Crushing of rock and gravel at Okanogan County’s new pit above the town of Methow could begin as early as November.
The county reviewed two bids for the crushing last week — both significantly under the estimate by the county engineer — and expects to award the work to the lowest bidder once they receive a state permit for surface mining and reclamation of the site, Okanogan County Engineer Josh Thomson said.
The county submitted the permit application to the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in August and is expecting approval within the next couple of weeks. The county consulted with DNR before submitting it to be sure it covers all the requirements, Thomson said.
DeAtley Crushing Service, of Lewiston, Idaho, was the low bidder at $467,200, about $138,000 under Thomson’s estimate of $605,000. The other bid was for $517,000. The crushing companies said the bid solicitation came at a good time, when work was slower than normal, the Okanogan County commissioners said when they opened the bids.
Crushing is expected to take about two weeks, including set-up and tear-down, although the county’s conditional-use permit allows for up to 10 weeks if there are problems with equipment or weather. That should produce enough rock for about 10 years of chip-sealing and road work, plus gravel for traction in the winter, Thomson said.
Okanogan County Public Works will widen Danzl Road, which leads to the pit, before the crushing begins. They hope to accomplish that without blasting, Thomson said. Crushing has to be completed by April.
Because the pit is on flat ground and doesn’t require accounting for unstable slopes, reclamation should be fairly straightforward, Thomson said. The county will store topsoil removed for crushing in piles and berms and re-seed it. The hole from excavation and crushing will be refilled with the soil — and revegetated — when the rock in the pit is depleted, which isn’t expected for 75 to 100 years, he said.
The county purchased the 540-acre property in February for $1 million. Because the county only needs 149 acres (the pit itself would occupy approximately 81 acres), county officials hope to sell the remaining land to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) for wildlife habitat, which would include public access.
That acquisition is dependent on a formal scoring and selection process. A WDFW staffer presented the project to the Fish and Wildlife Commission last week and said they were receptive, Thomson said. The agency would still need to acquire funding to buy the land. If WDFW doesn’t purchase the remaining property, it still won’t be mined because it’s not suitable for gravel.
The county had been looking for a new source of rock in the Methow Valley for more than a year, since existing pits in the valley had been depleted. But the prospect of gravel crushing above the town of Methow generated controversy among area residents, who worried about noise, dust, and a negative impact on property values. Others supported the county’s purchase of the land, acknowledging the need for rock and gravel for roads and saying it was a prudent use of taxpayer money, since it would cost less than transporting rock from out of the valley.