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Friday, February 23, 2024
Feb. 23, 2024

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Clark County may amp up oversight of quarries

New position may be created to make sure they obey rules

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Nearly a year after Clark County approved its surface mining overlay restrictions, the council is considering hiring a person whose sole job is to uphold that ordinance.

The details of that new employee — including their pay, what kind of a degree they’ll need, who they’ll report to and what their job title actually is — are still up in the air. The gist, however, is this: the new person will be responsible for checking to make sure Clark County’s six quarries are complying with their conditional use permits. If they fail, that person will have the authority to cite the quarries, or even halt operations, if necessary.

Currently, that responsibility falls to Axel Swanson, senior policy analyst, but without the ability to cite them, he ultimately has no authority in ensuring the quarries are doing what they’re supposed to.

Swanson said the new employee won’t be a code enforcement officer in the traditional sense. Code enforcement, which operates out of Clark County Community Development, is primarily complaint-driven.

The new employee, meanwhile, will proactively patrol the quarries to ensure they’re following the restrictions imposed in their conditional use permits. Those permits limit things such as what roads the quarries can use for transportation of materials and when quarries can do blasting. The position also may extend to other locations that have conditional use permits, such as gun ranges and private event facilities.

“There’s a little bit of a different feel to the job description,” Swanson said.

Complaints about the quarries roll in regularly. At Tuesday’s council meeting, several Camas residents complained about trucks entering and leaving Livingston Mountain Quarry. That one, along with Yacolt Mountain Quarry, has prompted the most consistent citizen complaints.

Most damning on Tuesday, perhaps, was a series of videos presented by Camas resident Wendy McCullough. McCullough and her husband, Tyler McCullough, set up video cameras at the intersection of Northeast 262nd Avenue and Bradford Road, where trucks exit and enter on their way to and from the quarry. The videos show multiple trucks disregarding the stop sign on May 27, blowing through the intersection.

“I’m not saying I don’t want the trucks there,” Wendy McCullough said. “I’m not saying close down the quarry. I’m saying I want the trucks to follow the basic rules of the road.”

The council has been discussing the possibility of hiring a quarry expert since March, but seems poised to approve creating the position. At its board time meeting Wednesday, Councilors Jeanne Stewart and David Madore both voiced support for the position.

“Focusing currently on quarries and rock and mineral mining is key because that is our most consistent source of complaints,” Stewart said.

Madore, meanwhile, said the county is not adequately committing to the monitoring and enforcement pieces of the surface mining overlay ordinance.

“I do support this position,” he said.

Councilor Tom Mielke, however, was not convinced. Mielke said current law enforcement and code enforcement have the resources to respond to quarry complaints.

“I just don’t see the need for a (full-time employee),” he said. “I won’t be supporting it.”

The council will likely revisit the proposal next week.

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