Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Water table off limits for new mining

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Tuesday, September 16, 2008

PALMER–Mining gravel in the water table is off limits for companies new to it, but will continue for the few companies that have grandfather rights in the MAT-SU.

Last night the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly passed an ordinance that is the same as an ordinance that was passed on April 15, which was set to expire soon. Assembly Members were anticipating the gravel mining industry bringing back recommended regulations for this type of mining, but the regulations were not ready.

In its place, the Assembly adopted rules that require a four-foot vertical separation between the bottom of an excavation and the seasonal high water table. Deputy Mayor Lynne Woods and Assembly Member Cindy Bettine voted against it.

2006_0815200620070056.jpg The Assembly heard testimony and discussed gravel mining for more than two hours.

Central to the issue is how to both protect our water supply from the potential harm of dredging into the seasonal high water table, while also supporting an industry that supplies 150 or more local jobs as well as vital materials for roads and foundations.

Assembly Member Tom Kluberton requested that a comprehensive ordinance be drafted that does not leave out reclamation. In it would be reclamation standards, regulations for mining below the water table, and a funding mechanism to potentially pay for monitoring and reclamation. He asked that a work session be held with industry leaders once a draft ordinance is prepared.

"I felt we owe the industry the pleasure of letting them know we are serious. We are committed. We're going to keep moving on that target. They, in strong good faith, want to participate," Kluberton said. "It didn't really hit me hard until I stood in the bottom of that pit and realized unless you've thought all the way through reclamation, you can't make one piece of the puzzle work," he said.

For more information call Planner Emerson Krueger at 745-9526.