A company that hopes to mine gravel from Maury Island intends to resume constructing a controversial 305-foot dock next week — despite being urged by the state's top land manager to hold off.
A company that hopes to mine gravel from Maury Island intends to resume constructing a controversial 305-foot dock next week — despite being urged by the state’s top land manager to hold off.
Glacier Northwest, in a 17-page letter to Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark sent late Tuesday, said it is happy to work “collaboratively” with the state over the government’s environmental concerns. But company officials said that in 11 years of permitting and review the project had met all requirements, poses no threat to Puget Sound, and the company would not keep holding up work.
“We’ve done everything we’ve been asked to do by the regulatory agencies,” said company spokesman Pete Stoltz. “We’ve followed all the rules. We’ve diligently participated in every aspect of the permitting process. We’ve responded to everybody’s comments. The project has withstood multiple legal and legislative challenges. We continue to believe that this is a good project and needs to go forward.”
Work on the dock already had been temporarily suspended through most of the summer to protect chinook salmon, but had been scheduled to resume this Saturday.
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Then early last month, Goldmark told the company to further delay construction until the state felt satisfied that the company’s plans would not harm the Sound’s sensitive nearshore areas, which serve as nurseries for threatened chinook salmon. The salmon are prey for threatened orcas.
Goldmark, a Democrat, had called the company’s plans to protect eelgrass and herring — approved in December by his predecessor, Republican Doug Sutherland — “vague, ill-defined, and in some cases nonexistent.”
Goldmark at the time said he would keep trying to halt the project until he was satisfied, but it remains unclear what legal authority his Department of Natural Resources has to delay construction. Others in his office Tuesday said they planned to “evaluate all our options.”
“We still have grave concerns,” said Bridget Moran, DNR’s deputy supervisor for aquatics.
Tuesday, Stoltz said the company would give DNR until early next week to review the letter, but then planned to get back to work.
The mining project has been hotly debated for a decade. Late last year, the company gave $50,000 to a political committee that supported Sutherland’s failed re-election bid. Sutherland approved the $1,500-a-year lease days before leaving office. The company’s supporters, meanwhile, have said Goldmark, at the behest of island residents, is singling Glacier out for more scrutiny than other projects.
Angry island residents, meanwhile, have cast the project as a symbol of the greater threats to Puget Sound and argue that the regulatory system itself is broken. They have been undergoing civil disobedience training and may attempt to disrupt construction, according to Bill Moyers, who is helping organize future protests.
Craig Welch: 206-464-2093 or email@example.com