Okanogan County has been searching for a new gravel pit for more than a year because the two existing pits in the Methow Valley are depleted, said Road Maintenance Manager Gary George. Test pits on 540 acres the county hopes to purchase, west of state Highway 153 off Danzl Road, found gravel to a depth of at least 20 feet. That would supply enough gravel — for road maintenance and to sand roads in winter — for at least 75 years, George said. The maximum depth of mining would be 60 feet.
The property will be fenced. Berms seeded with native grasses will help screen the gravel site from the road. At first, rock stockpiles may be visible from upper elevations across the river, but as mining progresses and the floor of the pit lowers, stockpiles will no longer be visible. They will control dust with water from an existing well.
The county’s interim planning director determined the pit is not likely to have an adverse effect on the environment, but added mitigations, including shaded lighting, control of dust and noxious weeds, and a reclamation plan.
The 540 acres are currently owned by Claude Miller. Total appraisal by the Okanogan County assessor for all four parcels is $434,500. The county will not buy the property if it can’t obtain a conditional-use permit (CUP) to crush gravel, Okanogan County Commissioner Andy Hover said. The purchase is also contingent on soil testing for contaminants.
Because the county needs only 149 acres for the gravel pit, Hover contacted the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to see if the agency might be interested in buying the remainder for wildlife habitat and public access.
WDFW is interested, but financing is not guaranteed, Hover said. The county and state agreed to a per-acre price that puts the value of the 391 acres at about $725,000, George said. If WDFW doesn’t purchase the remaining property, it still won’t be mined because it’s not suitable for gravel.
Reaction to the pit from area residents has been mixed, with some concerned about noise and dust and others relieved that the land wouldn’t be covered with more houses.
In addition to the CUP, the county will need surface-mining and air-quality permits from state agencies. The county hopes all permitting can be completed to begin crushing gravel by March 2020.