The Umstead Coalition WINS a Key Appeal! Crabtree Creek Bridge “Permit” is Invalidated. Judge REVERSED (invalidated) NC DEQ’s Decision to issue Neuse Buffer Authorization for Wake Stone Corporation’s proposed bridge over Crabtree Creek for proposed new mining pit.
Read Administrative Law Judge Michael C. Byrne's Ruling HERE
September 27, 2021
Today the Administrative Law Judge ruled in favor of The Umstead Coalition’s Appeal of the Neuse Buffer Authorization to permanently destroy Neuse Buffers along Crabtree Creek with a massive bridge, 60-Foot wide. The Authorization is INVALIDATED. Wake Stone, a private mining company, has proposed to build a new bridge across Crabtree Creek just upstream of William B. Umstead State Park within the view and noise scape of the State Park to transport large, noisy quarry trucks from a proposed new pit north of Crabtree Creek on the Odd Fellows Tract to the existing quarry operations on the south side of Crabtree Creek. Concurrent with this proposed new bridge is the construction of 1,700 linear feet of massive retaining walls along Crabtree Creek that would kill trees within the Neuse River buffer and substantially narrow the Crabtree Creek riparian buffer on the existing quarry site.
Today’s Ruling confirms The Umstead Coalition’s contention that the NC Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Water Resources (DEQ-DWR) did not follow the Neuse Buffer Rules (the law) which requires full evaluation of alternatives to avoid Neuse Buffer impacts, and if not possible to avoid, then evaluation of alternatives to minimize impacts. Wake Stone did not submit the required alternatives evaluation to DEQ and DEQ failed to require and fully assess viable alternatives to avoid and minimize impacts to the Neuse River Riparian buffers along Crabtree Creek.
The proposed bridge and deep rock mine would cause harm to Crabtree Creek’s health and wildlife corridor. Just downstream of the proposed bridge, in Crabtree Creek as it flows through William B. Umstead State Park, is the “Threatened” Neuse River waterdog (Necturus lewisi). The US Fish and Wildlife finalized the listing as threatened on June 8, 2021 (effective July 9, 2021)(Footnote 1). The Neuse River waterdog only lives in the Neuse and Tar River Basins and is threatened by loss of habitat and sediment pollution.
“This section of Crabtree Creek and protection of the Odd Fellows tract represents the best chance to allow William B. Umstead State Park to remain ecologically connected to other natural areas, particularly Jordan Lake which has over 40,000 acres of public forest/gamelands,” said Dr. Ron Sutherland, Chief Scientist, Wildlands Network. “Jordan Lake’s forest are also connected (via several large rivers) to the broader network of habitat across North Carolina, and it is essential to keep Umstead State Park linked together with that network.”
Wake Stone proposes to build a new quarry pit adjacent to North Carolina’s William B. Umstead State Park. Park. The private quarry company has proposed to destroy our public property managed by the RDU Airport Authority by blasting a deep pit leaving only 25 feet of buffer along the border with William B. Umstead State Park, Old Reedy Creek Road Recreational Corridor, and a private residence, less than 50 feet buffer along the steep Crabtree Creek slopes- on both sides of Crabtree Creek-leaving Crabtree Creek suspended above two massive pits 400 feet deep; quarry blasting explosions within 100 feet of our State Park, East Coast Greenway, US 1 Bike Route, and a private residence.
The judge felt strongly enough about statements made under oath by Sam Bratton, President of Wake Stone, that he included this statement in his Finding of Facts:
36. “Confidence in Bratton’s opinions and predictions is not enhanced by his providing evasive answers to the Tribunal’s questions about the impacts of agricultural lime, fertilizer, and superphosphate entering Crabtree Creek as a part of efforts to re-establish vegetation in the buffer area destroyed by the Wake Stone project.”
The Mining Permit is currently being evaluated by another DEQ Division. The quarry proposal is for the first private rock quarry on public lands in NC impacting a State Park and would set a new disastrous precedent for public land management in the State. The quarry permit should be denied. NC State Parks has requested the Mining Permit Application be denied due to significant adverse effects to William B. Umstead State Park.
The judge's ruling highlights the irregularities and lack of consideration of less environmentally harmful options, as required. DEQ has made no decision on Wake Stone’s permit modification for a new quarry pit on public land, the other side of Crabtree Creek from an existing quarry, abutting Umstead State Park.
Dr. Jean Spooner, Chair of The Umstead Coalition, “requests the Secretary of DEQ trigger a full, independent Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for the proposed new RDU Quarry. DEQ’s Rules on the NC Environmental Policy Act (NCEPA) of 1971 require such when a proposed activity may have significant adverse effects on parklands, recreational areas and threatened species.” (Footnote 2) “The situation before us is perhaps the biggest environmental disaster to a North Carolina State Park in decades.”
