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Cascade Locks sifts through mining controversy

The dust cloud created by rock crushing at the Port of Cascade Locks industrial park has led to an investigation by the state and has also drawn complaints from residents across the Columbia River in

The dust cloud created by rock crushing at the Port of Cascade Locks industrial park has led to an investigation by the state and has also drawn complaints from residents across the Columbia River in Stevenson, Wash.

A Cascade Locks business owner has temporarily closed her business in protest over a surface mining operation that she believes is illegal.

"The city has clearly been robbed of their opportunity to protect their natural resources as they see fit," said Sandra Kelley, owner of Whiskey Flats Mercantile, to the Cascade Locks Planning Commission on Thursday night.

The Department of Environmental Quality expects to start its investigation by Monday. Port officials said they directed the contractor, J.C. Compton, Inc., to cut down on the dust created by the operation.

Kelley said she shut down her business to raise public awareness about the rock work by Compton that she believes is in violation of both city zoning codes and state and federal environmental laws.

Even though she has waged war against Compton's actions, Kelley said it is all a "moot" issue since the rock had already been removed from the old quarry and vegetation scalped near Herman Creek and the Columbia River -- two weeks before the Aug. 9 advertised planning commission hearing. She said under the current city land-use code, the site was designated for heavy industrial use, which required a special permit for all surface mining activities.

However, Compton's attorney, Jeff Bennett, from the Portland firm of Tarlow Jordan & Schrader, countered Kelley's charges by saying that the port already held an operating permit for the pit from the Oregon Department of Geology & Mineral Industries (ODGMI). In addition, he said excavation and rock crushing were "grandfathered" uses under the existing city code since they had taken place since the mid-1950s. He said the quasi-judicial hearing was only to request city permission for placement of an asphalt batch plant that would mix pavement until the end of October for planned Interstate 84 road construction.

"There are new laws now, you can't say it's OK because they did it 20 years ago," challenged Kelley. "Energy and endangered species were not a big issues in 1956 but they are big issues now."

She refuted Bennett's argument on several points, outlining that the ODGMI permit required the applicant to receive land-use approval from local government and adhere to state-wide planning goals. In addition, Kelley told the commission that Bennett himself had referred to the entire scope of work, including the rock mining, crushing, stockpiling and batching, as "proposed" uses in a July 27, 2001 letter to city planner Keith Liden.

Kelley exercised her right for a continuation of the hearing and, although no further oral testimony will be taken, the planning commission will accept written comments until 5 p.m. Thursday and then reconvene to deliberate over the issue at 7 p.m. on Aug. 23.

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