MAT-SU—Last night, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly amended Borough rules for mining gravel. The new ordinance adds environmental protections while also garnering support from the gravel mining industry. Wednesday afternoon, however, Assembly Member Noel Woods asked for a reconsideration of his vote, saying the final draft should be seen before the final vote. The ordinance appears again on the Dec. 20 agenda.
In 2010, up to 2 million tons of gravel mined in the MAT-SU was used on local roads and construction, and up to 3 million tons was exported to Anchorage.
Tuesday night, the gravel rules that began four years ago with a working group of staff, industry and professionals, underwent many amendments including at least seven at the table. The Assembly heard testimony from concerned homeowners and supportive business advocates.
For more than three hours, the Assembly debated the proposed changes. Among the biggest changes: mining within the water table may be allowed through a permitting process. Also new is the adoption of reclamation standards, which the Borough did not previously have. Now 60 percent of a site must be covered with vegetation within four years.
If a company wants to mine in the water table the required permit is accompanied with 12 pages of requirements.
• a company must gather baseline water quality and quantity data
• acquire a written hydrologic report by a professional
• identify existing public and private water system sources within ½ mile of the project
• hold liability insurance, $1 million for operations on less than 40 acres, $2 million for more than 40 acres.
Also, operation standards require the company to continually gather data, twice a year.
Other changes include: State gravel sites that existed before these new regulations are exempt from the new rules unless the operation mines in the water table. Any new state pits, however, must seek a permit.
Also, gravel operations that existed before any regulation are now allowed to remain idle for five years, when previously it was 12 months before they would lose their grandfather rights to mine gravel.
The MAT-SU Economic Development Strategic Plan of 2010 called for a balance of continued gravel mining with other economic development considerations such as water protection and reclamation.
Reclamation standards for the first time include:
• Within four years, 60 percent of a site must be covered with vegetation
• Covered by four inches of topsoil or organic material
• The site graded to attain a slope no greater than 50 percent.
• Only certified seed used.
For reclamation below the seasonal high water table, the first 20 feet of slope below the water table cannot exceed 10 percent in order to create a benthic zone, a condition conducive to macroinvertebrates in the water.
Assembly Member Warren Keogh voted against the main motion. Mayor DeVilbiss recused himself as chair during the vote.
For more information call Alex Strawn, Borough Permitting Services Manager at 745-9854.