Clark County has issued a letter directing the operator of a gravel pit near Washougal to cease mining operations after failing to obtain necessary permits.
The 120-acre gravel pit is owned by the Zimmerly family. Last year, the Nutter Corp., a Vancouver-based construction company, took over the lease for the pit and began mining and operating a rock crusher.
Neighbors had complained about the noise created by the activity at the pit that they said began early in the morning and didn’t end until the evening. Sean and Karen Streeter, a couple who live across Gibbons Creek from the pit, complained to county code enforcement that the Nutter Corp. didn’t have a conditional-use permit required to process gravel nor the land-use review required for properties in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
On Jan. 24, Director of Community Development Martin Snell sent a letter to Jerry Nutter, the CEO of Nutter Corp., and Judy Zimmerly, the owner of the pit, stating that the necessary permits had not been obtained.
“Until you can produce the required permits or approvals, or obtain them, you are ordered to cease mining operations immediately,” the letter reads. “Failure to do so will result in further code enforcement proceedings to include daily penalties.”
A call seeking comment from Nutter was not returned. Previously, Nutter had said that he thought that all the regulatory permits needed for the operation of the pit had been issued in 1972. Sean Streeter said in an email that the letter from the county is a “good change of fortune.”
“It is wonderful to see them focusing on the needs of the local community and protecting our quality of life,” he said. “I think this sends a very strong message to businesses who may choose to not follow the proper processes with Clark County that they will be dealt with forcefully. … No more beeping, crashing and hissing sounds. My sanity has returned.”
A letter from Gary Kahn, an attorney for several residents, sent to the county and Columbia River Gorge Commission last month states that mining was discontinued on the property for approximately 13 years from 2004 until it was resumed in November 2017.
Nathan Baker, senior staff attorney for the Friends of the Columbia Gorge, pointed to how previous operators of the quarry have attracted regulatory scrutiny, including a $97,000 penalty issued in 1997 for polluting fish habitat in Gibbons Creek.
“This is a property with a long history with violations,” he said. “And it seems like history has been repeating itself.”