The 1992 plan to protect the Nisqually River Valley is at risk

Sub-Area Plan rules do not allow reprocessed Recycled Asphalt Pavement in valley

The 2017 Thurston County Commissioners are at it again. They want to change the Thurston County 1992 Nisqually Sub-Area Plan. These new Tea Party Commissioners want whatever economic development they can get, even if it pollutes our county. The latest attempt is aimed at trying to remove Goal E Policy 5 from the 1992 Nisqually Sub-Area plan. The County Commissioners want to allow reprocessed Recycled Asphalt Pavement (RAP) at the Holroyd’s Gravel Pit site in lower Nisqually Valley. This should not be allowed.

The overall goal of the original 1992 Nisqually Sub-Area Plan was to “maintain the existing rural environment of the Nisqually planning area with the primary emphasis on preserving… its rural, aesthetic character for future generations.” This overall goal has been in the forefront of the 1992 Plan—as well as ongoing public and private effort—to restore and maintain the Nisqually River Valley. The no-RAP provision (not allowing reprocessed recycled asphalt because of its toxic pollution potential) of Goal E Policy 5, was designed to protect the rural character from industrial dominance. The County Commissioners need to make sure that the Nisqually River Valley remains free of this pollution and not allow this change in the 1992 plan.

Thurston County has an obligation to defend the original 1992 plan. It is a good plan. However, rather than being phased out as the plan has required, business impacts in the Nisqually area have increased. Some examples are:

A mined-out pit at Yelm Highway and Reservation Road—which is in the Nisqually Sub-Area—has been converted to a construction waste site. The Sub-Area Plan (Goal E.1.) and DNR require mined-out pits to be reclaimed. Stumps and construction material, including RAP, are hauled in from as far as Mason County. This operation is contiguous with the McAllister Springs Sensitive Area and above Lacey and Olympia municipal wells. People in county government are aware of this violation, but as yet, nothing has been done to stop it.

After the flood of 1996, Nisqually neighbors could only replace lost homes by putting them on high foundations. No lot filling was allowed. However, one facility there, in the middle of the neighborhood, was given permission to put twenty thousand cubic yards of fill on their property. They have yet to use this filled area and that part of the property is now for sale.

Lakeside Industries, the asphalt plant, got into the Nisqually Valley on a technicality and now wants to add the RAP storage and recycling to their asphalt process. This would increase truck traffic in the valley and open the door to more water and air pollution.

Also, flooding is an ongoing concern. In 1996, much of the lower Nisqually Valley was under floodwaters, including portions of the Holroyd gravel mine. Due to past rail, bridge, and highway construction, the Nisqually River has been artificially forced to the higher east side of the valley. When the river has major floods, it naturally flows to the west above the rail line through the Durgin Road Tunnel, which is upstream from the Holroyd Gravel Mine.

If RAP storage is allowed in the pit, aquifer groundwater could be contaminated by pollutants from the RAP when floodwaters enter the pit. The aquifer below the pit is the source of drinking water for some as well as farm/garden irrigation for many in the valley. The original goal states, “… the reprocessing of asphalt shall not be allowed due to water quality concerns.” Note: RAP is recycled pavement. When it is ground up, the surface area of the aggregate dramatically increases, and allows greater leaching of chemicals. Using RAP as one would use raw gravel for a road or driveway would cause more leaching into the soil than a solid road made of bound asphalt. The same leachability would be a concern if RAP was stockpiled or stored and exposed to precipitation. Therefore, it should be obvious that RAP not be allowed at the Lakeside Industries site.

Lakeside Industries knew RAP was not allowed before they built their new plant at Holroyd’s pit. In 1992, the Thurston County Commissioners and two court decisions ruled they could not use RAP in Nisqually Valley. The Olympia Regional Clean Air Agency (ORCAA) reaffirmed that they could not due to Sub-Area Plan rules. But Lakeside Industries chose to push their way into this rural/residential area. Since then, they’ve been posturing that they have been treated unfairly.

Holroyd’s pit is close to being mined-out, that is, empty of gravel. The Washington State DNR and the Sub-Area Plan say they have to move out when that happens. Will they? Will they fight for RAP storage? Or, will they want to increase truck traffic and change infrastructure to haul in gravel from another pit? This would also be in violation of the Sub-Area Plan. Goal E Policy 5 says, “The reprocessing of imported mineral resources shall not be the primary accessory use.” Gravel is a mineral and is supposed to come from inside the pit.

We urge people to contact the Thurston County Commissioners, or send a comment to Allison Osterberg, senior planner for Thurston County (osterba@co.thurston.wa.us).  Let them know that you do not support the change in the Thurston County Nisqually Sub-area plan that would allow Lakeside Industries to remove Goal E Policy 5 from the 1992 Nisqually Sub-Area plan. The Thurston County Commissioners have their meetings at the Thurston County Courthouse on Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. Please attend or send them an email. Go to the Thurston County website for meeting times.

The author is a long-time Olympia resident, and loves WIP!