The Court’s Decision is available here:
Footnote 1: https://www.fws.gov/southeast/news/2021/06/service-provides-endangered-species-protections-for-the-carolina-madtom-and-neuse-river-waterdog/
Footnote 2: DEQ’s Rules on SEPA clearly state the authority and requirement of the Secretary of the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) to trigger NCEPA:
Wake Stone submitted new site plans to DEQ and we are very concerned — and you should be too. The new site plans propose an even bigger mining pit and smaller protective buffers!
Reduced protective buffers and new 16-24' concrete wall to be built along the Umstead State Park boundary
The current quarry should be stopping operation in 2031, but it isn't
Wake Stone's new plans propose only a 25 foot buffer along much of the boundary with Umstead State Park and the Old Reedy Creek multi-use trail (now part of the State's greenway system).
25 feet is only 1.5 car lengths.
And along much of that 25 foot border, they plan plan to build a concrete wall between 16 to 24 feet tall.
Blasting is now proposed to be within 100 feet of Umstead State Park.
And if that wasn't enough, there's more — Wake Stone proposes to substantially decrease the protective buffers on their existing Triangle Quarry off of Harrison Ave (Cary entrance to Umstead State Park) and use haul roads near our Park boundary for increased quarry truck traffic and noise!
A one word change to the Wake Stone mining permit application in 2018 allowed this to happen (behind closed doors). Read more about the Sunset Clause scandal on NC Policy Watch.
Governor Cooper has the power to make DEQ honor the terms of the original mining permit and stop the current quarry operations in 2031. If this happens, the proposed RDU Quarry will not be able to move forward.
SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS NOW
The RDU Airport Authority (RDUAA) is in the “scoping” phase of the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the new main runway at RDU.
The “scoping” is like developing a Table of Contents. It determines the content of the EA. The “scoping” is a critical portion of the EA as it determines what is required to be evaluated. If a topic is in the “scoping,” then RDUAA and their consultants must include it in the EA.
If a topic is not in the “scoping,” then RDUAA and their consultants can ignore the topic.
We support the new main runway and terminal gate expansion on the West side of the RDU airport.
However, we need to ensure that there is a solid EA that 1) considers the full expansion (not partial expansion) of these items as per the RDU Vision 2040 plan and 2) facilitates appropriate mitigation of environmental impacts.
RDUAA is segmenting projects – meaning they are breaking up the grand vision into smaller projects so as to make some parts seem less benign. So, while the extended runway project does not on the surface involve the Odd Fellows Tract, Tract 286, Lake Crabtree, and Umstead State Park; in the grand scheme of things, it does.
Essentially a new main runway is to be built west of the current main runway and the current main runway will become a taxiway. In the grand plan, RDUAA will ultimately be extending the main runway (5L/23R) by 1,500 feet. But, for now, they are trying only to scope out a shorter version of the main runway. Then, in a few years, they will come back and ask for more. The sum total of the effects will be more impactful than the little pieces.
So, now is the time to submit thoughts, questions and comments. Think long term. Click "Start writing" for some letter-writing tips along with some things that we need to ask to be in the EA. Feel free to use these ideas, but please try to tweak them into your own words.
Written by Samantha Kummerer, WTVD ABC News
RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The William B. Umstead State Park attracts more than a million visitors a year. The wooded trails winding near creeks offer a haven for many in the heart of Wake County.
Former Wake County commissioner Ervin Portman is one of the many who enjoys the escape the park offers. In recent years, Portman's passion for the park has sent him on a mission to save it.
"We need to be as good as good as stewards, as people that came before us were because this park is supposed to be enjoyed for generations to come," Portman said. "If we continue to allow one encroachment after another encroachment after another encroachment, we're going to lose what we're trying to save."
The company Wake Stone has operated a rock quarry next to the Wake County state park for decades. It was a controversial issue back in the 1980s but Wake Stone was eventually granted a permit to mine on the land under certain restrictions. One of those stipulations included a 50-year sunset clause.
However, Portman said a recent change to the mining permit could mean mining could last much longer.
The issue Portman pointed to stems from a single word.
The initial permit issued back in 1981 said: "If all quarryable stone is not removed, the right of the State to acquire the quarry site shall accrue at the end of 50 years from the date quarrying commences or 10 years after quarrying operation have ceased without having been resumed, whichever is soon."
The word sooner was included in every permit renewal until 2018 when suddenly it changed to later.
A small change but one that essentially means mining doesn't have to stop after 50 years if Wake Stone isn't ready to end quarrying.
Emails published publicly online show Wake Stone requested this word change back in 2011 and again in 2018. While the change didn't stick in 2011, it did in 2018.
