Planning Commission Meeting February 8, 2016
Croell Construction Permit application (CP 15-17) moved forward by approval from the PCPC. This allows Croell to expand mining operations to over 200 acres (existing 40+ acres and 164 acres new permit) with significant disturbance of the land, high use of water for washing aggregate, and heavy traffic using Hwy 16.
Approximately 110 residents attended the meeting with many intending to speak on a variety of topics they felt relevant to the application. The acting chair informed citizens that they could only speak on erosion and water runoff issues and limited total discussion to 15 minutes.
The most important issues of the authority of the Planning Commission; traffic safety; water access, quality and safety; dust mitigation; and tourism and economic impact, were disallowed.
Appeal of PCPC approval of CP 15-17 filed with Board of Commissioners (BOC)
A letter appealing the PCPC decision was immediately filed and accepted by the BOC on February 16, 2016. The hearing format will be set at the regular BOC meeting on March 1 with a special BOC meeting/hearing scheduled for March 2, 2016, at 4 pm. We believe that is is important to put our concerns before the Board of Commissioners to allow an adequate exploration of the depth of the problems that the expanded mining operation will create.
- Traffic: South HWY 16 is already a very heavily traveled road. The Croell operation will generate up to 150 loads of aggregate/day. This would generate 300 ‘truck events (150 entering 150 exiting)/day. In a 10 hour shift, a truck event would occur every 2 minutes on HWY 16. A truck with trailer turning northbound from the site would need a minimum of 3 clear lanes, crossing 2 lanes and entering the left northbound lane. A wide turn required with a double trailer would require all 4 lanes to be clear. This is unrealistic and unsafe, especially in heavy summer traffic.
- Traffic Safety: The Rapid City Arterial Street Safety Study (published in 2012, study performed 2007, 2008, 2009) included Rapid City and the 3 mile platting jurisdiction zone. It measured traffic levels and crash data. The study analyzed 249 road segments, one being the 3.68 mile section on HWY 16 from Neck Yoke Road to Busted 5 Court (Reptile Gardens to Old MacDonald’s Farm). The segment carries an average of 6200 vehicles/day, northbound only, and ranks 7th of those 249 segments for severe crashes. The Croell pit sits near the middle of that segment. Trucks exiting the pit toward Rapid City would travel, fully loaded, 1.5 miles downhill into the Reptile Gardens intersection. Trucks heading south would merge into traffic slowing and turning into Bear Country, USA.
- Water access, quality and safety: Croell has applied for a Water Rights Permit with SD DENR for a well that would pump 6.38 million gallons/year. The SD DENR permit requires a public hearing that could tentatively occur in May 2016. There are approximately 102 community and private wells with a 2 mile radius of the Croell site. During the most recent drought years (2000-2008), many area wells went dry. Water access and availability could be adversely affected by a well of that size. Fragmentation of bedrock occurring during blasting operations MAY allow radon gas (product of radium) to migrate through fractures and enter existing water sources. While rare, this has occurred in other locations and radon has been occurring naturally in our region. (see Well Locations image below)
- Dust and Blasting: Blasting in early February 2016 caused a large dust cloud that drifted along Spring Creek toward Hart Ranch and lasted 17 minutes (reference the video taken by a resident). The vast increase in pit operations with blasting, crushing, and truck traffic will create the same air quality issues and constant complaints that exist in northwest Rapid City and Hills Materials and Lien operations.
- Tourism and economic development: HWY16 is the major traffic corridor leading to Mt Rushmore. The mining site is now visible from the top of the hill by Ft. Hays. It can be seen from HWY 16 as you pass the site. In 2015 Mt Rushmore reported 3.5 million total visitors. That number is expected to be larger in 2016 with the 100th anniversary of the National Parks and the 75th anniversary of the completion of Mt Rushmore. The scenic beauty of the Black Hills is a major tourist draw and a significant contributor to our economy and should, therefore, be protected.
- Coordination with Rapid City and future development: The Croell pit is within the 3 mile platting limit of Rapid City. This area is designated for general agriculture/forestry and residential development within Rapid City future use plans. Rapid City does not allow mining within General Agricultural Zoning except with a Conditional Use permit. Significant tourist and residential development has occurred since the pit was started in 1982. The character of the area has changed and is changing with significant commercial growth: the new Black Hills Corporation (BHP) campus, Black Hills Orthopedic and related business, and development at Buffalo Crossing and Moon Meadows; residential growth at Hart Ranch, Copper Oaks, etc. Land at the Sitting Bull Caverns site is now for sale and potential for residential development has been expressed. Each of these issues presents a serous concern related to the expansion of the Croell pit.
Each issue could stand alone as a valid reason to deny the construction permit. Collectively, they leave no doubt that this is an industrial operation that is totally incompatible with the safety, health and well-being of all who live in or transit this area.