By Hannah Wiest
The Sheridan Press
SHERIDAN — The Sheridan County Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a new quarry, with six conditions, to be located approximately two miles south of Dayton at its meeting Thursday. The 227-acre quarry will be used for three upcoming projects on Interstate 90.
Several area residents were present at the meeting to express concerns about the quarry’s location. Primary concerns involved potential disruptions to the viewscape, area wildlife, water drainages and traffic, as well as concerns about noise, safety and noxious weeds.
The Board of County Commissioners will consider the Wolf Creek State Land Quarry at its meeting Dec. 3.
The applicant for the quarry, the Wyoming Department of Transportation, requested 227 acres for the quarry boundary but plans to mine 30 acres at a time for each project, WYDOT Resident Engineer Jerry Buckley said. The larger acreage request was to allow for flexibility since exact locations of suitable aggregate have not been determined.
Each 30-acre quarry will involve mining, screening, crushing and hauling operations prior to the start of the each project.
The projects are pavement overlays with selected structure rehabilitation, Buckley said. Some pipes that are in disrepair will also be realigned for maintenance.
The first project will cover Acme to Ranchester, from mile marker 10-15, and will begin in January 2014. The second project will stretch between mile markers 5-10 and will begin in October 2017. The third project will run south from the Montana state line from mile markers 0-5. It will begin in October 2018.
Buckley said the quarry was requested to provide a nearby gravel source for contractors in order to level the playing field and get competitive bids on the projects from companies that may not have their own quarries nearby.
County staff recommended approval of the project with five conditions including: a requirement for dust suppression on all county roads, a 10-year permit limit, that the site be staked before excavation, hours of operation from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7:30 a.m. to noon Saturday and a restriction on excavation near water drainages and draws in the area.
The original request was for 24-hour operation, six days per week.
Commissioner Jeremy Smith amended his motion to approve the quarry with a sixth condition that would restrict hauling operations on the one day in the summer that SR Cattle Company moves its cattle north to Montana. David Kane, representing SR Cattle Company, said the ranch uses the same route proposed for hauling to move its cattle and he was worried about the chaos that could cause.
Nearby resident Mike Gorzalka expressed concern about road safety along Wolf Creek Road, especially if water was used to suppress dust in the winter, which could lead to icy conditions. He also worried about haul trucks on the road at night when visibility was limited.
Buckley said WYDOT would use magnesium chloride to suppress dust and that haul operations would occur only during daylight hours.
Adjacent resident Bob Berry expressed several concerns. He owns land immediately south of the proposed quarry site and said the entire quarry site was on state land he leases for cattle grazing. Berry said there is approximately 3,000 acres of state grazing lease in the area, so he feels WYDOT would have plenty of options for relocating the quarry.
Berry suggested moving the quarry one-half mile northeast of the proposed pit, which would still be on his grazing lease but would cause less disruption to the viewshed and would be on prairieland that has already been disturbed, avoiding disruption of mostly undisturbed prairie. Berry noted that he has donated parts of his land to the Nature Conservancy, which does have requirements regarding viewsheds in its conservation easement agreements.
“I feel very strongly about the integrity of the land,” Berry said.
Rick Pallister, a representative of the Nature Conservancy, confirmed the viewshed requirements in the conservation easement and asked that the possibility of relocation be considered.
Berry also said an opinion by the Game and Fish Department stating that there were no sharp-tailed grouse in the area was wrong. He also worried the quarry would disturb long-billed kerns in the area.
Following the meeting and approval by the commission, Berry and Buckley met in the hallway to discuss options. They spread out maps on the floor and agreed that there may be a way to work together.
“We’re going to go meet and discuss what we need to and see if we can come to some common ground, keep everybody happy,” Buckley said.
Berry hoped it would work out, as well.
“Hopefully we can work out an acceptable agreement with WYDOT. Hopefully the controversies will be ended,” Berry said, following the meeting. “We don’t object to gravel pits; we do drive on the public roads; we understand that, we appreciate that. But if there’s an alternate, better site out of the viewscape that doesn’t damage the native prairie as much as this proposed area, we would like WYDOT to consider it.”
In other business:
• Planning and Zoning Commissioners approved 11 mobile home park license renewals. These included Arvada MHP, B-B Mobile Ranch, Bell Trailer Park, Country Park, Easy Street Park, Mitchell Court, Mobile Haven Trailer Court, Wagon Box MHP, Willow Park, Woodland Park Village and McGillivary Mobil Home Park.
• Banner resident Vicki Taylor asked for clarification on whether the Planning and Zoning Commission would set a date to reconsider flood plain regulations. Deputy County Attorney Lynn Smith said that Robert’s Rules of Order do not require the flood plain rules and regulations to be heard by the planning commission again. The Board of County Commissioners can revise the regulations and place the matter on its agenda since the matter has already been advertised and heard in public comment periods.