A published memo on DEQ's website states the change was approved to match the wording in the Mining Commission's 1980 decision. While the decision did say later, Portman said it was not a final decision and the 1981 official permit and all permits renewed after said 'sooner'.
"When I read them say that it was a typographical error. And they had just discovered it after 30 years. That didn't sit right with me," Portman said.
"Why would you accept the permit with an error in it, and not say anything?
Why would you accept it eight times, and not say anything over 30 years?"
The I-Team reached out to both DEQ and Wake Stone. Nether answered questions about the change or offered any comment.
Rufus Edmisten was North Carolina's Attorney General when the initial permitting was being considered. While he didn't directly work on the permit, he was involved with matters of the state and remembers how controversial the issue was.
He said he believes the permit would not have been approved if the 50-year sunset clause was not included.
"With faded memories with people being deceased, I don't know how that happened but I know this, that for sure, we all thought that the quarry was supposed to last for 50 years and 50 years only," Edmisten said. "We wouldn't have negotiated the contract had it not been a 50-year deal. Wake Stone knew that as far as I understand."
Currently, DEQ is considering Wake Stone's approval for a 2nd quarry on the Old Fellow Property.
The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority Board of Directors already approved the expansion. The quarry would generate around $24 million for the RDU airport who owns the land.
Portman said he is not against mining but believes it needs to be done in a way that doesn't impact protected parks.
"It's not their land. It's our land. That's the impact. That's what we're fighting for them to investigate," Portman said.
Portman and other advocates have asked DEQ to reconsider the permit change, so far none has been announced.
"I would hope that we will sooner than later, solve this in favor of a 50-year limitation," Edmisten said.
Read the article on WTVD ABC News
Written by Lisa Sorg, NC Policy Watch
Former N.C. Attorney General says there was no typo, and the state intended for mining to wind down in 2032, not the 22nd century
One word — “sooner” — in a 40-year-old mining permit could alter the future of a quarry and its controversial proposed expansion adjacent to Umstead State Park in Raleigh.
According to former North Carolina Attorney General Rufus Edmisten, the issuers of the original 1981 state permit intended that Wake Stone stop mining and begin reclamation of the site when the quarry was exhausted, or in 50 years, whichever was “sooner.” That language would require reclamation to begin in 2032.
But a 2018 permit change appears to allow the company to continue to operate the mine until it is exhausted, or for 50 years, whichever is “later.” The change could ease the way for Wake Stone to expand the quarry and continue mining for decades.
If the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality determines the new information from Edmisten is valid, it could not only halt mining sooner at the existing quarry, but also make the controversial proposed expansion less viable because of a shortened timeline. The state Division of Energy, Mineral, and Land Resources (DEMLR) could decide on the expansion permit before the end of the summer.
Edmisten had sent the email detailing his memory to former Wake County Commissioner Erv Portman, an opponent of the quarry, who forwarded it to state environmental regulators.
A controversy that’s spanned four decades
Edmisten, who served as attorney general from 1974 to 1984, recently reviewed the permit change on behalf of Portman and other members of the Umstead Coalition, opponents of the mine.
“The Division is aware of the questions raised by Mr. Portman,” said Sharon Martin, DEQ deputy secretary for public affairs. “The permit application is still in the review process and all public comments and information provided will be considered during that process.”
Edmisten could not be reached by phone at his law office, but through his assistant verified the email.
Wake Stone spokeswoman Melanie Jennings said Edmisten was not involved in the permit application review or the company’s subsequent appeals to the state Mining Commission. “His letter is purely a recollection on his part as to what was meant,” Jennings said.
While it is true that Edmisten was not directly involved in the original permitting for the site, his office was embroiled in the controversy. Assistant Attorney General Daniel Oakley represented the Department of Natural Resources and Community Development, now known as DEQ, and its divisions. Edmisten was also regularly informed about the issue and was often quoted in media reports at the time as opposing the project.
DEMLR, then known as the Division of Land Resources, originally denied Wake Stone’s permit application in August 1980. It cited concerns that the proposed quarry “would have a significantly adverse effect on the purposes of a publicly owned park, forest or recreation area.”
“The combined effects of noise, sedimentation, dust, traffic and blasting vibration” associated with quarry would impact the park “in the form of noise intrusion and deterioration of visual resources,” the denial read.
Wake Stone appealed the decision to the state Mining Commission, which overturned the division’s ruling in the spring of 1981. The Mining Commission’s decision contains a pivotal section: It states that reclamation must begin when the quarry is exhausted or in 50 years, whichever is “later.”
In an email to DEMLR, Edmisten wrote that Wake Stone “always preferred no time limit … and the Mining Commission copied that position into their final order.”
But “later” did not appear in the final permit. Steve Conrad, then the state director of land resources, issued the permit to Wake Stone in May 1981, with the word “sooner.”
