Gravel pit expansion request delayed

Matter is tabled in Negaunee Township

Dozens of concerned residents turn out for a public hearing held by the Negaunee Township Planning Commission at the Negaunee Township Hall on Tuesday in opposition to a gravel pit expansion request by Kona Ridge Mining, LLC. The planning commission tabled the request pending a response from UPPCO. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

NEGAUNEE — After a heated public hearing Tuesday, the Negaunee Township Planning Commission delayed taking action on a request from Kona Ridge Mining LLC to expand operations at its gravel pit near the McClure Basin.

After collecting feedback from dozens of residents and property owners during two public hearings, the commission is waiting for a final piece of information from the Upper Peninsula Power Co. before making its recommendation to the Negaunee Township Board about whether to grant the request.

In an April 16 letter, UPPCO cited critical concerns about the permit request, which, if approved, would allow Kona Ridge Mining LLC, along with its parent company A. Lindberg and Sons, to excavate via blasting and process gravel, sand, fill dirt, stone, topsoil rock and other materials for a minimum of 20 years on the 15-acre site.

“The blasting area contemplated is approximately 2,000 feet from UPPCO’s McClure Dam, and approximately 8,700 feet from UPPCO’s Hoist Dam, both of which are regulated by and under license of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,” the letter states. “The proposed blasting activities present significant dam safety concerns relating to the structural integrity of these dams.”

Negaunee Township officials, at UPPCO’s request, required Kona Ridge to conduct a blast wave propagation study, a copy of which was recently provided to both the township and UPPCO.

David Tripp, chief dam safety and generation manager for UPPCO, told the planning commission the company was waiting for a copy of the report from the engineering firm that conducted it before providing an official response to the planning commission.

“As the UPPCO representative in the room, we replied back to Lindberg and we are waiting for a stamped copy of the document by the engineer who wrote it,” Tripp said. “When we get that stamped copy, we will provide a written response.”

Residents and property owners encouraged the planning commission to “turn the request down” citing concerns about noise, safety, damage to private property and a decline in property values, and also asked what entity would be responsible for oversight of operations if the permit were to be approved.

Theresa Belkowski, who owns a camp along Marquette County Road 510, said expanding pit operations in a residential area would not be a good fit for the township.

“This is not a win-win situation. It’s a win-lose,” Belkowski said. “I don’t think their (Kona Ridge’s) convenience outweighs our quality of life.”

Property owner Mike Quayle said details of the permit should be scrutinized.

“It is imperative that all the details should be spelled out clearly,” Quayle said. “We also need to know who is going to enforce the terms of the permit.”

The conditional use permit for the original 30-acre gravel pit was approved by the township in 2015 following a Michigan Court of Appeals decision in the developer’s favor.

Both the planning commission and the Negaunee Township Zoning Board of Appeals had denied the initial permit request in 2013.

The planning commission will consider the request again at its regular meeting in July.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.