The operator of the Yacolt Mountain Mine has the go-ahead to pursue a mining permit even though they agreed with the county not to expand extraction operations for 10 years.
Earlier this month a hearing examiner for Clark County released a verdict on a land-use hearing the county hosted in August that looked at whether or not JL Storedahl & Sons, a Kelso company that operates the Yacolt Mountain Mine, was allowed to seek a mining permit for part of its property. The hearing examiner, Joe Turner, determined that Storedahl was able to pursue the permit, going against the county’s prior decision to reject the application in May.
Prior to Storedahl’s appeal of the county’s refusal, the Clark County Council had OKed the expansion of a surface mining overlay on more than 100 acres of property near the current mine late last year. As part of the agreement at that time, Storedahl promised not to mine on the land that was part of the expansion for 10 years.
Storedahl argued that just because they could not mine the land for that time it did not preclude them from seeking applications, saying that if they were barred from that submission the effective time would be closer to an “11, 12- or 13-year” restriction, as stated in the operator’s appeal.
Though several nearby residents testified against the expansion of mining operations, the hearing examiner’s decision noted that “(t)he only issue before the examiner is whether the county is required to accept an application for mineral extraction on the site,” not whether or not the application would be approved. It stated that accepting an application “does not in any way ensure approval of the application.”
Ultimately the hearing examiner determined that the county “has no authority to refuse to accept an application for a conditional use permit” for mining on the site, according to the decision document.
Neighbors in opposition to the expansion of the mining operation were not happy with the decision.
“We’re disappointed. Absolutely disappointed,” East Fork Community Coalition President Dick Leeuwenburg said in an interview with The Reflector. He felt that the county’s argument for whether or not it could refuse to accept an application wasn’t as well-formed as it could have been to maintain their initial decision.
“If there was a good answer for (the question) the county didn’t have it,” Leeuwenburg remarked. “That very narrow decision got made and it was the way we didn’t want it to go.”
When speaking to The Reflector Sept. 13 Leeuwenburg said the coalition had yet to consider whether or not it would appeal the hearing examiner’s decision. He noted that the coalition was made up of residents who didn’t necessarily have the funding needed to pursue an appeal.
“We have limited resources both in terms of time and energy,” Leeuwenburg remarked.