In issuing the permit, Conrad wrote to Wake Stone, asking the company to review it “and notify this office of any objection or question concerning the terms.” Wake Stone did not; the company later contended the word “sooner” was a typo.
“To the best of my memory, what I can say is that I do not think Director [Steve] Conrad made a typographical error with the word ‘Sooner’ in the permit …” Edmisten wrote last month to DEMLR. “I also find it difficult to believe Wake Stone would have accepted the permit if it was an error. This was not a small or insignificant point.”
Conrad died in 2011.
Even though the “sooner” language appeared in Wake Stone’s mining permit, the company never appealed it in eight routine renewals — until 2011. “For whatever reason, the suggested word change was omitted” in 2011, Wake Stone wrote to DEMLR this year. “Wake Stone chose not to pursue the issue further at that time.”
However, in 2018, DEMLR removed the word “sooner” from the permit and changed it to “later,” at Wake Stone’s request, state documents show.
Judy Wehner assistant state mining specialist, made the change to “later” during an email exchange with the company, documents show, with no opportunity for public comment. DEMLR considered the change merely administrative, and was among minor modifications in the permit that did not require public notice.
Yet the word change coincided with two important developments: Wake Stone and the RDU Airport Authority had been negotiating over leasing land next to the park for the quarry expansion. Many DEMLR employees had also moved on by 2018, leaving little institutional memory to counter Wake Stone’s narrative.
Continue reading the full article on NC Policy Watch
The Neuse River waterdog salamander is has been documented in the past in Crabtree Creek within William B. Umstead State Park. In March 2021, a NCDOT contractor documented on Crabtree Creek just downstream of our Park. We have every reason to believe it still lives in Umstead.
The Neuse River waterdog salamander is highly susceptible to sediments pollutants in the stream. We need to stop the sediment loading from the existing Triangle Quarry, protect the fragile streambanks along Crabtree Creek and not allow the extreme reduction in stream buffers being proposed by Wake Stone. The Mining Permit Application must be denied.
Read more in this article written by Lisa Sorg, NC Policy Watch: North Carolina has a newly designated endangered species, which is nothing to be proud of
NC Department of Environmental Quality-Division of Water Resources (DEQ-DWR) approved the Neuse River Buffer Authorization Application submitted by the RDUAA staff in October, 2020. The Odd Fellows Tract is not included, and some restrictions were added, but it's still a tragedy if moved forward by the RDUAA Board. Note: this application was entirely on staff initiative - not initiated, nor approved (yet) by the RDUAA Board.
Download DEQ Approval letter, May 4, 2021
Download NC State Park's letter asking for denial of Application, January 25, 2021
Statement by Dr. Jean Spooner, Chair, The Umstead Coalition, dated May 5, 2021:
The proposal by RDUAA staff to deforest a wide swath and install a chain-link fence topped with 3 rows of barbed wire (similar specifications used for high voltage power sub-stations and correctional facilities) along the environmentally sensitive boundary of William B. Umstead State Park and the East Coast Greenway along Old Reedy Creek Road is an embarrassment and insult to our community and William B Umstead State Park. And, would result in grave environmental damage to our State Park.
DEQ-DWR should have followed the Neuse Buffer Rules (the law) and denied this authorization request to destroy and harm our streams and wetlands flowing into William B. Umstead State Park. The Neuse Buffer Rules require that RDUAA must first AVOID stream and wetland impacts to the maximum extent possible, and then minimize any unavoidable impacts, as well as provide sufficient Best Management Practices to protect our streams and tributaries. Viable alternatives exist - NC State Parks opposed this fence and offered alternatives. In addition, absolutely, no stream crossing protections are proposed to protect the streams and wetlands: no bridges, no culverts, nothing.
To add to this insult, RDUAA fence proposal plans to sever one of the most popular trails in the Region and the East Coast Greenway by putting the fence across Umstead State Park's Reedy Creek Multi-use Trail. This trail is popular with commuters and recreational users and serves as a regional connection to Cary's Black Creek Greenway, Morrisville's Crabtree Creek Greenway, Raleigh's Reedy Creek/House Creek Greenways, the American Tobacco Trail, and the planned Triangle Bikeway along I-40. Reedy Creek multi-use trail is built upon the historic road beds and has been a State Park trail since 1934 in the same location. Shameful.
The proposed fence is an unnecessary boondoggle and mis-use of RDUAA funds. There is already a security fence perimeter that protects the runways, terminals, and parking areas. Furthermore, it has not been initiated, nor approved by the RDUAA Board.
