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Kona Ridge mining permit still under consideration

The Hoist Dam on the Dead River in Negaunee Township is pictured. Upper Peninsula Power Company recently sent a response to Kona Ridge Mining, LLC, and Negaunee Township officials indicating that a request to expand a gravel pit on Marquette County Road 510 in the township, which includes blasting, is not expected to damage either the Hoist or McLure dams, both of which are close to the gravel pit. The dams are two of UPPCO’s seven hydroelectric facilities. The Negaunee Township Planning Commission has appointed a working group, including legal counsel, to evaluate the Kona Ridge permit request. (UPPCO courtesy photo)

NEGAUNEE — The Negaunee Township Planning Commission will consider all available information before making a decision about whether a gravel pit on Marquette County Road 510 can expand its operations.

During its last regular meeting, the planning commission created a working group made up of township Manager Nick Leach, township Supervisor Gary Wommer, township Trustee Jeremy Hosking, township board of review member Paul Wolfson along with legal representation from the Marin Law Firm of Marquette and Fahey, Schultz, Burzych and Rhodes of downstate Okemos.

The working group will review all the information that A. Lindberg & Sons has submitted to the planning commission for a special use permit at the existing gravel pit owned by Kona Ridge Mining, LLC.

The permit request, if approved, would allow the company to expand operations to a parcel adjacent to its existing pit where it would blast, extract, grind and wash gravel.

The company’s current activities are limited to extracting gravel from the existing pit and crushing it.

The working group will review the same information that the applicant has submitted to the planning commission along with “all applicable expert reports and public comments,” said Christopher Patterson of Fahey, Schultz, Burzych and Rhodes in an email on Thursday.

“The goal of the working group will be to take an in-depth review of these materials, verify compliance with the multiple conditions of the Zoning Ordinance, and address multiple concerns raised by Township residents,” Patterson said. “The working group will then be able to present its review and recommendations to the Planning Commission prior to a final decision on the pending application.”

Officials at Upper Peninsula Power Company had initially expressed concern due to the site’s proximity to its McClure and Hoist hydroelectric dams.

The contemplated blasting area is approximately 2,000 feet from the McClure Dam and approximately 8,700 feet from the Hoist Dam.

Kona Ridge commissioned a study to assess the effects of rock quarry blast vibrations on the two facilities from GeoEngineering North, LLC, according to a June 19 letter from UPPCO general counsel Stephen Serraino to the planning commission.

The letter states that as long as certain conditions are met, UPPCO “does not have concerns related to blasting at the Kona Ridge site.”

“UPPCO, in light of the analysis … is able to revise its initial concerns raised in its previous letter dated April 16, 2019,” the letter states. “Since UPPCO lacks the pertinent resources to analyze other blast type designs for impact upon its facilities, and due to the importance UPPCO places on any blast being under the .05g seismic value utilized for UPPCO facilities; UPPCO requests that any blasting permit issued include restrictions that the hole size not exceed 3.5 inches, an explosive weight that does not exceed 200 pounds, and a delay time of 8 ms (milliseconds) be set as the permitted maximum blast design.”

Dozens of Negaunee Township property owners and residents came out in oppostition to the permit request during public hearings held by the planning commission in May and June, citing concerns about safety, noise, damage to property and reduced property values and quality of life.

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 duration of the working group’s investigation and deliberations have not been determined, Patterson said.

“The working group was only recently established and currently gathering information to ensure compliance with the township zoning ordinance and address concerns raised by the township residents,” Patterson said.“Thus the contents of any recommendations from the working group regarding a final decision of the planning commission have not been fully developed at this time.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.