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Quarry by refuge in Shelby clears DEC hurdle

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 August 2016 at 5:32 pm

Judge says no issues need adjudication, Frontier Stone can seek final state permit

SHELBY – A proposed quarry near the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge has cleared a key hurdle from the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Administrative Law Judge D. Scott Bassinson last week ruled “no issues exist for adjudication” in Frontier Stone’s plan for a 215-acre quarry on Fletcher Chapel Road.
The judge’s decision on July 27 means Frontier won’t have to go to court in a DEC proceeding to resolve “substantive or significant” environmental issues with the project.

Bassinson, in his written decision, said concerns raised by petitioners have been sufficiently addressed by Frontier and DEC staff. The judge said DEC officials can now work towards issuing a permit for the project following completion of the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

“I am pleased the judge recognized that our efforts to develop this project have been diligent and thorough,” said Dave Mahar, president of Frontier Stone. “We look forward to working with local authorities moving forward and appreciate the DEC, town and community for their feedback over the years and for working with us to ensure this operation adheres to the highest operational, safety and environmental standards.”

Mahar has been working on the project for the past 12 years. The proposed quarry would be established in four phases, over 75 years, with 11.6 acres mined in the first 11 years.

Town officials and many nearby residents have opposed the project, fearing a negative impact on the wildlife refuge, the local water table, property values and town roads, as well as other concerns.

But Bassinson ruled the two groups that petitioned for party status, the Shelby Town Board and Citizens for Shelby Preservation, “did not provide any evidence, proposed testimony, or other offer of proof” to support claims that the studies, data and expert analyses developed Frontier Stone’s mining operation were flawed.

Frontier is proposing to mine below the water table with a maximum water withdrawal for quarry dewatering at 554,264 gallons a day. It would be discharged at the southwest corner of the site into an agricultural drainage ditch.

The reclamation objective will be to create two lakes at 35 and 156 acres for recreation or wildlife habitat.

There were concerns about the proposed quarry on the STAMP (Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park) site in nearby Alabama. That 1,250-acre site will accommodate nanotechnology companies including semiconductor 450mm chip fab, flat panel display, solar manufacturing, and advanced manufacturing.

Frontier will install a permanent seismograph monitoring station at the STAMP site and will ensure the quarry’s blast design meets the “quiet site” semiconductor and nanotechnology standards requested by the Genesee County Economic Development Center, which is pushing the STAMP site for high-tech companies.

Frontier Stone also will use Fletcher Chapel Road as the “primary access to the mine site” to “mitigate noise, air quality and safety concerns and maintain aesthetic, recreational and education aspects” of the wildlife refuge.

Frontier, in a news release today, said it will also implement road improvements and full-depth road reclamation on local town roads leading to the quarry site to accommodate increased traffic and enhance the project area’s intersection.

Frontier said it has worked with DEC staff on in-depth evaluations of impacts to local roads, additional truck traffic, blasting levels, dust mitigation, water quality and the migratory patterns and habitat requirements of local species.

Bassinson’s ruling referred to additional revised permit conditions, recommended by DEC staff for increased setbacks.

Frontier said its planned 25-foot setback complied with governing regulations, but DEC and Frontier agreed that, “during the months of May, June and July, there would be no mining activity within Phase 2 mining areas within 350 feet of the southern excavation area limit, which borders the Wildlife Refuge.”

This provision will reduce noise levels to ambient at the property line of the refuge, eliminating noise impacts in the refuge during bird breeding season, Frontier said in a news release today.

Click here for more information from Frontier on the project.

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