Land purchase expected to close in February
A county-owned gravel pit above the town of Methow is getting closer to reality, with the county commissioners adopting a resolution formalizing conditions of operation at the pit and a title company finalizing documents so the county can buy the land.
The resolution, signed by all three Okanogan County commissioners last week, states that the county developed a list of additional conditions after outreach and public meetings.
Under the conditions:
- gravel crushing can take place only from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- unmuffled compression brakes on the access road are banned.
- blasting would be used only to widen the access road.
- the disturbed area for mining and stockpiling rock and gravel cannot exceed 80 acres at any time.
- crushing will normally last up to five weeks every five years — two to three weeks of active crushing, with the remainder for setting up and demobilizing equipment.
- in extenuating circumstances, such as weather or equipment malfunction, the overall crushing period could last 10 weeks.
“This resolution memorializes the County’s commitment to honor the outreach and the conditions agreed to,” according to the document prepared by Okanogan County Engineer Josh Thomson for the commissioners. Having a formal, signed document was an important part of their pledge to area residents and other interested parties, Thomson said.
Several people have asked the county for the final conditional-use permit (CUP) approved by the county’s hearing examiner in December. Thomson said this is the first time he’s worked with the CUP process. “I found it odd that you don’t get a final document,” he said.
The hearing examiner’s report cited documents from the county Planning Department as well as conditions from the environmental review of the proposed pit. The document the commissioners signed was submitted to the hearing examiner as an exhibit in the record and hasn’t changed, Thomson said.
The county is also working on the application for the state’s surface-mining permit, which includes a plan for phasing of crushing and reclamation. The surface-mining permit includes details of pit depth, contours and side slopes and will show what the area will look like when all gravel mining is done, Thomson said.
Buying the land
The county has a purchase-and-sale agreement to buy 540 acres for the pit on Danzl Road, just north of Methow, from Claude Miller for $1 million. Thomson expects the purchase will be final by the end of February.
The county needs approximately 149 acres and the pit itself would occupy approximately 81 acres. Specific acreage will be worked out once the survey is complete, Thomson said.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) included 420 acres adjacent to the gravel-pit site on a list of land it is considering buying for wildlife habitat. The acquisition would conserve sagebrush-steppe habitat for mule deer and endangered gray wolves and would include public access, according to WDFW. The acreage is a preliminary estimate, the agency said.
WDFW solicited public input on this and other potential land acquisitions and will make recommendations to the Fish and Wildlife Commission in February. The agency would still need to acquire funding to buy the land.
The county and state have tentatively agreed to a per-acre price of about $725,000, according to Gary George, the county’s road maintenance manager. If WDFW doesn’t purchase the remaining property, it still won’t be mined because it’s not suitable for gravel, George said.