Smaller sites needed to supply construction materials for a fast-growing area, county commissioners are told

Washington County proposes to regulate smaller quarries that produce sand, gravel and other materials for construction and road work.

County commissioners have set Sept. 5 for a first hearing on the ordinance, which has been in the works for months. The planning commission endorsed it on Aug. 2.

The county already has authority to regulate "significant" quarries, which produce at least 2 million tons of aggregate annually — equivalent to about 100,000 truckloads.

But the county has no regulations for smaller quarries. Officials say such quarries will become increasingly important to supply material used in road-building and other construction in a fast-developing county.

"I support opening as many quarries as is necessary so that everybody gets their needs met," Board Chairman Andy Duyck said.

Duyck also said additional material will be needed when Scoggins Dam, an earthfill structure southwest of Forest Grove, is raised or relocated after a study by the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

He said the farther away such materials are, the more it costs to haul them to where they are needed. Right now, much material is hauled from Columbia County.

Washington County led northwest Oregon with 2.5 million tons of aggregate produced last year, according to the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. That total is up from 2 million tons back in 2010, during the economic downturn, but far less than the 4.5 million tons produced back in 2000.

Senior planner Anne Kelly said most current activity is in the southeast corner of the county.

The state agency maps many county sites that have permits, but many are not considered active.

County commissioners heard a preliminary presentation Jan. 24 about why a new ordinance is needed.

Kelly said elements of the ordinance were drawn from Clackamas and Lane counties.

Under the proposed ordinance, public notice and review would be required for conditional use permits, and the county can impose a wide range of restrictions to protect neighboring lands. Among them: Livability — including hours of operation, noise and air quality — water areas, wells, traffic, roads and bridges.

"The current process protects a quarry from the neighbors," Duyck said. "This process protects the neighbors from the quarry."

Larger quarries received protection two decades ago, when a state law required counties to identify aggregate-mining sites under a state requirement for protection of natural features. The law was advocated by the Oregon Concrete and Aggregate Producers Association, which sought to limit land-use appeals.

"A hundred years from now, we'll still be arguing about this," said Commissioner Roy Rogers, who took office two years after the county approved regulations for large quarries back in 1983.

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