Lone Pine Cemetery

Gravestones sit in the Lone Pine Cemetery in Ariel Jan. 4. Concerns over impacts on the historic site from a proposed conversion of forest land to serve as a rock pit have led to a withdrawal of a key document for the project to move forward, requiring more review over potential impacts.

A key document needed for a proposed rock quarry in Ariel was withdrawn following comments calling into question what environmental impacts the proposal would have, including those on a nearby historic cemetery.

Last month the Cowlitz County Planning Department withdrew a Determination of Nonsignificance (DNS), a document issued as part of an environmental review process development projects need to undertake under state law. The determination is in regard to planned conversion of about 31 acres of forest land at 8056 Lewis River Road for eventual use for surface mining.

The withdrawal follows an initial determination that the project “would not have a probable significant adverse impact on the environment” made by the planning department in late November. After that issuance, the department received 16 letters addressing the project including comments from state agencies such as the state Department of Ecology and the Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation.

The county Planning Department’s letter announcing the withdrawal specifically mentioned the latter state agency’s comments which brought up concerns about potential archeological resources in the project area as well as impacts on the nearby Lone Pine Cemetery. According to information from the USGenWeb Project, a free resource cataloging cemetery burials among other things, several World War I veterans are laid to rest at that facility that is directly east of the project area.

Department of Ecology comments addressed precautions needed regarding air and water quality. That department’s letter indicated the need for several permits for the proposal to move forward, ranging from one for stormwater runoff as a result of the clearing, grading, and construction of a 2,200-foot forest road onto the site to one for the site’s intended use as a rock quarry following its conversion.

The withdrawal doesn’t mean that the project won’t go through, but it would require more analysis of what would need to take place before a valid OK can be given. According to the letter announcing the withdrawal, the action was taken to allow for further investigation into impacts, allowing for the department to officially determine if the project would have any.

Should the closer look at the project prove it would have significant impacts, that would lead to the need for another document, an Environmental Impact Statement, to be issued, according to information from the state Department of Ecology. That process would require another public comment period.

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