After three years of discussions, the Washington State Department of Ecology, CalPortland and the Environmental Caucus reached a milestone on Friday, June 24, with the announcement that the three parties have signed a settlement agreement. The new agreement would allow CalPortland Co. to submit a new gravel mining proposal for the area, and begin the process of restoring Sequalitchew Creek and Edmond Marsh, which are located upstream from Puget Sound in DuPont, Washington.
Any mining proposal will be subject to additional environmental review, public comment, and local, state and federal permit requirements.
The draft agreement, which the City of DuPont has not yet signed, is subject to public review and approval by the DuPont City Council.
During a press conference on Friday, representatives from Ecology, the Environmental Caucus and CalPortland spoke with reporters about the accomplishments of the new settlement agreement and outlined the next steps.
“This agreement allows for the protection of the Puget Sound shoreline, which so many times we see what is called ’death by a thousand cuts’,” said Sally Toteff, SW Regional Director of Washington State Deptartment of Ecology. “With this agreement, that won’t happen. We are able to preserve Puget Sound’s natural characteristics along the shore and bluff for generations to come. That is quite an accomplishment,” she said.
The 2011 Settlement Agreement is considered a supplement and expansion to the existing 1994 Settlement Agreement, and in some cases clarifies issues that were not addressed in the 1994 Agreement such as mining in the approximate 200 acre North Parcel.
“This agreement continues the process of one day restoring the Sequalitchew Creek watershed through Edmond Marsh and up to its headwaters at Sequalitchew Lake. It preserves the marine bluffs along the shoreline, and allows CalPortland to expand their mine,” said Nisqually Delta Association president Tom Skjervold who was speaking on behalf of the Environmental Caucus.
Pete Stoltz, Permit Manager for CalPortland, added that the new 2011 agreement is the result of more than three years of face-to-face meetings with multiple stakeholders. “Two of those years have been in mediation discussions that were confidential in nature,” he said.
The 2011 Settlement Agreement puts forward a process that involves a sequence of events and several conditions under which three goals important to each of the signing parties’ wide range of interests can be accomplished. Those goals are to help restore and enhance the Sequalitchew Creek watershed, including flows along the entire length of the creek, and maintain Puget Sound shorelands, bluffs and adjacent open space.
Lastly, the 2011 Settlement Agreement outlines a process and new conditions CalPortland can follow to seek permits to mine the North and South Parcels. This includes abiding by the terms of the Settlement Agreement and all applicable local, state and federal permitting requirements.
“The 2011 Settlement Agreement doesn’t approve the mining. However, it puts forward a process, which might take six to seven years. Our next step is to engage a lot of stakeholders and help the city engage in public meetings,” said Skjervold.
When asked if the public would have any opportunity to recommend changes to the proposed settlement agreement, all three parties answered ‘yes’ but with the understanding that it took a lot of work to reach this agreement.
“The City Council has the authority to do what they want with the agreement – to pass, adopt or reject it. Yes, there’s going to be an opportunity for changing the agreement. However, you have to remember that there are a lot of parties that have signed on to the agreement and we’ve worked very hard to get to this point,” said Skjervold.
Other parties that have signed off on the agreement (under the Environmental Caucus) include the Nisqually Delta Association, the Washington Environmental Council, People for Puget Sound, the Anderson Island Quality of Life Committee, and the Tahoma and Black Hills and Seattle Audubon societies. These organizations were also involved in the 1994 Settlement Agreement.
Stoltz alluded to the fact that some members of the council and the mayor attended a few of the meetings so they could get a flavor of what was going on in the negotiations. The parties recognized that they had been working in confidential discussions, but are now very interested in being transparent.
“We have invested so much in this to come to this point. I’m not in a hurry to make anyone feel like there is a rush to make a final decision. That being said, Ecology has signed the agreement as it is written. We believe it is a good agreement.” said Toteff.
“I’m not in a great hurry to see the mine expand, however there are some great restoration goals involved with this agreement. We have to do our best job in engaging regional stakeholders now. We are interested in a throroughly deliberative process,” said Skjervold.
Stoltz said he seconded Skjervolds comment on a ‘thoroughly deliberative process’ and added that not only is the restoration of the creek important to CalPortland, but also to protect what he considers the important supply of the highest quality grade of building materials in the Northwest. “We have to be prepared to handle the demand for our product as the population continues to increase. We are concerned about providing that material in a timely manner, but we want the public to be involved and informed as well.”
A Town Hall Meeting is scheduled for June 30 at 6 p.m. at DuPont CIty Hall. CalPortland, the Environmental Caucus and Department of Ecology will present the draft settlement agreement and answer questions. The town hall meeting will be video recorded and available for viewing on the City website and Cable Channel 22.
The City of DuPont did not participate in today’s press conference. Our questions to the city were not returned by close of business today. However in a phone interview, DuPont City Councilman Michael Grayum said as a councilmember, he supports a minimal thirty to sixty day public comment period and hopes that residents, business owners and decision makers will have the opportunity to visit the sites that the settlement agreement covers. “This has been a negotiated agreement by experts that has taken three years. We need to take as much time possible and be responsible to review all of the documents and let the public provide feedback to us and ask questions about this agreement before moving forward.”
- DuPont 2011 Settlement Agreement Frequently Asked Questions & Answers
- Summary of Settlement Agreement for DuPont Mine, Sequalitchew Creek Watershed Restoration, Preservation of Shorelands and Open Space
- Settlement Agreement News Release
- City of DuPont Town Hall Meeting Announcement
Settlement Agreement Background
Today’s agreement is another milestone after years of negotiations that date back to 1994, when the origional Settlement Agreement was signed over issues related to CalPortland’s (then Lone Star) then proposed and now existing DuPont sand and gravel mine, and barge loading facility. In late 2002, CalPortland began taking steps to seek approval for a proposed plan to mine approximately 200 additional acres southeast of the existing mine. This is also known as the South Parcel. CalPortland planned to intercept groundwater, which is part of the Vashon Aquifer, flowing through the sand and gravel, and route it to a new manmade tributary that would discharge into Sequalitchew Creek. A supplemental environmental impact statement was completed in 2007 for the proposed project. After reviewing the SEIS for the proposed project, the Nisqually Delta Association requested the start of a formal process to resolve a dispute regarding Section II.B.5 of the 1994 Agreement. In November 2009, the parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), establishing a process to evaluate the feasibility of alternatives for both mining the South Parcel and restore Sequalitchew Creek. Three stakeholder meetings were held to exchange information that was incorporated into a feasiblity study. A report on the feasibility study was completed in June 2010. Negotiations resumed between the parties and continued into June 2011.