In contrast, the Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) has and promotes a publicly accessible bike trail along its airport perimeter (BWI Trail) which provides a community recreational asset, a transportation connection to the Baltimore-Annapolis Trail and the airport, and provides parking revenues for the airport. That is the type of community and partnering relationship that RDUAA should engage with the community and its four owning governments of the Counties of Wake and Durham and the Cities of Raleigh and Durham.
RDUAA should strive to find collaborative opportunities with its owners, NC State Parks, and the community. This is sadly the opposite. We request that the RDUAA Board put an end to this extreme blow to the airport's community relations.
Dr. Jean Spooner, Chair, The Umstead Coalition
View below for the Umstead Coalition's Public Hearing Comments on the FY21-22 RDUAA Budget submitted on March 11, 2021.
To: Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority (RDUAA) Board Members
Re: 2021-2022 RDUAA Budget, Public Hearing Public Comments
Thank you for representing our community on the RDUAA Board and your service to improve the Raleigh-Durham International Airport as a vital partner. Your consideration of Public Comments regarding the draft Budget in advance of Board approval is appreciated.
The Umstead Coalition is focused upon serving and protecting William B. Umstead State Park. William B. Umstead State Park was established in 1934 and is one of most visited NC State Parks, many of which access the Park via the Old Reedy Creek Road Recreational corridor that connects Lake Crabtree County Park to William B. Umstead State Park. Like the airport, William B. Umstead State Park is a great community asset.
William B. Umstead State Park and the Raleigh-Durham International Airport share 6.2 miles of common boundary. Storm water from the entire airport drains directly or indirectly (through Brier Creek and Lake Crabtree) into William B. Umstead State Park. The extent of our shared property boundary and environmental sensitive issues has sometimes caused controversy, but also can and has led to opportunities.
When all the stakeholders have worked together in the past, the airport, the Park, and its connected Parks and greenways have thrived. That enables an environment that attracts and retains employers, employees, and visitors, which in turn lends to an enhanced economic environment for our communities to grow and prosper.
Please accept these Public Comments in the vein of trying to improve the airport and its ability to be a good neighbor and community partner. Please consider the following suggestions in your deliberations of your budget decisions.
View a PDF of the Umstead Coalition's full public comments to RDUAA>>
Download a PDF of NC Division of Parks and Recreation's letter to NC DEQ/Division of Energy, Mineral & Land Resources
February 12, 2021
Brian Wrenn, Director NC DEQ/Division of Energy, Mineral & Land Resources Via email: Brian.firstname.lastname@example.org
Re: Expand Wake Stone Triangle Quarry, Odd Fellows Tract adjacent to William B. Umstead State Park, Raleigh, Wake County, GS 20-0841
Dear Mr. Wrenn:
After further evaluation of the permit modification, the Division of Parks and Recreation (DPR) requests that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) deny the permit modification based on its significant negative impacts on Umstead State Park and other publicly owned greenways adjacent to the park, as allowed by N.C. Gen. Stat. § 74-51(d)(5) (allowing denial of a permit upon finding “[t]hat the operation will have a significantly adverse effect on the purposes of a publicly owned park, forest or recreation area”). This conclusion is consistent with the 1980 denial of the mining permit application by the then Department of Natural Resources and Community Development (NRCD) due to the proposed combined effects to the park of noise, sedimentation, dust, traffic, and blasting vibrations associated with the then-proposed quarry.
Our May 8, 2020 letter on this topic details much of our rationale for requesting denial of the permit modification. The issues are summarized below and include noise, sedimentation and water quality, dust and air quality, traffic, habitat loss, blasting vibrations, and park expansion. DPR does not believe mitigation efforts could eliminate these concerns. In addition to the significant negative effects discussed in that letter and below, the delayed closure of the existing quarry and potential transfer of the property to the park would represent a significant economic cost to DPR. Renewing the permit and preventing transfer denies DPR and the State this valuable property in the middle of a rapidly growing metropolitan area.
DPR asks that DEQ also consider the many changes since the initial permit approval almost 40 years ago, including increased demand for outdoor recreation, construction of additional greenways adjacent to the park, and loss of habitat through increased urbanization in the vicinity of the park. DPR believes denial of the permit will greatly benefit Umstead Park and protect the natural resources of the State and the citizens who gain enjoyment from these resources.
As visitors come to a state park, there is an expectation of tranquility and quiet not afforded them where they live, even at a more urban park like Umstead Park. Additional noise from the proposed quarry expansion site will degrade this tranquility to a level that would harm park visitors’ experiences.
Increased sedimentation from the proposed quarry will harm the downstream water quality of Crabtree Creek in the park. Sand and finer grained sediments, including silts and clays, degrade stream habitats, and can reduce sunlight and harm aquatic plant and animal species. The extent of sedimentation in a stream is one of the significant indicators of diversity of macroinvertebrates which are an indicator of stream health.
