County requires archeological survey of the site

By Marcy Stamper

The applicants for a gravel and topsoil quarry on the Loup Loup Highway need to conduct an archeological survey and habitat assessment and get an engineer’s report on an access bridge before the county can process the application.

The information is needed to supplement the environmental checklist, according to Okanogan County Planning Director Perry Huston in an April 16 letter to Paul Christen. Christen submitted the quarry application on behalf of property owner Corky Barker.

The applicants also need to follow up with the Washington State Department of Transportation because the current access permit to the property is legal only for residential and field access, not for a commercial quarry, said Huston.

After reviewing the location of proposed quarry, an archaeologist from the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation found a high probability of historical and archaeological resources in the area. The property is at the junction of multiple wagon roads, and its proximity to Frazer Creek would have made it a desirable campsite for both pre-contact and Euro-American travelers, she said. Archaeological sites in the vicinity have already been recorded, she said.

In other comments on the project, the Washington Department of Natural Resources said the operators of the quarry need to obtain a reclamation permit before creating a mining-related disturbance of 3 acres or 30 feet deep.

The state Department of Ecology said the project requires a preconstruction air-quality permit and permits for sand and gravel operations, as well as proof of a legal water source.

The county also received dozens of comments from members of the public, with neighbors saying the dust and noise would be “horrendous.” Others say problems with run-off and erosion have plagued the area since it burned severely in the Carlton Complex Fire.

One property owner said that because the proposal is filled with statements such as “probably,” “maybe,” and “time will tell,” it’s clear that the applicants don’t have enough information about the effects of the quarry. Many said they’re worried about the impact on wildlife. Other neighbors questioned whether the county’s current land-use regulations allow new gravel pits in the Methow Valley.

Only one commenter supported the proposal, saying the quarry would be the best use for the property.

The quarry would be located on Highway 20 about 3.5 miles south and east of Twisp. Plans include excavating rock, decomposed shale and topsoil from six sites on the 600-acre parcel.

After the applicants submit the required assessments and reports, Huston will review the environmental analysis and set a second comment period under the State Environmental Policy Act.

For more information on the High Mountain Quarry, contact planner Pam Wyllson at (509) 422-7122 or pwyllson@co.okanogan.wa.us.