By Erin Ross, Oregon Public Broadcasting
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Residents of Washougal, WA, say a controversial rock-mining operation is disrupting their neighborhood’s peace and quiet and violating the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act.
The Zimmerly mining operation is located in the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area, just outside Washougal.
The Columbia River Gorge Commission will hear arguments on Tuesday alleging that the quarry is being operated illegally and without permit, and has been for several years. They also say the mine poses a public safety and health threat, as well as a disruptive presence in their life.
Those who live near the mine, like Sean Streeter, say it coats nearby streets with dust. Streeter said mine operations sound like there’s a freight train in his living room.
“My son’s up at 6:30. I’m like, ‘What are you doing up? You should be sleeping in. It’s summer!’ He’s like, ‘The mine woke me up again,’” Streeter said.
Residents also say that as many as 200 noisy gravel trucks a day drive at unsafe speeds.
A lawyer for the mining operation did not respond to requests for comment.
Nathan Baker is a lawyer with Friends of the Columbia Gorge. He said the mine is operating in violation of the law that protects the Columbia Gorge as a federally designated scenic area.
“Ultimately, we’re asking the gorge commission to conclude that no mining can take place without scenic area permits, and that the mining needs to stop immediately,” Baker said.
After hearing arguments from both sides Tuesday, the Gorge Commission is expected to determine if mining operations can continue or if they must cease until proper permits can be obtained.
A 2018 court decision ruled that the mine could operate under an earlier permit from the 1970s. Friends of the Columbia Gorge challenged that ruling on the basis that the permit was granted before the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act was adopted. The court also ruled that all rock crushing operations were illegal: Those operations resumed in July and were halted in early August.