As part of his application process with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to expand his gravel pit located northeast of Stevensville on the Eastside Highway, owner Jake Yoder sent notification of his application to property owners in the area giving them the opportunity to request a public hearing on the application or not. If a certain percentage of the surrounding property owners, in this case 17 out of 56, request a public hearing, one will be arranged. Responses are being accepted through April 15.
Ravalli County is, apparently, a landowner in the area and received notification on March 12. The Commissioners met with Yoder last week to consider the matter. Yoder’s consultant Rob Kusler told the commissioners that they would have received a letter whether they owned property in the area or not.
Yoder’s proposed amendment to his gravel mining permit will increase the total acreage of the enterprise to 49.7 acres. Kusler noted that not all that acreage was being dug up. Some of the permitted land, maybe up to three acres, is used for staging the crusher operation; another five may be necessary if the hot asphalt plant is approved. Some of that land is also used to stockpile topsoil. It is estimated that over half the depth of the pit will be topsoil that will be stockpiled and used in the reclamation of the pit.
According to Kusler, currently there are 13.1 bonded acres at the existing Yoder Gravel Pit site. Actual removal of soil can only take place on the bonded portion of a mining site. He said they are looking to add an additional 14.2 bonded acres which is just a little over doubling the existing size to a total of 27.3 bonded acres. The remaining 22.4 acres within the permitted mining site is not bonded.
The amended permit being requested would also allow a portable asphalt plant to operate on the site when needed. Yoder said their plans called for operating the crusher for about a month and the asphalt plant for about three weeks. The current projection is to remove approximately 550,000 cubic yards of material from the site over the life of the project, which may be through December of 2058.
According to Yoder, he has lived in the area and operated the pit for a number of years and gets along well with his neighbors. He said he was urged to mine some of his land for gravel for some time but was reluctant. He said he was really interested in raising animals and feed. Ultimately, he was convinced that he could mine the gravel and then resume his work with cattle and pasture after the reclamation.
So that’s the plan. The pit will be dug out 20 feet deep with the first eleven feet being stockpiled for reclamation. After mining, the topsoil will be returned and an irrigation pivot installed. All of which is set to be completed by December 2058. But if Yoder has his way it will happen much sooner, he said, he would like to get back to what he really likes doing. And it may be sooner rather than later, if all goes as planned with the state’s project of re-paving a portion of the Eastside Highway in the area.
Commissioner Greg Chilcott said, “The reality is we need gravel and the proximity to the place of use is a real value.” He questioned the noise and the lighting involved and was told that the topsoil would be stockpiled as a berm to deflect the sound and light upward and most of the noise produced would be down in the pit.
The commissioners came to consensus that they had no objections to the application and could see no reason to request a public hearing.