The Douglas County Planning Commission on Thursday approved the location of a commercial explosives and storage operation near Yoncalla.
The decision followed testimony from several neighboring landowners who raised safety concerns, as well as testimony from the explosives company that the project wouldn’t be hazardous.
Dyno Nobel wants to store explosives that would be used by local customers in the rock quarrying business, as well as contractors who build logging roads. The explosives would be stored on a parcel west of Rice Valley Road, 2 miles west of Rice Hill and 4 miles southwest of Yoncalla and would be more than 2,500 feet from any residences, as mandated by federal law.
Dyno Nobel is a global company whose parent company is based in Australia. Its North American headquarters is in Salt Lake City.
Craig Nicolson, regional operations manager for the company, told the commissioners that safety is its top concern. In response to a question, he said the explosives to be stored there are different than those that caused the Roseburg Blast that leveled eight blocks of downtown Roseburg in 1959.
The explosives in the blast were dynamite, made primarily of nitroglycerin, and ammonium nitrate.
The stuff Dyno Nobel proposes to store on the site is ammonium nitrate only, and it’s in a semi-liquid form that isn’t easily exploded, Nicolson said. Detonation involves using a detonator that is set up only to work in combination with other company equipment. Even if it were stolen, he said, the thieves wouldn’t be able to do anything with it.
Several landowners remained worried, and some referenced a criminal element in the area, with concerns ranging from the production of methamphetamine to terrorism.
Opponent Noreen Arnold showed videos taken of the intersection 137 feet from her front door, which would be traversed by companies hauling the explosives in and out of the facility. It showed people running the stop sign, making U-turns and a truck taking up both lanes as it made a turn. She feared a collision with one of the company’s trucks was likely, and would lead to an explosion.
“What’s going to happen when one of those explosives trucks go running through there and somebody runs that stop sign? I’m going to be blown off the map,” Arnold said.
Nicolson said the explosion Arnold feared wouldn’t happen.
“If you tumble a truck over, it’s not going to blow up. It’s going to spill its product into the road and you’re going to pick it up,” he said.
Opponent Cheryl Oguri raised a litany of concerns, from traffic problems to fire danger. She said there are between 14 and 20 homes within three-quarters of a mile from the facility.
“If you want to ruin our area, how about you and your deep pockets buy me out? I’ll take a million dollars,” she said.
Commissioner Christine Goodwin expressed sympathy for the neighboring landowners and said she had read the record thoroughly and would base her decision on what she believed was safe for everyone.
Discussion by the commissioners centered primarily around the issue of safety, with particular emphasis on the idea of a better fence to deter would-be thieves.
Ultimately, the planning commission voted to make building a security fence a condition of their approval.