Sultan gravel pit dead for now

By Leslie Moriarty

Herald Writer

SULTAN — A proposed gravel operation off the Sultan Basin Road northeast of Sultan won’t be going forward anytime soon.

Doug Sutherland, state commissioner of public lands, said Thursday the Department of Natural Resources has decided not to sell the mining rights to the Powerhouse gravel site until Snohomish County completes its land use planning process.

"After looking at all the information and options, I think the best solution for the near term is to be patient," Sutherland said. "We don’t want to get ahead of Snohomish County, which is working on a land-use plan.

"In addition, the public and the city of Sultan have made it clear that they need to work with the state and county transportation departments and look for ways to improve U.S. 2."

The announcement was met with relief by many in Sultan.

Councilman Mark Raney, who led the fight against the proposed gravel mine, was pleased.

"It does look like we’ve won," Raney said. "We are truly overjoyed that the Department of Natural Resources has abandoned its plan to sell mineral rights in Sultan for a massive gravel pit."

Mayor C.H. Rowe said he thinks it is in the public’s best interest.

"It gives us all time to take a deeper look at the proposal and determine if it is something that should happen," Rowe said.

He said the city and the county need the time to make sure that improvements are made to U.S. 2 and the intersection of U.S. 2 and Sultan-Basin Road to handle truck traffic the gravel mine would generate.

The proposal called for DNR to auction the rights to mine gravel on a 350-acre site near 116th Street SE and Sultan Basin Road that borders the Sultan River and Winters Creek.

DNR is the steward of 103,000 acres of state trust lands and about 17,300 acres within three Sultan Basin natural resources conservation areas.

Community activist Loretta Storm called the decision by DNR a realistic one.

"We feel it was the only realistic decision they could have made, considering the insurmountable obstacles inherent in permitting, extracting and transporting the gravel," Storm said.

Residents protested the project earlier this year when they first heard about it because of environmental and traffic concerns. It was estimated that as many as 200 gravel trucks would travel the route daily.

Several public meetings were held by DNR and city officials in the spring.

"This will allow us to step back and look at potential gravel sales in Snohomish County, as well as throughout the state, in a more comprehensive way," Sutherland said.

Once the county has completed its plan, DNR will come back with a new proposal and a full public process, he said.

Public notification on the original sale was an issue for residents, who said they were not appropriately notified.

It was determined that the notification sent by DNR to the city was not publicly posted. DNR then slowed the process and gave residents more time to comment and become familiar with the proposed sale.

Snohomish County is working on amending its comprehensive plan as a part of the state’s Growth Management Act. That is expected to take up to a year.

Jane Chavey, spokeswoman for DNR, said that means the Powerhouse project probably won’t be looked at again, if at all, until September 2002.

You can call Herald Writer Leslie Moriarty at 425-339-3436

or send e-mail to moriarty@heraldnet.com.

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