More than a month after the Columbia River Gorge Commission determined that a gravel mine outside of Washougal lacked necessary permits to operate, an environmental group and residents say that mining has continued. Also, the Southwest Clean Air Agency opened an investigation regarding a piece of machinery allegedly operating at the site without a permit.
“It’s been very frustrating because everyone acknowledges there is a problem,” said Nathan Baker, senior staff attorney at Friends of the Columbia Gorge. “Either the county or the Gorge commission or both needs to be (doing enforcement).”
Documents released by Clark County show that county staff have been aware of unpermitted activities at the mine, but have been unsure of how to proceed.
The Washougal Pit (also referred to as the Zimmerly pit) is located in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and is subject to its stringent land-use requirements. The mine, owned by the Zimmerly family, has been the subject of legal wrangling and complaints over traffic and noise since 2017, when the Nutter Corporation took over the lease for the 120-acre gravel pit.
The most recent development came in August when the Gorge commission voted to reverse a previous county action and determined that the mine did not have the necessary National Scenic Area permits for mining activities.