. Are you doing any time of special coding to make your site appear so well in the search engines? Great Job!

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    […] one was proposed in the Lolo community, our Board of County Commissioners once again failed to act until they were backed into a corner. For months they ignored crowded public meetings and stacks of papers submitted by the neighbors, […]

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