Wake Stone Corporation has filed an Appeal to the NC Administrative Hearings Office.
The filing claims their proposed new quarry pit on the Odd Fellows Tract will not have an "Significant adverse effect on William B. Umstead State Park" and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) errored with Permit Application denial. You can read their submitted Appeal here.
To this we say — Wake Stone is wrong - DEQ's Permit Application Denial is the right decision — the private company's proposal to put heavy industrial mining operations along the East Coast Greenway and 25ft from a private residence and William B. Umstead State Park, would indeed have "Significant Adverse Effects."
What's next? Wake Stone has now triggered a long, drawn out legal battle with multiple court proceedings with all those legal trimmings. The NC Attorney General's (AG) Office attorneys will lead the defense of DEQ's Denial. Wake Stone has hired their own lawyers. The Umstead Coalition will continue to be actively involved in the fight! We are confident that the proposed quarry operations on public lands immediately adjacent to State protected recreational lands will NOT happen, but Wake Stone has chosen pursue this folly. So, we fight on.
Written by Lisa Sorg, NC Policy Watch
This is a developing story.
The NC Department of Environmental Quality has denied a mining permit for a controversial quarry next to the 5,600-acre Umstead State Park in Raleigh, citing “significantly adverse effects” from “noise, visual and truck traffic impacts” that would interfere with the park’s purpose.
The proposed quarry has been contentious since 2019, when Wake Stone leased the “Odd Fellows tract” from the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority. Quarry opponents unsuccessfully fought the legality of the lease in court, but have relentlessly pressured state officials to reject the mining permit.
Wake Stone planned to timber 105 acres of the Odd Fellows tract, and use 45 of it as a rock quarry. The company would have blasted a pit 40 stories deep to extract the materials, then crush and sell them for road-building and other uses. While Wake Stone agreed to invest millions of dollars in adjacent natural areas and mountain bike trails, the mining could have continued for 25 years or more.
The person answering the phone at Wake Stone’s corporate headquarters said the company’s public relations firm would be issuing a statement. Update Feb. 18 : The News & Observer quoted Wake Stone president Samuel Bratton as saying the company would appeal the decision. An administrative law judge would hear such an appeal.
Jean Spooner of the Umstead Coalition, a citizens’ group that fought the quarry, said “it was the right decision by the state.”
Umstead State Park is one of the most popular in central North Carolina, with 1.1 million visitors last year, according to the state Division of Parks and Recreation. Areas immediately surrounding it “have experienced tremendous growth,” according to a DEQ summary of its decision, which demonstrates not only the importance of the park but also its “sensitivity to outside development pressures.”
The Mining Act of 1971 requires the Division of Energy, Minerals and Land Resources to consider seven criteria in approving or denying a permit. In a written summary justifying its decision, DEMLR noted an increase in noise levels, even with the construction of a sound barrier wall, would be unacceptable. Likewise, parts of the quarry operation would remain visible from the park, as would the sound barrier wall. The proposed expansion would also add truck traffic and create safety hazards for park-goers, the document read.
Spooner told Policy Watch that the proposed quarry would have also disrupted wildlife corridors and aquatic life in Crabtree Creek. There were also concerns about the affects of the blasting on the Dunn residence near the park entrance on Reedy Creek Road. That house is on a private drinking water well, which could have also been affected by the quarry operations, which in general pump millions of gallons of water from the pits and can draw down aquifers.
Wake Stone has operated another quarry near the park since 1980; that too, proved controversial. State environmental regulars denied the permit, also based on adverse effects to the purposes of the Park, but the Mining Commission overruled the department, and the permit was issued in 1981.
Read the article on NC Policy Watch>>
Written by Jason deBruyn, WUNC
A group of Umstead Park supporters on Friday cheered a decision by the Department of Environmental Quality to deny a quarry permit application by Wake Stone that would have expanded the company's operation at a site near the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
"It was the right decision," said Jean Spooner, chairwoman of the Umstead Coalition board of directors, which has vocally opposed the quarry's expansion. "The current quarry has exhibited substantial adverse impacts on the park in the years it's existed there."
Still, the ruling likely doesn't write the last chapter of this more than six-years-long saga as Wake Stone has already signaled an intent to appeal the ruling.
Leading up to the ruling, the DEQ Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources held two public hearings and considered thousands of comments from public stakeholders. It denied the application because it ruled that a new quarry would negatively impact the park.
"The proposed quarry is located and designed such that normal operation would have significantly adverse effects on the purposes of the park through noise, visual, and traffic impacts," according to the ruling.
Wake Stone has operated a quarry on property it owns alongside Interstate 40 just northwest of the Harrison Road exit. It wants to expand quarry operations to property generally referred to as the "Oddfellows" site owned jointly by Wake and Durham counties and by Raleigh and Durham and overseen by the Raleigh-Durham AirportAuthority, which agreed to lease the land to Wake Stone for the quarry expansion.
The Umstead Coalition has opposed the expansion citing environmental concerns, as well as, negative quality of life impacts on park-goers.