Dust and fine particles degrade air quality, potentially damaging public health. DPR is concerned that the cumulative impacts on air quality from the new quarry have not been adequately assessed. Deforestation and the heavy machinery that would be used in the proposed quarry expansion will negatively impact air quality in the region. As the park and connecting greenways have become more popular there is a concern that blasting dust and other airborne pollutants from traffic and mining operations will harm the health of many park users.
Umstead Park shares an entrance with the current Wake Stone quarry off the Harrison Avenue access to the park. This location is a primary entrance location for the park and would also continue to serve as the primary location of trucks entering and leaving the quarry. Over the years there have been several challenges associated with the shared access point. Truck traffic is constant when the quarry is operating and has resulted in conflicts with visitors, especially those biking into the park. Trucks leaving the quarry often cross the center line due to the tight turning radius, posing a safety issue. In addition, truck traffic is likely to increase at this already crowded intersection, exacerbating safety issues, as timber is removed from the site, the bridge is built, and associated quarry activities at the new site ramp up.
In addition to the noise impacts from blasting previously discussed, blasting vibrations could also negatively affect both park visitors and facilities. Significant vibrations could mar the very peace and quiet that visitors come to Umstead Park to experience, and each year many thousands of people enjoy the Reedy Creek Multi-Use Trail adjacent to the proposed site. Vibrations could also damage buildings including park staff residences. These problems will have an adverse impact on the park.
Loss of Wildlife Corridors
Habitat loss and fragmentation is the largest contributor to biodiversity loss on the planet. The proposed permit modification would permanently fragment healthy wildlife habitat directly on the park’s border.
Because population growth in the Triangle region and visitation to Umstead State Park are rapidly increasing, the park’s master plan calls for expansion of the park through land acquisition. Approval of the permit modification will cause a significant delay, by 30 years or more, in the potential transfer of the existing quarry property to the park, which would limit the park’s ability to meet increased public demand in the meantime.
In conclusion, approval of a permit to expand the quarry will degrade Umstead State Park and represent a significant lost opportunity for the park, our Division, and the natural resources of our State. The North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation requests that Department of Environmental Quality deny the modification.
DPR appreciates the opportunity to provide these comments on the proposed permit modification. Thank you for your consideration.
Dwayne Patterson, Director North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation
cc: Reid Wilson, Secretary, NCDNCR Brian Strong, Deputy Director of Planning and Natural Resources, DPR John Nicholson, Chief Deputy Secretary, DEQ Sheila Holman, Assistant Secretary for Environment, DEQ
Download a PDF of the letter>>
Deny Proposed New Quarry Pit, Restore Undisturbed Buffers and Sunset Clause
WHEREAS, On August 22, 1980. DEQ (then NRCD) denied an Application for a new Mining Permit based upon “the proposed quarry operation would have an adverse effect upon the purposes of a publicly owned park, forest, or recreational area. The combined effects of noise, sedimentation, dust, traffic and blasting vibration associated with the proposed quarry operation would produce primary impacts on William B. Umstead State Park in the form of noise intrusion and deterioration of visual resources."; and
WHEREAS, the industry-friendly Mining Commission overruled DEQ’s Decision (January 27 and April 3, 1981) , ordering the permit be issued with protections for William B Umstead State Park including “Permanent” buffers; and
WHEREAS, between January 27, 1981 and May 13, 1981, DEQ (NC Divisions of Land Resources and Parks and Recreation) worked hard either increase protections for William B.
Umstead State Park or, if not obtained, planned to appeal the Mining Commission’s overruling of DEQ’s decision to the Courts; and
WHEREAS, on May 13, 1981 after State Agencies worked hard to add permanent, undisturbed buffer and a 50 year Sunset Clause conditions into the Permit, the first Mining Permit 92-10 (Triangle Quarry) was issued by DEQ; and
WHEREAS, the original Mining Permit was accepted without objection by Wake Stone, as were its Renewals and Modifications issued on May 13, 1981; April 15, 1986; April 1, 1991; February 5, 1992; October 11, 1996; April 20, 2001; November 24, 2010; March 20, 2011 and December 1, 2017 all contained a 50-year Sunset Clause in the “Reclamation Conditions”: “5.B.If all quarryable stone is not removed, the right of the State to acquire the quarry site shall accrue at the end of 50 years from the date quarrying commences or 10 years after quarrying operations have ceased without having been resumed, whichever is sooner, and notices shall be exchanged at that time in the same manner and with the same time limitations as set forth in paragraph A above.”; and
WHEREAS, the 50-year Sunset Clause served as a basis for the State Park planning for future Park land acquisition for the purposes of conservation and recreation, key missions of the NC Parks system; and
WHEREAS, 92-10 Mining permits through 2017 have all measured the stream buffer from top of Crabtree Creek bank with undisturbed, forested buffers; and
WHEREAS, all of the nine Mining Permits issued during the almost 37 years from May 13, 1981 to December 1, 2017 were accepted by the private mining company without objection; and
WHEREAS, the buffers along the western quarry boundary along Crabtree Creek proved insufficient and in 1992 the quarry operations blasting caused a massive streambank failure and filled in 90 percent of Crabtree Creek. The streambank remains devoid of sufficient vegetation through today; and
WHEREAS, on March 28, 2018 a permit Modification was issued to reduce the buffer widths and expand the quarry area to be disturbed by shifting the protected buffers from top of bank to center of the stream;
WHEREAS, William B. Umstead State Park visitors routinely observe sediment-laden discharge from the existing quarry operations into the Park’s forest and directly into Crabtree Creek; and
WHEREAS, since 1982, there have been numerous complaints about dust, noise, water quality, dead trees, truck conflicts from NC Division of Parks and Recreation staff and the public. Many ignored. The adverse impacts continue.
