Disputed Shepherd area gravel pit gets DEQ OK after 3 year process

Disputed Shepherd space gravel pit will get DEQ OK after 3 12 months course of

Regardless of repeated failures over a three-year interval to handle deficiencies in its implementation, a proposed gravel pit east of Shepherd lastly met all of its statutory necessities and was licensed by the Montana Division of Environmental High quality.

DEQ introduced the issuance of a allow for the 67-acre Donnes web site in a Thursday press launch. Riverside Contracting Inc., of Missoula, plans to extract as much as 690,000 cubic toes of gravel from the floor close to the nook of Shepherd and Frey streets.


Nonetheless, in a number of DEQ emails, Riverside was repeatedly questioned and didn’t resolve points recognized at a 2019 group assembly the place residents had raised issues.

As late as Oct. 4, 2022, a DEQ environmental science specialist mentioned Riverside’s working plan had not but adequately addressed issues associated to defending the shallow groundwater assets that native residents use for consuming water and water wants. maids; provisions for acoustic and visible impacts on neighboring inhabited centres; the interrelation of the ditch’s hydrology to the close by Crooked Creek watershed; and keep the channeling of irrigation water via contained ditches close to and throughout the web site or the effectively hydrology interrelationship with the ditches.

Consequently, DEQ informed the corporate that the applying was unacceptable. The letter goes on to notice that that is the third unacceptable discover figuring out intensive and vital deficiencies in your utility concerning the operational plan, hydrology, and influence on adjoining and neighboring landowners.

A 74-acre piece of land at Shepherd East Street and Frey Street has been cleared to be used as a gravel pit after a virtually four-year course of


By Nov. 14, Riverside had responded to DEQ’s request for data, however in a Dec. 20 letter to the corporate, the state company once more mentioned Riverside had not totally addressed the deficiencies DEQ famous in October.

In a Feb. 22 letter from the DEQ, Riverside was given a further 30 days to handle the shortcomings after practically 4 years of back-and-forth. The company’s unit coordinator signed off on the February letter to Riverside as a result of the DEQ scientist, who had overseen the matter, had resigned to take one other job.

Whereas the timing of the scientists’ departure and the allow approval appears suspicious, DEQ public relations knowledgeable Moira Davin mentioned that was not the case.

They (Riverside) had fulfilled all their shortcomings, that is why the allow was issued, he mentioned.

The allowing course of for the Donnes open pit mine took longer than common, Davin mentioned, however the time it takes to finalize a allow could also be dictated by the gravel firm. He mentioned as soon as deficiencies in a allow utility are recognized by DEQ, the corporate has as much as a 12 months to reply. DEQ, then again, has lower than a month to reply, Davin mentioned.

With every submission to the DEQ, Riverside has gotten a little bit nearer earlier than lastly offering sufficient data to proceed with the allow, mentioned Dan Walsh, DEQ mining bureau chief.

Gravel pit proposed in Shepherd

Positioned east of Shepherd, the gravel pit will likely be quarried by Riverside Contracting of Missoula.


Based on the main points within the allow, Riverside will dig three trenches 20 toes deep over time. Tools equivalent to a crusher, mill and screener, asphalt plant, loaders and vans will likely be used to hold out the work. The corporate paid greater than $422,000 of the bond in accordance with state necessities.

A number of Shepherd space residents had opposed the mining, involved about its influence on residential boreholes and close by Crooked Creek, a tributary of the Yellowstone River.

The authorized utility doesn’t handle earlier deficiencies recognized by the DEQ, together with safety of shallow groundwater assets that native residents use for consuming water and family wants, resident Kati Grove wrote in an e-mail.

He additionally cited issues concerning the gravel pit’s interrelationship with the hydrology of close by irrigation ditches.

Hydrology experiences included within the utility point out that water ranges might drop as a lot as 8 toes at wells within the space, but it surely was nonetheless authorized,” he added.

However the DEQ doc says the operation won’t drain or pump groundwater and due to this fact won’t have an effect on groundwater ranges or circulate course. Mud management measures may also be carried out.


Allowing the gravel pit took so lengthy that two new houses have been constructed adjoining to the location, with their septic methods inside 150 toes of the boundary of the pits, in response to the allow.

There have been different modifications on the bottom as effectively. In 2020, neighbors filed a lawsuit in district court docket towards landowners Frank and Cindy Donnes, who personal the land the place the wells will likely be situated. The lawsuit additionally named neighbors to the north and south of the proposed mine, in response to a Yellowstone County Information article. The lawsuit alleged that the Donnes dug trenches to empty their property that flowed onto their land.

New laws might also have affected the delayed allowing course of. In 2021, Home Invoice 599 was enacted, regardless of complaints from conservation teams.

Home Invoice 599 made modifications to the general public engagement course of and eliminated the DEQ’s authority beneath the Opencut Mining Act to require noise mitigation, impose restrictions on hours of operation, and assess close by water assets, the DEQ wrote. in its press launch.

Nonetheless, as Donnes allow was reviewed beneath earlier legislation, DEQ performed a water assets evaluation to look at potential impacts on hydrology, which included streams, ditches, wetlands, groundwater and water rights neighbors, the company mentioned.

As soon as the laws was enacted, Riverside Contracting had the chance to have Donnes’ web site reviewed beneath the brand new laws, however selected to remain beneath the earlier legislation, DEQ mentioned. A Riverside rep didn’t return a telephone name for remark.

A subject within the Jocko Valley north of Arlee is the location of a venture for an asphalt plant and gravel mining and crushing operation.

Some place else

Final 12 months the revised legislation gave some rural residents heartburn close to an Arlee gravel pit. Missoulian resident Hannah Talbot informed the Missoulian she is annoyed with how the brand new guidelines restrict public notification and involvement within the trial. The Arlee Gravel Pit may also be quarried by Riverside Contracting.

Within the final legislature, supporters of the measure cited the gradual allowing course of, the quantity of documentation required, and the excessive demand for constructing supplies equivalent to sand and gravel for street and development initiatives as causes for the change.

Because the Donnes web site was deemed to adjust to the previous guidelines, public feedback, points referring to water, wildlife, noise, visible impacts and opening hours have been reviewed within the allow, DEQ mentioned.

For instance, if Donnes Pit is working briefly outdoors of the everyday hours said within the allow (Monday via Friday, 7am to 7pm), the briefly prolonged hours ought to be printed within the native newspaper and the operator can be required to offer written notification to Yellowstone County commissioners and residents inside half a mile of the location. Further measures would even be carried out throughout evening operations equivalent to downward targeted lights to attenuate gentle air pollution and reverse activated strobe lights as an alternative of beepers to attenuate noise air pollution.

Author: ZeroToHero

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