GLIDE — A movement to block the reopening of a rock quarry east of Glide gathered steam Monday, as about 40 people gathered at the Glide Community Center. The group says it’s ready for a fight.
On Jan. 16, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners overturned a Douglas County Planning Commission decision and approved a permit for property owner Bjorn Vian to reopen a basalt rock quarry that could be used to create asphalt for county roads.
The quarry has been closed for nearly 70 years. Since then, an RV park has been built adjacent to the quarry site and next to that the Umpqua Ranch Cooperative, a 100-space mobile home park. Other homes are also nearby, along with an olive farm and the North Umpqua River.
Quarry opponents fear the project would damage water quality, pollute local wells, harm fish, and create traffic hazards, dust and noise, among other things.
Valynn Currie, a realtor who represents several neighboring property owners, said the neighbors have hired an attorney and plan to appeal the county’s decision to the state Land Use Board of Appeals.
She said a quarry is simply no longer compatible with current uses in the area, and compatibility is one of the issues on which the case will turn.
“How is a quarry compatible with an RV park, a mobile home park, all these homes, compatible with the river, compatible with the wildlife? It’s not,” Currie said.
Larry Saccato said the quarry’s been closed a long time, and things have changed.
“Since that time, the rest of the area has been urbanized, and it’s just not functional to bring that quarry back online without affecting the compatibility of all the surrounding homes that are there now,” Saccato said.
Another concern is environmental.
Jeff Dose, retired Umpqua National Forest fisheries program manager, spent most of his career working on salmon and steelhead recovery in the Rogue and Umpqua River basins.
Water runs downhill, he said, and the quarry is a mining operation. That means toxic heavy metals could make their way into streams and run down into the North Umpqua River.
“I am greatly concerned about the impacts to the aquatic systems downstream,” he said.
He noted if that happened, it wouldn’t be the first time in Douglas County.
There are many local places where people are advised not to eat the fish due to heavy metal contamination from mining operations.
“I really do appreciate private property rights, whether it be a pipeline or anything else. It’s an important part of civil society. However, with those rights come responsibilities and those responsibilities include being aware of and responsive to the impacts to others around you,” Dose said.
Terrell Rudolf said the North Umpqua is a “precious resource” and they shouldn’t give up without trying to protect it.
“This is the most beautiful steelhead river in the world,” he said.
Currie said the quarry would not create many jobs, but many jobs would be destroyed if the river and fisheries were severely impacted.
“We cannot allow it,” she said.
Umpqua Ranch Cooperative mobile home park residents already face such difficulty with water supply that they must boil their drinking water because much of it comes from the river. There have also been problems with the sewer line, where county tests have shown leakage in the system.
Tobi Walker lives in one of those mobile homes.
“I’m kind of ground zero for this project, and I just wanted to thank all of you for your interest in the river and the environment and fish and everything that sort of surrounds the place I chose to live in,” she said.
John Cortez, a Vietnam veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, said after the meeting that there are 15 to 20 veterans in the area who suffer from PTSD and would be negatively impacted by blasting in the area.
Currie said other quarries in the county produce rock that can be used to produce asphalt, and that her efforts to put forward that evidence at the Jan. 16 hearing were rebuffed by the commissioners, even though it directly rebutted Vian’s assertion that this quarry would be the only source of such rock.
She also said the commissioners made the decision despite having conflicts of interest. She noted that Commissioner Chris Boice had formerly rented from Vian. At the Jan. 16 hearing, Boice acknowledged having rented from Vian but said it wouldn’t bias his decision.