WHEREAS, from 1982 to the present, the current quarry operation has repeatedly violated the protective buffers by unauthorized deforestation, massive streambank failure along Crabtree Creek, diversion of sediment-laden waters into William B. Umstead State Park, changing water hydrology within William B. Umstead State Park, and killing of Park trees.
WHEREAS, the March 28, 2018 Permit changes made at the request of the private mining company including removal of the Sunset Clause by changing “sooner” to “later”, which completes the removal or reduction of all the hard won protections that Wake Stone agreed to with the 1981 and subsequent permits; and
WHEREAS, the March 28, 2018 Permit changes substantially and dramatically reduced the protective buffer widths by moving the buffers from the top-of-bank to the centerline of Crabtree Creek. The same Permit Modification removed the protective language within the permit narrative, instead shifting to the site plan supplied by the private company; and
WHEREAS, the affected State Agency of the NC Division of Parks and Recreation was not informed or consulted of the requested changes that removed the Park protections of the Sunset Clause and substantially decreased the protective buffers in the March 28, 2018 Permit Modifications; and
WHEREAS, the Permit Modifications on March 28, 2018 removed almost all the hard-fought protections for William B. Umstead State Park; and
WHEREAS, on April 7, 2020, the private mining company submitted a Mining Permit Modification Application to increase the footprint of the existing quarry site by further reducing the protective buffers by again decreasing their width and converted the buffers to “unexcavated” buffers (which allow deforestation, fencing, pit perimeter roads, stockpiling, crushers, conveyor systems, etc. – everything just short of excavating a mining pit); and
WHEREAS, the proposed Permit Modifications submitted on April 7, 2020 proposes to expand the current pit perimeter and increase the depth of the current mine an additional 150 feet to a total depth of -170MSL (170 feet below sea level); and
WHEREAS, on April 7, 2020, the private mining company submitted a Mining Permit Modification Application to “expand” the quarry operations with a new rock mine on the other side of Crabtree Creek on a 105 acres tract knows as the Odd Fellows Tract; and
WHEREAS, the proposed Permit Modifications submitted on April 7, 2020 proposes a new massive 60ft wide (4-lane) bridge over Crabtree Creek just upstream of William B. Umstead State Park to carry many noisy, dusty trucks from the proposed new pit to the processing area of the existing quarry operations; and
WHEREAS, the proposed Permit Modifications only includes twenty (25) foot wide undisturbed buffers along William B. Umstead State Park and the minimal Neuse Buffers along the steep slopes of Crabtree Creek. The top of pit would be only 100 feet from William B. Umstead State Park and Crabtree Creek. The pit perimeter road, sediment erosion control, grading would occur as close as 25 feet of Umstead State Park - the public would not consider such a narrow slice as any meaningful “buffer”; and
WHEREAS, the Mining Permit Modification Application is incomplete and asks the Agency reviewers to ignore an adjacent 17.2 acre “Future Reserves” area, which elsewhere is included in the submitted Reclamation Plan, the private companies web site and marketing information, and other figures in the Application. Furthermore, the private company includes this area within the requested permit “expansion” boundary – an obvious attempt to avoid the required agency review and public comments; and
WHEREAS, the Odd Fellows tract is public property with vested, deeded ownership of the Cities of Raleigh and Durham and Counties of Wake and Durham, managed by the Raleigh Durham Airport Authority; and
WHEREAS, the Odd Fellows tract is bounded by William B. Umstead State Park, Crabtree Creek, the Old Reedy Creek Road Recreational corridor and I-40; and
WHEREAS, the Old Reedy Creek Road recreational corridor is heavily used by runners, walkers, bikers, families, and nature lovers; and
WHEREAS, the Old Reedy Creek Road recreational corridor is a portion of Carolina Connection Bikeway, East Coast Greenway, and extremely popular gateway between Cary’s Black Creek Greenway Trail (which connects to the American Tobacco Trail), Wake County’s Lake Crabtree County Park, and Cary’s Black Creek Greenway trail head parking lot connection to William B. Umstead State Park; and
WHEREAS, all of the drainage area from the Odd Fellows Tract flows into William B. Umstead State P ark directly or via Crabtree Creek; and
