Letter to the Editor
March 30, 2023
On January 6 of this year, LHC, Inc. a paving contractor from Kalispell, submitted an application to Montana DNRC to mine crush and remove roughly 110,000 cubic yards of stone, sand and gravel from their Land Trust, Section 20, Township 15N, Range 14W. The application also requests to include a permit to locate an asphalt production plant on site. The area is roughly 21 acres and is proposed to be used to build our new roads on Highway 83 expansion this summer and next, as well as other highway projects. DNRC sent out a press release on the 10th of March making the public aware of this. The 21 acres in question is directly across from the Seeley Lake Cemetery adjacent to Highway 83 and just above Elbow Lake. It is also adjacent to the Clearwater Blackfoot Elk Range which provides security to wintering elk and deer.
LHC, Inc. currently is permitted to haul aggregate to the project from a source north of Brown’s Lake. That is a 50 mile round trip. If they are successful in obtaining this permit, the travel distance is reduced to 2 miles. While this reduction is significant and has merits to the overall longevity of the project, it more negatively impacts the surrounding environment and residents. The proposed application would have irreversible detrimental harm by displacing the wildlife in the area including the wintering elk herd that can reach in excess of 1000 head, deer, lynx, bears, etc. In addition to the immediate environmental impact, the nuisance of noise and dust generated from strip mining and crushing the stone will make it unbearable for other wildlife, including the residents, who have built their homes just to the north. The odor and byproduct from the proposed asphalt plant will be sure to displace or deter all else from the area. The 21 acres of land, stripped through opencut mining tailings and asphalt byproduct will adversely damage the watershed serving Elbow Lake, which flows into the Clearwater River, which enters the Blackfoot just a few miles downstream.
For residents and tourists who enjoy the beautiful drive on scenic Highway 83 North this proposed atrocity will be a constant reminder of our pristine land once again sold to the highest bidder, if approved. These consequences are too grave a price in order to make things a little more convenient for this multi million dollar company.
Please visit the website: https://dnrc.mt.gov/TrustLand/subsurface-resources/Elbow-Lake-Gravel-Project
A 30 day comment period on the proposed project began on March 16 and will end April 16 at 5:00 pm. Please visit the above site and click on the links under the Public Involvement section.
Mary Lynne Jones
Seeley Lake, MT