By Steve McCoy, staff attorney, and Sofia Urrutia-Lopez, conservation organizer
A massive gravel mine proposed near the Cape Horn trailhead in Skamania County would impact the livability and scenic values of the area for decades to come.
In 2021, J.L. Storedahl and Sons, Inc., applied for a gravel mining permit from Skamania County on land owned by Weyerhaeuser, adjacent to the National Scenic Area boundary and the Columbia Falls Natural Area Preserve, an area managed to protect sensitive species. According to the application, “activities will include drilling, blasting, loading, hauling, crushing, screening, stockpiling, and commercial sales of crushed aggregate.” The total excavation volume would be 24 million cubic yards.
Impacts and dangers
Storedahl and Sons expects 250 vehicle round trips per day from the mine, potentially amounting to 500 truck trips a day—or about one gravel truck a minute. The proposed route traverses a narrow road with school bus stops and turnarounds, and would cross the Cape Horn Trail pedestrian crossing at Salmon Falls Road and Washington SR-14, where most trucks would continue west. This would dramatically increase truck traffic on two-lane SR-14, degrading the roadbed and increasing dangers for local residents, vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, and wildlife.
Storedahl’s analysis concedes that, if approved, the project would create “substantial” noise impacts, including disturbing important species in the Natural Area Preserve and National Scenic Area lands. The Cape Horn Trailhead pedestrian crossing would be far more dangerous, while trucks would create dust that degrades air quality and compromises human health. Hundreds of trucks every day would produce a constant din as well as visual blight. Numerous gravel truck crashes have occurred in recent years due to mines in Clark County, and the proposed Storedahl and Sons project raises serious concerns.
Environmental Impact Statement required
Former Skamania County Board of Commissioners Chair Chris Brong stated, “Weyerhaeuser and Storedahl have continually shown they have no intention of being rural community partners. At the expense of residents and recreationists, they add constant noise and dust, threaten our safety, damage county roads, block access to public lands, and ruin our watershed.”
Fortunately, Skamania County is requiring an Environmental Impact Statement to be produced that should fully disclose and analyze the adverse effects the mine would have. Preparation of the draft impact statement is expected to take a full year, and Friends will continue to be engaged on this issue.