Proposed Maury Island bill unfair?By jfulcher | March 15th, 2009 | Category: Blog, Eye on Olympia |
By Sound News reporter Jeanne Fulcher
Controversy has surrounded Glacier Northwest’s proposed gravel mine on Maury Island for several years. Maury Island’s aquifer provides clean water for homes on the island, and citizens are worried that the gravel mine has the potential to pollute the groundwater or use so much water that neighboring wells will dry up. Representative Nelson, who lives on the Island, is trying to pass a bill, HB 1708, in the legislature that could require extra monitoring and reporting on Glacier Northwest’s water use.
Glacier Northwest has already attained the majority of the permits they need to start the gravel mine. This means that they will follow the same requirements of other gravel mines in the state. They started applying for permits nearly ten years ago, and have worked with regulators to ensure their compliance. Is it fair to place extra precautions on the Maury Island gravel mine?
The aquifer on the Island is the only source of water for many residents. Single-family homes and small industrial companies are allowed to build permit-exempt wells to use a certain amount of water over a specific period of time. The gravel mine would fall under the permit-exempt well category, which means that the state Department of Ecology will monitor the water use if there is a complaint or obvious abuse to the law. If not, Ecology has to trust the people using the well to comply with the law.
In 2000, an Ecology-sponsored report was published that said that Glacier Northwest’s mine would have little or no impact on Maury Island’s groundwater. They found that the natural water level of the aquifer varies from 51 to 59 feet; Glacier Northwest, which has also been monitoring the water, won’t be getting closer than 15 feet of the highest water level. This precaution will ensure the safety of the Island’s aquifer.
Currently, HB 1708 is a title-only bill, meaning that details will be added later. Those details are still unknown, but should be inserted in the near future. For more information on the status of this bill, visit http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/Summary.aspx?bill=1708&year=2009.