Lummi Island quarry expansion: environmental impact assessment
Huxley College of the Environment
Department or Program Affiliation
Department of Environmental Studies
Lummi Island is located in Whatcom County, Washington. The island is inhabited year round, but the number of residents doubles during the summer months. North Lummi Island supports the majority of its residents and is topographically flat. The southern half is mountainous and forested with limited amounts of development. There is a sandstone quarry located on the southeast side, directly abutting the shoreline. The quarry is owned by Lummi Rock LLC and operated by Aggregates West INC. Currently the quarry pit is 19 acres, but Lummi Rock has applied for a rezoning application to increase the mining area by 27.5 acres. A checklist was submitted under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) to Whatcom County in December 2010, which was later revised and resubmitted in November 2011. The proposal would provide a Mineral Resource Land (MRL) zoning overlay on top of the current Rural Forestry (RF) zoning. This report was prepared in order to analyze and compare the potential environmental impacts of the proposed mine expansion, as well as two alternatives. The alternatives are expanding a limestone quarry located by Maple Falls, WA by the same 27.5 acres or take no action and prevent further expansion at either location. The potential environmental impacts were analyzed for the natural and built environment according to SEPA. The rocks originated as marine sediment layers that were tectonically shifted into a sloped position. Rock is extracted on the downslope side of the hill. The greatest environmental impact the mine creates is an increase in impervious surfaces. Bedrock is exposed after soils and vegetation are removed in order to access the rocks for extraction, and the ability of water absorption is lessened. Impervious services increase the amount of water runoff and sediment transportation out of the mining area. Due to the location of the mine, sediment is transported via water directly into Smugglers Cove leading to increased water turbidity and less light infiltration. Geologic stability is also lessened because of the mining activities when water does infiltrate between the rock layers or during seismic events. Expanding mining operations on Lummi Island would likely impact both terrestrial and marine vegetation. The removal of deciduous trees, evergreen trees, shrubs, and grasses is necessary for mining, and such actions would likely result in decreased slope stability and water quality. Slope stability would likely decrease as there is less water uptake and stability from roots. In addition, water quality will likely be impacted as runoff into the abutting nearshore habitat is more frequent and contains higher concentrations of silt and sediments. Silt and sediment inputs into the nearshore environment would increase turbidity in the marine water and could have adverse effects on kelp and eelgrass due to lack of light availability. In addition, the nearshore habitat that has been designated as “critical habitat” by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a "critical area" under Whatcom County's Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO). The proposed action would likely impact the following species: Pacific herring, Pacific sand lance, hardshell clam, pinto abalone, Dungeness crab, harbor seal, bald eagle, and possibly the peregrine falcon. Air Quality in Whatcom County is currently considered good and an "žattainment area' under the Environmental Protection Agency's National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). There have been historic complaints from Lummi Island residents that air quality around the Lummi Island Quarry site is impaired by dust blowing north from the mine. This dust may be a product of the rock crushers or trucks operating on site. A sample of dust taken off a resident's home has been found to contain heavy metals and high silica content. The proposed 27.5 acre expansion to the current Lummi Island Quarry or the Limestone Quarry may decrease air quality as more dust is produced from the mining and crushing onsite. If no action is taken on this proposal, the air quality will remain the same and potentially decrease as the Lummi Island Quarry is mined out. The proposed actions would affect the built environment in regards to noise, transportation, and land and shoreline use. Noise pollution to the island is created from blasting, excavating, dumping rock hundreds of feet into the pit, rock crushing, truck back-up alarms, and loading conveyors. The quarry is permitted by law to operate six days a week up to eleven hours per day, soothe noise pollution is considered to be a significant impact. An increase in the area of excavation would have significant implications to noise pollution. At the current time, transportation from the site is primarily by barge. If the proposed action were to occur, the waterborne transportation would increase in the Salish Sea. Transportation via roadways would not significantly increase on Lummi Island, but would for the Limestone Quarry alternative because there is no water access. The Lummi Island Quarry closely neighbors the Lummi Island Scenic Estates and trucks entering or exiting the property must pass through the residential neighborhood. The proposed action will increase interaction between the quarry's operations and nearby residents, recreational users, and the Lummi Nation which uses the areas for historic and cultural purposes. This proposal will also increase the visible quarry area that can be seen across Bellingham Bay. The alternative action will not have any effect on marine recreation because it is not located on a shoreline. The alternative will also have less of an impact on recreation because there are less recreational opportunities around the mine. However, aesthetics will have a similar impact to that of the proposal. The no action option will keep all impacts to the land, shoreline, and visual and scenic resources the same as they are currently. With regards to public services the proposed project would require greater amounts of water than are currently available to be used for dust suppression. Fire, police, schools and other public services would not be influenced by the proposed project, nor would the expansion have significant impacts on natural resources and energy consumption. Under the no action alternative there would be no significant impacts to natural resources and energy. There would be a decrease in natural resource removal as well as the use of propane, natural gas, diesel, and electricity as the mine is mined out. Analysis of the environmental elements has led to the conclusion that the no-action alternative is the least environmentally invasive. Both the proposed and alternative quarry expansions would impact surrounding aquatic and terrestrial habitats as well as air quality and aesthetics around the site, whereas the no-action alternative would maintain the current environmental status but not contribute further to the degradation of the environment. The proposed and alternative have too many significant impacts, therefore the no-action alternative is suggested.
Environmental Impact Assessment
Subject – LCSH (for OAI)
Quarries and quarrying--Washington (State)--Lummi Island (Island); Environmental impact analysis--Washington (State)--Lummi Island (Island)
Lummi Island (Wash. : Island)
Environmental impact statement
Western Washington University
Bodensteiner, Leo R.,
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Date Permissions signed
Conquest, Jessica; Gallagher, Hannah; Murray, Erin; Schmidt, Grace; and Zanmiller, Jordan, "Lummi Island rock quarry expansion: environmental impact assessment" (2012). Huxley College Graduate and Undergraduate Publications. 17.