WHEREAS, on May 8, 2020, The, NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources- NC Division of Parks and Recreation (NCR DPR) submitted a letter to the NC Department of Environmental Quality -NC Division of Energy, Minerals, and Land Resources (DEQ-DEMLR) listing significant concerns regarding the proposed Mining Permit Application including: noise, sedimentation and water quality, dust and air quality, traffic, habitat loss, blasting vibrations, and loss of park expansion; and
WHEREAS, the Mission and Purpose of the NC Division of Parks and Recreation is Conservation, Recreation, and Education; and
WHEREAS: the Odd Fellows Track is identified as “critical acres” in the Land Protection Plan of William B. Umstead State Park; and
WHEREAS, on June and July, 2020 DEQ-DEMLR held two Virtual Public Hearing and received approximately 2,000 public comments opposing the substantial reductions in Park protection on the current quarry site and the proposed new quarry site on the other side of Crabtree Creek on the Odd Fellows Tract; and
WHEREAS, the public comments indicated a massive outcry regarding the damaging issues with the current quarry operations including: noise, conflict with the 500 plus quarry trucks/day competing with Park visitors at our Park entrance, dust, air quality issues, water quality issues, loss of protective buffers, buffer violations and the current flooding of park lands resulting in the killing of Park trees; and
WHEREAS, a new rock mine pit on the Odd Fellows tract would start a bad precedent in North Carolina allowing a private rock mine on public property in NC and this one adjacent to William B. Umstead State Park; and
WHEREAS, a new rock mine pit on the Odd Fellows tract would only leave a narrow width of the Neuse River buffers along the steep slopes of Crabtree Creek just upstream of William B. Umstead State Park; and much of those buffers are proposed to be taken up with a fence, deforestation, bridge, sediment control structures; and
WHEREAS, the proposed narrow riparian buffers on both sides of Crabtree Creek would leave an artificially narrow “aqueduct” and elevated Crabtree Creek above two quarry pits, each deeper than 400 feet. In exactly the same area Wake Stone already blew out a much larger buffer in 1992, destroying all natural vegetation in the buffer and blocking 90% of the stream, and
WHEREAS, there is no independent engineering analysis ensuring the future integrity of Crabtree Creek with the proposed deep pits on both sides of Crabtree Creek and minimal stream buffers; and
WHEREAS, a new rock mine pit on the Odd Fellows tract would sever the last remaining habitat corridor connecting Jordan Lake to the east through William B. Umstead State Park; and
WHEREAS, a new rock mine pit on the Odd Fellows tract would eliminate a large forested recharge area for Crabtree Creek and decrease base flow; and
WHEREAS, the Umstead Coalition’s mission includes “preserving the natural integrity of William B. Umstead State Park”; and
WHEREAS, the Sierra Club advocates for environmental protection; and was opposed to the 1980 request, and was assured by the promised protections of the original permit that have now been violated or removed, and
WHEREAS, The existing Quarry has already had significant adverse effects on William B. Umstead State Park, and the proposed expansion will significantly reduce the protections on both the existing and expanded pits, it is reasonable to conclude the additional significantly adverse effects will grow due to the significantly fewer protections,
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that The Umstead Coalition and Sierra Club Capital
Group request DEQ-DEMLR DENY the proposed Mining Permit for a new mine on the Odd
Fellows Site because “the proposed new quarry operations would have an significant adverse effect upon the purposes of a publicly owned park, forest, or recreational area” including
William B. Umstead State Park and it’s connected recreational corridors (per G.S. Chapter 74- Article 7, 74-51(d) of the 1971 Mining Act); and
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the The Umstead Coalition and Sierra Club Capital Group request DEQ-DEMLR reinstate the 2010 Mining Permit conditions on the existing quarry operations to restore the committed undisturbed buffers, measured from top of bank, along Crabtree Creek and William B. Umstead State Park; and
Group request that DEQ-DEMLR reinstate the 50-year sunset clause with “sooner” in the Reclamation Conditions of the Mining Permit 92-10.
Signed: February 7, 2021 Dr. Jean Spooner, Chair The Umstead Coalition
Signed: February 7, 2021 Hwa Huang, Chair Capital Group, Sierra Club
Download a PDF of the Resolution>>
The Umstead Coalition is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
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