Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Andi Bourne
Pathfinder 

DEQ permit for Cottonwood Gravel Pit contains deficiencies

 

December 13, 2018



SEELEY LAKE – The Department of Environmental Quality notified Deer Creek Excavating, LLC’s that their revised application submitted Oct. 5 for an Opencut Mining Permit at the Cottonwood Pit Site in Powell County still contains deficiencies that must be corrected prior to approving the application. The revised application was in response to DEQ’s Feb. 9 Deficiency Notice.

If Deer Creek still wants to pursue the application, they can appeal DEQ’s decision within 30 days or submit a revised application that resolves all deficiencies within a year. If DEQ deems the revised application acceptable, the application will be approved.

The proposed Cottonwood Pit is 26.5 acres located approximately four miles east of Seeley Lake in Powell County. Owner of Deer Creek Excavating, LLC Gary Lewis will be operating the pit.

DEQ identified 28 deficiencies in the revised application including protection of water resources, specific application deficiencies, map deficiencies and inconsistencies in the supplemental documents. Due to substantial changes in the revised permit application, new deficiencies were created in the revised application.

A new general deficiency that was not identified in the Feb. 9 Deficiency Notice included accounting for a small wetland adjacent to the southwest proposed boundary corners and recently constructed ephemeral drainage through the north half of the site. These site features were not identified as part of the initial site inspection Sept. 1, 2016, however were observed during a follow up site inspection Oct. 22, 2018 site inspection.

The operator will be required to establish appropriate setbacks from these features and explain in detail how the site would be mined in such a way that on-site and off-site surface water and groundwater are protected from adverse changes in quality and quantity.

A second general deficiency that was added to this deficiency notice includes the Seeley Lake Airport, located within 3.8 miles of the proposed Cottonwood Pit.

The Seeley Lake/Missoula County Airport Authority is responsible for maintaining the safety of the airspace around the airport and ensuring that local land uses are compatible with aviation. Therefore, as per § 82-4-434(3)(n), MCA, the Operator would need to confer with the Airport Authority to discuss potential impacts the proposed Opencut activities may have on airport operations and to assess options for mitigating any such impacts.

Potential concerns include: reduced visibility due to dust; lighting during dusk or dark hours that could adversely impact aviation; and Federal Aviation Administration regulations that may require the operator to submit a Notice of Proposed Construction.

Deer Creek Excavating, LLC has until Nov. 28, 2019 to resubmit a revised application or the application will be abandoned and void. Once a revised application is submitted DEQ can either approve the application or issue another Deficiency Notice at which time Deer Creek will have another year to address the issues.

The permit application can be viewed at https://searchopencutpermits.mt.gov/ by entering “Cottonwood” in t he “Site Name” box and clicking the “Submit” button.

 

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