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GRAVEL PITS LOOMING OVER MAT-SU RESIDENTIAL AREAS


Call to Action: Call your Assembly Member, write them, and come to the MSB Assembly meeting, Tuesday, May 16. Please be aware, this coming Tuesday, May 16 at 6PM, we face yet another crucial hearing and vote on the contentious gravel ordinance (OR 23-033). This ordinance, put forward by Assemblymember Mokie Tew who is up for reelection in November, proposes an alarming five-fold increase in the allowable size of gravel pits from 2,000 to a whopping 10,000 cubic yards - equivalent to 1,000 dump trucks! This ordinance would permit such large pits to be established adjacent to homes in Mat-Su without any requirement for a permit, public notification, or the

Photo by Frontiersman

chance for residents to voice their opinions. Nor does it consider any mitigating measures to lessen the potential impacts on neighboring properties and local roads.




What's at Stake

Should the proposed legislation (OR 23-033) succeed, it would apply across the borough and allow for the establishment of vast pits up to 10,000 cubic yards in size — equivalent to a staggering 1,000 dump trucks — in proximity to residential homes outside of city limits. This would occur without any public consultation or assessment of the impacts on local road networks or the property values and usage rights of neighboring homeowners.


The legislation would mandate a mere registration with the borough, provided the operator professes compliance with some basic requirements. It would eschew the need for resident notification or their input. Furthermore, it would entirely eliminate considerations currently in place for mitigating noise disturbances, maintaining visual buffers, managing road impacts, and preventing the creation of hazardous traffic conditions in residential areas.


It would also dilute protections for water quality. It achieves this by dispensing with specific obligations for gravel pit operators to identify drinking water resources and groundwater levels, thereby ensuring operations do not encroach into groundwater.


Contrastingly, the existing regulations empower homeowners. For any pit exceeding 2,000 cubic yards annually, they necessitate a permit and review. This process includes a public hearing where neighboring residents can voice their concerns about impacts on their property, and provisions can be implemented to offset the added traffic, noise, and dust arising from the gravel pit. Moreover, it ensures a review of operators' plans for reclamation, including their strategies for preventing excessively steep slopes, safely operating on roads, and safeguarding groundwater and drinking water supplies.


More Background

The existing permit process for gravel pits, established in 2005 after comprehensive discussions involving industry representatives and community members, has proven effective in providing a platform for resident input. Evidence of its success is clear: since its inception, more than 85% of the 60-plus gravel pit applications - nearly nine out of every ten - have received approval.


Various community councils, road service area boards, and real estate professionals have voiced their apprehensions about the proposed change. They fear it may depress property values and argue that the effects of gravel pit operations on local roads and neighboring property values warrant serious consideration.


VALLEY GRAVEL SUPPLY: Each year, approximately 2 million tons of Valley gravel are transported by train for export to Anchorage.


The Alaska Rock Products Association, a representative body for several gravel companies, has publicly asserted that the existing regulations are not burdensome. They believe that the current rules strike a beneficial balance.


You Can Make Your Voice Heard


The next meeting of the Planning Commission is tomorrow, Monday May 1. Public testimony will be heard under Audience Participation before the vote on the Resolution is made. Please consider giving your comments at the meeting, or by phone.


Participate in the meeting:

In person: You will have 3 minutes to state your oral comment.


Call in:

• Dial 1-855-290-3803; you will hear “joining conference” when you are admitted to the

meeting.

• You will be automatically muted and able to listen to the meeting.

• When the Chair announces audience participation or a public hearing you would like to speak to, press *3; you will hear, “Your hand has been raised.”

• When it is your turn to testify, you will hear, “Your line has been unmuted.”

• State your name for the record, spell your last name, and provide your testimony


Write all the Assembly members (leg.com@matsugov.us) or your own Assembly member.


Call your Assembly member and voice your and tell them that you oppose OR 23-0033. See their phone numbers here.


See some of the scathing comments sent by email to the Planning Commission, some accusing Tew (again) of having a vested interest in gravel extraction.


Here are some talking points:


  • The current process is working. Why is this change necessary?

  • The limited public notification under the Administrative Permit is not adequate for 10,000 cubic yards of extraction. The public (not just those within 1/2 mile) should be guaranteed to have a voice in the location of a pit and the requirements under which the pit will be operated. Organizations such as Road Service Boards and Community Councils should have the opportunity to comment.

  • The Planning Director should not have the authority to issue an administrative permit without a public hearing.

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