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Working group addresses Kenai residents’ gravel pit quarrels

May 30, 2018 GMT

KENAI, Alaska (AP) — The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Material Site Working Group is addressing complaints by residents who say gravel pits languish after operators are finished; gathering trash, flooding and possibly lowering property values as an eyesore in the neighborhood.

Neighbors have weighed in throughout the process on issues of noise, dust, traffic, property values and quality of life. Operators have responded that further restrictions would raise the cost of gravel and inhibit private property rights as many operators work their own land.

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The Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Department has targeted a code rewrite that would clarify the process for reclamation and bonding on the site, the Peninsula Clarion reported Monday.

“It is in the code, about the bonds, but that has not been our practice,” Bruce Wall said, the borough planner, at the work group’s meeting Wednesday. “We’ve been interpreting that pretty loosely. The state exemption (from bonding) is if you have less than five acres disturbed and if you excavate less than 50,000 cubic yards a year. Really, that’s very few material sites in the borough that fall under that exemption, because most of them are over five acres of disturbed area. We just haven’t been administering that bonding program.”

The planning department’s original drafted code rewrite included a suggestion of $2,000 per acre for reclamation bonding, with a five-year reclamation plan required each time the permit renews. Planning Director Max Best said that $2,000 number is up for discussion. Current code does not specify a dollar amount.

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Mining, Land and Water requires a bond for material mining sites — $750 per acre disturbed. However, the borough working group had some concern that the state did not enforce the bond, nor was it scaled for inflation.

Working group member Larry Smith pointed out that people complaining about the gravel pits now may not see those existing ones fixed, but it could help in the future.

“We’re not going to take care of the scars,” he said. “We’re going to take care of the scars from this point forward.”

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Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, http://www.peninsulaclarion.com