The Clark County hearings examiner has determined that J.L. Storedahl & Sons can pursue a mining permit on a portion of a Yacolt quarry despite the company’s commitment to not conduct extraction, rock crushing or other activities on the land for 10 years.
The quarry, northeast of Battle Ground, has been the subject of complaints by residents who have actively opposed its recent expansion. Linda Lorenz, who owns property nearby, said she was “extremely disappointed” by the decision.
“It just amazed me that Storedahl can say they have no intention to mine and they can immediately (apply for a permit),” she said.
In December, the Clark County Council approved a zoning change sought by J.L. Storedahl & Sons, a Kelso-based mining and hauling company, on 107 acres of land south of Yacolt Mountain Quarry. The zoning change applied to a mining overlay on the land that the company said was needed to store topsoil and gravel in order to continue mining rock at the quarry.
In response to neighbor concerns over the expansion of the quarry, J.L. Storedahl & Sons and the county council entered a covenant where the company promised it wouldn’t mine the overlay until December 2028.
“Our application included mining, but we are agreeing to not do that until much further down the road,” said Bo Storedahl, a representative of the company.
He said that J.L. Storedahl & Sons will abide by the covenant and that it was more straightforward to apply for a permit that would cover both the storage and future mining activities.
Storedahl said that even though the county established the overlay, his company still needed to obtain a conditional use permit before it could move the topsoil onto it. He said that pursuing separate permits for storage and future mining activities made “zero sense.” Applying for a permit that covers both activities would have been more efficient to meet environmental and other requirements, he said.
Storedahl said he was frustrated when the county blocked its application for a permit. He said that the company can’t even move the topsoil and gravel to the overlay until it has the permit.
“We still have to go through the whole process,” he said.
Appeal and counter-appeals examined
According to documents, Storedahl & Sons took initial steps in April to apply for an expansion of Yacolt Mountain Quarry onto the overlay established earlier by the county council. But in May, the county indicated that it would not accept the company’s application for mining on the site until after the covenant expired. J.L. Storedahl & Sons appealed the decision to the hearings examiner, and the matter was heard in August.
“There is no prohibition in the Covenant or elsewhere against making application for a Conditional Use Permit that would allow mining,” reads the appeal filed on behalf of J.L. Storedahl & Sons.
The company further argued that processing a mining permit would take “a substantial effort and time.” Keeping J.L. Storedahl & Sons from applying for the permit until after 10 years effectively lengthened the covenant and denied the company due process, it argued.
Documents show that the county pointed out that the county council discussed J.L. Storedahl & Sons not even applying for the permit for 10 years. It also pointed to statements made by the company that mining wouldn’t occur until long after the permit expired.
The county also argued that much can change between now and when the covenant expires.
“Significant land ownership, neighborhood, and environmental changes may occur prior to 2028 that would be unable to be meaningfully addressed in a 2019 permitting process,” reads the county’s response to the appeal.
The hearings examiner ultimately determined that the county had no authority to block the permit and couldn’t use remarks from the council to prevent a mining permit from being pursued.
Dick Leeuwenburg, president of the East Fork Community Coalition, said that his group was disappointed with the decision. He said it would be better to have permits for storage and future mining on the site to be considered sequentially to ensure that J.L. Storedahl & Sons comply. He also took issue with establishing a permit for an activity that will take place in 2028.
“Well, none of us are clairvoyant,” he said. “None of us know what the situation will be with the expiration of the covenant, and to grandfather things in this far in advance is wrong.”
He also said that J.L. Storedahl & Sons hasn’t complied with existing permit requirements to form a neighborhood advisory group and it’s not clear if it’s complied with requirements to monitor the mine’s impact on groundwater.
Storedahl pushed back, saying that it has been monitoring groundwater and found no effect on wells. He said that while the neighborhood advisory group dissolved after a period of low activity at the mine, he pointed out that the county’s recently formed Surface Mining Advisory Committee is serving that purpose.
“The SMAC meetings have been productive,” he said.
Clark County Council Chair Eileen Quiring said in a text that she had not been briefed on the hearings examiner decision. Clark County Councilor Gary Medvigy, who represents the area, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.