Zimmerly Quarry

Zimmerly Quarry
View of Nutter Corporation mining activities at the Zimmerly gravel mine in eastern Clark County, WA, inside the boundary of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

Friends works to stop one of the largest and longest-running land use violations in the history of the National Scenic Area.

Since October 2017, illegal mining in eastern Clark County, just inside the northwest boundary of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, has been harming Gorge lands, waterbodies, and wildlife, as well as the surrounding community, on a daily basis. The unpermitted rock quarry, located just north of Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, is one of the largest and longest-running land use violations in the thirty-four-year history of the National Scenic Area. 

Unfortunately, despite repeated pleas for help from hundreds of citizens, the staff of the Columbia River Gorge Commission have failed to carry out their enforcement responsibilities under the Scenic Area Act and implementing rules, thus allowing the illegal quarry to keep operating with impunity. The Commission’s staff could, at any time, shut down the illegal mining immediately by using its enforcement powers and issuing a simple stop-work order. 

Issue summary

In October 2017, the Nutter Corporation began mining the Zimmerly property without the required land use permits, harming Gorge resources and the surrounding community. In August 2018, Clark County Hearing Examiner Joe Turner held that mining is allowed on the property under an outdated land use approval issued in 1993 by the Gorge Commission’s executive director, and that the hearing examiner lacked jurisdiction to determine whether the 1993 approval is still in effect. 

Both Zimmerly and Nutter have a long and sordid history of mining-related violations on this and other properties. For example, during a brief mining campaign in the mid-1990s on this property, Zimmerly illegally discharged millions of gallons of sediment-laden mining runoff into nearby Gibbons Creek and Steigerwald Lake, destroying endangered salmon habitat and harming resources in the wildlife refuge. Zimmerly was fined nearly $200,000 by the Gorge Commission and Washington Department of Ecology for causing this devastating environmental damage.
 
Since resuming mining on the property in 2017 without seeking Scenic Area permits, Nutter has hauled hundreds of truckloads of gravel and dirt per day along SE 356th Avenue, threatening the safety of several families who live on this narrow and otherwise quiet residential street, as well as hundreds of schoolchildren who attend the nearby Columbia River Gorge Elementary School and Jemtegaard Middle School. In July 2018, the severe safety risks posed by the illegal quarry were brought into sharp focus when a fully loaded gravel truck lost control of its brakes while coming down the hill on SE 356th and crashed into the BNSF rail line at more than 60 mph, destroying the train tracks and blocking train traffic for more than twelve hours.
  
Since the illegal mining began, community members and Friends staff have repeatedly called on the Gorge Commission staff to enforce the Scenic Area land use rules and shut down the illegal mining immediately. The Commission’s executive director is required by the Gorge Commission’s rules and the National Scenic Area Act to initiate enforcement action when she/he becomes aware of violations in the National Scenic Area.

Gorge Commission staff's failure to carry out Scenic Act enforcement mandate

This abdication of enforcement responsibilities is all the more disappointing given that the Gorge Commission’s executive director has already stated that the current mining is violating both the Scenic Area rules and a 1997 legal settlement between the Commission and Zimmerly. 
 
Since 2016, the Commission’s director has not initiated any land use enforcement actions anywhere in the National Scenic Area. These changes send the wrong message to Gorge landowners—that the Gorge Commission staff are no longer interested in enforcing the Scenic Area rules, and as a result, when Gorge residents are affected by violations, they are on their own.
 
In the Zimmerly case, Clark County, to its credit, did attempt to enforce the Scenic Area rules. However, Clark County’s enforcement powers are significantly weaker than those of the Gorge Commission. 

Gorge Commissioners agree with Friends that mining is illegal

In October 2018, Friends joined with Clark County citizens and landowners in filing an appeal with the appointed members of the Columbia River Gorge Commission, who act as an appellate body for the National Scenic Area. In August 2019, the Gorge Commissioners agreed with Friends that the mining activities on the Zimmerly property lack the required Scenic Area permits, are not legally existing uses, and are land use violations. Zimmerly and Nutter then appealed the Gorge Commissioners' decision to Clark County Superior Court; their appeal remains pending.
  
Speaking about the mining operation, Friends Senior Attorney Nathan Baker said, "This is the largest ongoing land use violation in the history of the National Scenic Area. Zimmerly and Nutter are violating the law and harming the Gorge with impunity. This illegal and irresponsible mining must stop.”
 

Zimmerly mine decision timeline

Media links



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Judge Denies Mine's Motion to Stay Enforcement of Scenic Area Rules

Judge Denies Mine's Motion to Stay Enforcement of Scenic Area Rules

A Clark County Superior Court issued an opinion denying a motion filed by Judith Zimmerly and the Nutter Corporation, the respective owner and operator of the illegal mine.

Gorge Panel Rules Mine Operation Illegal

Gorge Panel Rules Mine Operation Illegal

Columbia River Gorge Commission overturns county decision, finds that Zimmerly quarry is operating without valid National Scenic Area permits.

Update on the Zimmerly Quarry: August 2019

Update on the Zimmerly Quarry: August 2019

A new chapter in the saga of the controversial Zimmerly quarry took place in The Dalles, OR, before the Columbia River Gorge Commission.