On October 30, the Opencut Mining Section at the Department of Environmental Quality issued a permit to mine gravel to Wade Moudy in the Victor area near Bell Crossing at the corner of Meridian Road and Curlew Orchard Road. The Moudy Pit Site covers 13.7 acres with 4.7 acres currently bonded for excavation purposes. The permit will allow up to 300,000 cubic yards of gravel to be removed across the 13.7 acres, although the applicant is only seeking a bond for 4.7 acres initially. At least fourteen appeals have been filed by local landowners objecting to the permit.
The proposal was controversial, due primarily to concerns about the impact on groundwater in the area and Big Creek which flows nearby. There were other objections such as impacts on existing ditches in the area, increased traffic at Bell Crossing intersection and other disturbances related to the operation such as noise, etc.
During the review process, DEQ considered public comments submitted before, during and after the public meeting held in Hamilton on December 12, 2017. Based on its review of the proposal and comments, a series of deficiency letters were issued on March 16, 2018, April 25, 2019, August 14, 2019, and September 26, 2019 before finally approving the permit request on October 30.
One of the appellants, Nancy Jacobsen, said that her objections extend beyond the personal impacts that she may have to endure from the mining project, which could last through 2032. She said the potential impacts to Big Creek should be of concern to everyone.
“Big Creek is home to Westslope Cutthroat trout and Bull trout. It is also a major access way for bear, moose, mountain lions, deer, elk,and contains elk calving grounds,” said Jacobsen. She said she is very concerned about the impacts on the creek and wildlife.
“This, and the pits that may follow are going to ruin the environment here,” said Jacobsen.
According to Jacobsen, a meeting has been scheduled by DEQ in Helena for Friday, December 13 for the case to be assigned either to the Board of Environmental Review itself, outside counsel, or the Clerk of the Board.