Back at the Gravel Pit: Permit Applicant Appeals Hearing Examiner’s Latest Decision

June 20, 2024

After nearly two years and two appeals, on May 21, 2024, the Skagit County Hearing Examiner denied the requested special use permit to triple the size of the dormant Lake Erie gravel pit on south Fidalgo Island. The Hearing Examiner declared that, “[t]he Applicants has had three chances now to demonstrate that the mine will not increase landslide risk to the coastal bluffs and have failed at each turn to provide sufficient evidence.” Consequently, the Hearing Examiner determined that it would be unproductive to remand the case yet again for the applicant to gather evidence that had already been requested, and concluded that “the proper action at this point is denial.”

Where is the Geological Hazard Assessment?

Concerns about the gravel pit flared upon the fall of 2020 when the public learned of the proposal to clear and mine 60,000 tons of gravel over a 60-year period across 36 acres of land adjacent to the idle 18-acre mine site off of Rosario Road. After the Hearing Examiner approved the expansion over the community’s objections, Evergreen Islands appealed that decision to the Board of County Commissioners (“Commissioners”) because the applicant had not studied the effect of substantially increasingly the amount of groundwater flowing toward the nearby shoreline bluffs that were already experiencing blowouts where springs discharged from them. Evergreen Islands also challenged the lack of an analysis of the traffic impacts and safety hazards that would be created by the mine’s generation of 26 gravel truck trips turning onto and off of Route 20 at the intersections with Campbell Lake Road and Rosario Road. While the Commissioners rejected concerns about the increased trucking impacts on traffic and safety, they agreed that the mine could not be approved in the absence of a study of the potential impacts of increased groundwater discharges on the unstable bluffs west and northwest of the mine, in the Sunset Lane neighborhood. The Commissioners remanded the matter back for that study and, when the Hearing Examiner approved the mine without the study and forced Evergreen Islands to appeal it again, the Commissioners again reversed that decision and directed the applicant to obtain the proper geologically hazardous site assessment to determine landslide risk. The applicant declined, and instead submitted yet another report that asserted without valid justification that the groundwater would not flow toward the bluffs. At that point, the Hearing Examiner denied the permit.

Note mapped unstable slopes. Source: draft Anacortes Comprehensive Plan Land Capacity Analysis May 2024

Decision Due by August 3, 2024

The applicant has now appealed to the Commissioners in an effort to convince them that he should be granted more time to conduct the studies they have requested twice. That appeal before the Commissioners is scheduled to be decided by August 3, 2024.

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