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 below or click the link here>> (scroll down for descriptions of each rendering)
Submit your comments to DEQ asking them to deny the RDU Quarry mining permit 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:
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 Umstead Coalition is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
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