Feasibility study underway for 540-acre site
Okanogan County is soliciting comments on a proposal for a gravel pit on a hill above the town of Methow. The county has an agreement to purchase 540 acres for $1 million for the pit, and would use 149 acres for to screen, crush and stockpile rock and gravel. The property would also be used to mix asphalt.
Purchase of the property is dependent on a feasibility study and conditional-use permit (CUP) for the pit, which would govern how and when it would be used.
The official notice of the CUP comment period specifies a greater window of operating times for the pit than the schedule provided by Okanogan County Public Works at meetings this summer.
The county has said production would follow the same schedule as at six other county pits, with gravel being crushed once every five years. That includes one week to set up equipment, two weeks for actual crushing, and one week to demobilize the equipment, Road Maintenance Manager Gary George said at a meeting in Methow in June.
But the schedule in the CUP notice says crushing will occur 24 hours a day for 5 to 10 weeks every four to five years.
Conditions for the pit need to cover all possibilities so the county doesn’t risk violating the CUP, George said last week. While crushing normally takes two weeks to produce the necessary quantity of rock and gravel — if the work goes around the clock — if there’s an interruption from equipment malfunction or weather, the crushers could need a longer window, George said.
Whether gravel can be crushed 24 hours a day will be up to the county’s hearing examiner, who will take public input on the proposal and create conditions and mitigations if he approves a CUP. Some county pits do crush 24 hours a day, but others have restricted hours, George said.
“We would prefer the freedom to operate 24 hours per day to increase efficiency and decrease cost to the taxpayers,” it says in the project application prepared by Public Works.
The county typically hires a contractor to do the crushing, and many run double shifts, which lowers the price and reduces the number of weeks required for crushing, George said. There would be six to 12 vehicle trips a day, according to the application.
The application states that regular hours at the pit would be 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. County road crews normally work from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but the application includes longer hours to provide leeway. “It’s fail-safe protection in case something goes wrong,” George said.
Gravel from the pit will be used for road projects in the warm months and to sand roads in winter. Rock and gravel would be stockpiled onsite and transported three times a year — one week in May and one in July, for road work; and two to three days in October to bring sand to county shops for winter road maintenance, George said at the June meeting. Each rock haul would necessitate five to 20 trips by dump trucks for one or two days.
People can comment about the environmental determination until Sept. 12. They have more time to comment about the gravel pit itself and the land purchase. General comments will be accepted until the public hearing, which has not been scheduled yet.
The 180-day feasibility period started July 30, when the commissioners signed the purchase-and-sale agreement with Miller.
For more information or to comment, contact Rocky Robbins at email@example.com or (509) 422-7117.