Archive for December 17th, 2008

by jhwygirl

On neither the county nor the city website could I find a “Missoula City-County Air Pollution Control Board,” but in last Thursday’s paper, tucked away in the legal notices on page C8 was this notice:

On December 18, 2008 at 12:15 p.m., the Missoula City-County Air Pollution Control Board will hold a public hearing concerning the Department’s decision to issue an air quality permit to T&T Contracting for a gravel crusher operation at the Monroe Pit near River Road and Reserve Street, Missoula County (at Section 17 Township 13N, Range 19W.) The hearing will be held in teh second floor conference room at 301 West Alder. Public comment will be accepted by the Board at the hearing. Interested persons may also submit written comments to the Board on or before December 16, 2008 at 301 W Alder St., Missoula, MT 59802 or by emailing Bob Schmidt at schmidth@ho.missoula.mt.us. A copy of the permit, administrative hearing proceedings and the department’s responses to public comment is available by contacting the Environmental Health Division, 258-4755 and at http://www.co.missoula.mt.us/EnvHealth.

The pit is located in a county inholding – an island of county-zoned land, surrounded by city zoned land. The city can’t annex industrial or agricultural land, so the operation – despite it’s affects on the surrounding residential neighbornood – isn’t subject to city laws.

There are currently no gravel crushing operations at the site – but this newly issued permit will allow one to operate. It will also add electrical generators. T&T is a new business that will be operating there.

Neighbors in the River Road neighborhood where the pit is located have dealt with numerous health issues for years. Overwhelming dust, trucks running 24/7. They’ve witnessed violations of heavy equipment incursions into the river. Pages 3 and 4 of the minutes from a previously held meeting detail the conundrums presented by this county inholding and its status in state law. Jim Carlson sums it up here:

The state of Montana does provide for public nuisance type lawsuits and individual lawsuits, even though the government may not be able to be involved in those. That’s something that you may want to talk to your own attorney’s about. I’m just trying to give an overview of the fact that there isn’t a holistic permitting process. I think we’re one of the only permits that provides for the ability to have public review and public comment on the permit. It’s unfortunate but this is the way it is. To that extent, you know, it’s important that you comment to your legislature that you would like to see some things changed. Certainly with regard to noise ordinances, that may be something that could be accomplished in this upcoming session.

Frankly, this pit is a nuisance on the mere existence of it and the danger it faces to the whole community. This past year’s high water event – nothing compared to what the Clark Fork will will eventually bring to town – threatened to capture this very gravel operation and make an end run around the Reserve Street Clark Fork bridge.

Think traffic is bad now?

Imagine the City severed by no Reserve Street bridge? Imagine the emergency issues…the traffic.

Consider this: This past year’s high water event really wasn’t atypical. Talk to old timers and they’ll tell you. And water came darned close to capturing that operation as it was.

That operation down there is not only a nuisance to the neighborhood, it’s a nuisance to MDOT, to the State of Montana. Think of the astronomical cost it would present should that bridge be effectively castrated. It’s a nuisance to the City, to the County and the taxpayers of the entire state.

Think of how communities around the state will feel when highway funds are redirected to build Missoula a new bridge when a major state highway – perhaps the state’s busiest? – is severed because of gravel pit next to the river where everyone with any common sense knew that the darned thing would be captured by a high water event one day.

So while the Director of Environmental Health Jim Carlson says that “The state of Montana does provide for public nuisance type lawsuits and individual lawsuits, even though the government may not be able to be involved in those,” I think he is slightly wrong there.

While I’m being critical here of Carlson’s statement, when you read through the minutes, it seems apparent to me that there is a certain level of frustration coming from the City-County Health Department with regards to the operations located there adjacent to the river.

I point out that this bridge is a nuisance because:
#1 – this neighborhood needs help.
#2 – this nuisance is more than just a neighborhood issue
#3 – waiting for the inevitable – the river will eventually capture this pit and make an end run around the bridge – is ridiculously foolish and cost.

Yee gads, someone: Do something before we’re without a bridge and stuck holding a multi-million dollar years long cluster of a mess to fix.

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