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Mobile asphalt plant will be allowed at existing aggregate mining site subject to several different condition

An asphalt plant proposal that generated some vocal opposition was approved by members of the Crook County Planning Commission Wednesday evening.

Applicant Clint Woodward requested a conditional use permit modification to allow the addition of a mobile asphalt plant on an existing aggregate site on Paulina Highway near Prineville. The mobile plant was previously operated at Juniper Rock Products at the base of Juniper Canyon, about six miles northwest of the proposed site. Woodward also wants to use the site to recycle asphalt.

The site in question was approved for mining activities by the county planning commission back in 1995 and is also approved for an asphalt plant on the property as part of the approval. Also, while asphalt recycling is not listed as an allowable activity, it is not an explicitly prohibited use either.

A public hearing on the proposal in late November drew nearly 50 people, and after taking about two and a half hours of testimony from more than a dozen people, the Crook County Planning Commission chose not to take any action. Commissioners instead wanted to conduct more research regarding a variety of concerns raised by opponents of the mobile asphalt plant addition.

Opponents, several of whom live within a mile of the site, expressed concerns about air and water pollution as well as increased noise and impact to various farming operations.

Proponents of the proposal said that they support the site as long as it meets all of the air and water quality guidelines required by the Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Geology and other agencies.

Some people from the construction industry added that asphalt recycling is necessary locally and use of the recycled material has become a requirement for public paving jobs.

At the conclusion of the public hearing, the planning commission directed staff to provide clarifying information regarding evidence submitted by opponents of the proposal and asked Woodward to provide a more detailed site plan to review.

During the follow-up meeting, held on Dec. 19, the commission noted that a more comprehensive site plan was provided. In addition, on Dec. 10, County Planning Director Ann Beier and County Planner Katie McDonald met with four officials with the Department of Environmental Quality in person and two DOGAMI members (Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries) by phone to discuss the environmental concerns raised during the public hearing. The two county officials said they heard from people who specialized in agriculture, air pollution and groundwater.

Regarding concerns raised that the chemicals released into the air by asphalt batch plants pose health risks, Beier said they were told that the chemicals can cause an odor but "are at such a low level that they don't raise toxicity concerns."

She went on to say that the biggest air pollution concerns raised by the agencies were associated with the dust that is stirred up during the aggregate mining process. The agency representatives said that a water truck should be on site to minimize the dust — something Woodward said he already has on site — and they recommended building a berm to shield the dust from neighboring properties and consider paving the access road to the site.

The two agencies also addressed groundwater contamination concerns. Beier noted that Woodward is currently applying for an operating permit through DOGAMI, the agency that does the field work on groundwater issues, prior to DEQ issuing a permit.

"Based on their initial field work, there aren't any federal wetlands on the property or near it," she said. "It's part of the applicant's burden to demonstrate to the Department of Geology that there are no waters of the state that will be affected."

Beier added that DEQ staff who have been out to the site have determined that the water table is far enough below the proposed site that groundwater monitoring would not be necessary.

"The DEQ and DOGAMI felt that they had a process in place to adequately review the environmental impacts associated with these particular activities on the site," Beier added, "and they could condition activities to mitigate any environmental impact."

Ultimately, the planning commission voted unanimously to approve the permit modification with several conditions that addressed hours of operation, blasting provisions, lighting and noxious weed control as well as continual adherence to environmental regulations imposed by state and federal agencies.

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