Below is the official statement from NC DEQ:
State issues denial of Wake Stone quarry modification
Raleigh - Feb 17, 2022
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Energy, Mineral, and Land Resources (DEMLR) has denied a requested modification of Wake Stone Corporation's Permit 92-10, for the Triangle Quarry located adjacent to William B. Umstead State Park. The denied modification request included the proposed expansion of mining operations, including the construction of a new pit at the Wake County location.
After a comprehensive technical evaluation process, which included two public hearings and consideration of thousands of comments from the public and stakeholders, DEMLR denied the application based on information that indicates the proposed operation would have a significantly adverse effect on the purposes of a publicly owned park, forest or recreation area.
The staff of the DEMLR Mining Program reviewed the permit application, submitted April 8, 2020, and all supplemental information filed after the initial application. Public hearings were held on the application on June 23 and July 7, 2020.
Read the denial summary here, and see other documents on the DEQ website.
An interesting perspective was composed to more fully assess RDUAA’s and Wake Stone’s plans to put an open mine pit on the Odd Fellows tract and to put parking lots on much of Tract "286." It discusses several pieces to RDUAA’s land use puzzle. Some are known and being considered. However, there are several pieces that are missing and not being honestly evaluated. Some (but not all) of these puzzle pieces include:
1) Why does RDUAA manage the Odd Fellows tract and the 286 tract in the first place and why does RDUAA continue to manage these tracts?
2) Do the physical locations of Odd Fellows and 286 East fit better with operations of the William B. Umstead State Park or RDU Airport?
3) How do RDUAA’s plans for the Odd Fellows tract fit in with RDUAA’s Sustainability Plan (SMP) or their RDU Forest Management Plan (FMP)? How does Wake Stone’s open mine pit and massive bridge over Crabtree Creek just upstream of Umstead State Park fit into RDUAA’s SMP?
4) For financing RDU operations, are there alternatives to destroying land that is on the NC State Parks critical acquisition list and part of a long-established and highly used Recreation Corridor?
5) What are the potential short-term and long-term liabilities to RDUAA and the public resulting from Wake Stone’s open mine pit on the Odd Fellows tract? Wake Stone Corporation’s liability ends shortly after quarrying operations end but the liability for RDU and the public will never end.
6) What about the Sunset Clause on the current Triangle Quarry? If Wake Stone had not convinced a new DEQ-Mining staff and Interim DEQ Division Director to un-do this long-established clause in the Triangle Quarry Permit by changing the word “sooner” to “later”, could they even consider an open mine pit on Odd Fellows?
7) Does Runway 14-32, the WWII era runway that is only used in only one direction for landings and take-offs create income for RDU? Should this runway be eliminated so that funds directed at this runway could be directed to the main runways?
8) What about the reasoning RDUAA used to justify proposing to fence off the remote lands they manage?
Read the entire thought piece here.
The Umstead Coalition has contracted with StructionLab to create models and renderings, true to topographic scale, to show the devastating impact of RDU Quarry on Umstead State Park and Crabtree Creek. The renderings have sliders to show a before and after view, along with the Wake Stone site plan in each image.
In Wake Stone's responses to the Department of Environmental Quality's (DEQ) requests for additional information, Wake Stone does not reflect the real impact of the proposed project, as they do not show the proposed quarry impacts. Wake Stone's response is misleading because the natural undisturbed forest and natural topography remains visible in their renderings.
Our renderings and presentation were created by StructionLab, using actual topography of the site. Their work shows a before and after view, and shows the Wake Stone site plan included in each image. The images are to scale and respectful of the topography. The actual trees are conceptual as there is not current capability to render actual trees. Read our full public comment submission to DEQ-Mining here>>.
View the renderings here>>
On November 18, 2021, NC State Parks sent a third letter to NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and continued to state the proposed new quarry will have a "significantly adverse effect on the purposes of William B. Umstead State Park."
Read the Park's letter here>>
With your support, The Umstead Coalition contracted with a national blasting expert, Kenneth K. Eltschlager.
Eltschlager's independent analysis confirmed what we suspected: significant adverse effects to William B. Umstead State Park, East Coast Greenway, and a private residence (and perhaps Cary’s Water Reclamation Plant) are likely from blasting with a proposed new rock mine on the Odd Fellows Tract.
The quarry application (August 4, 2021 Site Plans) proposes to conduct mining operations within 25 feet of Umstead State Park and blasting 65 feet from the Park boundary and 175 feet of the Dunn home.
Based on the available blasting information Wake Stone provided with their application, our expert analysis estimated structural or person/pet damage to the nearby private home likely and can happen to persons in the Park, East Coast Greenway, or private residences.
Read our expert’s Adverse Effect Analysis he submitted to DEQ-Mining here>>
We are grateful for the ongoing support from Senator Wiley Nickel and his opposition the proposed RDU Quarry.
Read Senator Wiley Nickel's letter to Wake and Durham County residents here>>.
The Umstead Coalition wins a Key Appeal! Crabtree Creek Bridge “Permit” is Invalidated. The 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:
The Umstead Coalition is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
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