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Residents, refuge supporters speak out against proposed quarry

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 May 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Ken Printup lives on Bigford Road near a proposed quarry. He said the project would be a detriment to the neighborhood and the wildlife refuge.

SHELBY – Residents in rural southern Shelby said they moved there for the peace and quiet, and the proximity to the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, which stretches over about 11,000 acres and is home to about 300 different species of birds.

That tranquility would be threatened by a new limestone quarry on Fletcher Chapel Road, residents said in a public hearing attended by about 250 people on Wednesday night. Frontier Stone LLC is proposing to excavate 172 acres in four phases in the next 75 years.

Residents packed the Shelby Town Hall during the public hearing about the draft environmental impact statement, a 1,000-plus page document the company has been working on since 2006.

“The people in this room span the political spectrum but we are united in opposition to this proposal,” said Gary Kent, who is active in the Bluebird Society and Sportsmen Federation in Orleans County.

He said the county has already been losing wildlife habitat with many hedge rows taken out as more land is farmed.

A quarry so close to the wildlife refuge “is ill conceived,” Kent said during the hearing. “It does not have the support of Orleans County residents.”

Gary Kent addresses Molly McBride, an administrative law judge for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, during a public hearing on Wednesday at Shelby Town Hall.

Frontier representatives urged the public to study the DEIS. The project can coexist with the wildlife refuge and Frontier has mitigation plans for dust and other concerns with the project, said Kevin Brown, an attorney for Frontier.

The project is on land owned by the Zelazny family about 3.7 miles south on the village of Medina. Frontier would need to dewater the quarry and estimates it will pump 554,000 gallons of water daily into a drainage ditch.

The company expects 30 truck trips per hour, with 15 coming and going during the 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. operational hours from Monday through Friday and 6 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Most of the truck traffic would be on Route 63 and Oak Orchard Ridge Road.

Town Highway Superintendent Mike Fuller said the truck traffic would damage town roads at an expense to local taxpayers. He said he opposed the project for that reason and its location by the refuge.

Frontier has completed numerous studies about the possible impacts on wildlife and also groundwater, the top two environmental issues with the project, Brown said. He said the gradual expansion of the mine, about 10 acres of quarrying in the first decade, gives animals at the refuge and nearby plenty of time to adapt.

Phase 1 of the quarry, those first 10 acres, will also become a reservoir and that water will normalize flows out of the quarry and will prove an asset for the area, Brown said. He urged people to read the environmental impact study, which he said is based on science and shows the project can work at the site.

If the quarry proves a problem for local wells, Brown said Frontier would pay to deepen wells or to run a public waterline to the homes.

“If you honestly look through the EIS and the science, you’ll see we’ve reviewed the environmental impacts and this quarry is in the right place,” he said at the hearing.

Kevin Brown, an attorney for Frontier Stone LLC, says the proposed site will not endanger the refuge or nearby residents.

Residents’ comments from the hearing will need to be addressed during a final EIS through the DEC. If Frontier can meet the DEC’s approval, the company still needs to get the support of the Town Board for the project.

The land would need a zoning change from Residential/Agricultural to Industrial, and the town would need to grant a mining permit.

Many residents urged the DEC to reject the environmental study from the company, and they asked the town to keep the land Rural/Agricultural.

Holly Roesch lives a half mile from the proposed site on Fletcher Chapel Road. She doesn’t want “the constant murmur of a quarry” or all the dust drifting onto her property.

Frontier said it would create 15 jobs with the project, but Roesch said that isn’t enough of a benefit for the disruption to the neighborhood and refuge.

She and other residents noted there are many other nearby quarries and the new one would just take business from them. The new quarry may not result in a net increase in jobs.

Roesch and others said the big job creator is proposed on the other side of the refuge. Genesee County officials have been working with regional and state leaders to develop the 1,250-acre Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park in the town of Alabama.

The STAMP site is a mile south of Orleans County and is projected to create 10,000 jobs in high-tech manufacturing, as well as 50,000 other jobs in support businesses. The site, however, needs to be quiet without ground vibrations and dust.

Genesee County officials are submitting written comments, asking the DEC to insist on studies to make sure the quarry doesn’t make STAMP unusable for nanotechnology and other high-tech manufacturing.

“Mining and nanotechnology do not go together,” said Francis Domoy, a nearby resident who has a doctorate in resource management.

Domoy said mining provides little benefit to a community in a cost-benefit analysis.

The new quarry has the support of the NY Construction Materials Association. The site in Shelby meets the association’s criteria for a successful mine: high quality and quantity of material, ability to be mined, and access to market, said David Hamling, the association president.

The association represents a $5 billion annual industry in crushed stone, asphalt and sand gravel production. Those materials are essential for roads and building projects, Hamling said.

New York uses 175 million tons of aggregate each year or about 10 tons per person, Hamling said.

“It’s a nonrenewable resource,” he said. “Because of its nonrenewability, it’s incumbent on us as a society to plan for the future.”

The Lockport formation runs from Michigan to Rome in New York, said Wendi Pencille, a Ryan Road resident and president of the Citizens for Shelby Preservation. Frontier could find other sites in less environmentally sensitive areas for the quarry, she said.

She listed several concerns with the project, including the discharged water from the quarry. The water would be high in minerals, iron and sulfur and would overflow into the refuge and Oak Orchard Creek.

“The effects of this massive amount of contaminated discharge water on species of plants and animals, including the salmon, have not been evaluated,” Pencille said.

Karen Jones, a resident of South Gravel Road, listed several environmental concerns with the proposed quarry, as well as negative effects on tourism and community character.

Pencille said the project should be denied by the DEC due to the impact on fish, wildlife and residents due to hazardous substances, particulates, gasses, dust, vapors, noise, radiation, odors, nutrients and heated liquids from the quarry.

“There are other locations for mining limestone in New York State that do not pose a threat to the environment, to sensitive wildlife species and to communities,” Pencille said.

The Friends of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and also the 11-county Finger Lakes Conservation Council spoke out against the project by the refuge.

“We feel a quarry at this location is not worth the risk to the environment,” said Mike Elam, president Finger Lakes Conservation Council. “Twenty-one thousand acres of wetlands could be compromised. The drilling, blasting, noise and traffic would be disruptive.”

Mining by the site could also effect the aquifer that feeds Oak Orchard Creek and wetlands, he said.

Sandy Mendel, president of the Friends of the Refuge, said the site draws 35,000 to 50,000 a year with 87 percent of the visitors from 30 miles away or farther. That boosts the local economy, returning about $5 for every $1 spent maintaining the site, she said.

The air pollution, noise, lights and traffic from the quarry operation “will almost certainly degrade quality of life at refuge,” she said.

Charles Malcomb, special counsel from the Hodgson Russ law firm, is representing the town with the project’s review. Malcomb asked for a second public hearing because some residents weren’t able to get in the meeting room due to the crowd.

He also asked for more time for residents to submit written comments to the DEC. The deadline has been set at May 12.

The town wants more studies from Frontier and the DEC about the impact on hydrogeology and wildlife. The mining could disrupt the groundwater for residents in the area, including about 250 who live at the Iroquois Job Corps. They use about 35,000 to 40,000 gallons of groundwater a day.

Malcomb said the Town Board wants to maintain the open and rural character of the community. Frontier would need to have farmland rezoned.

About a dozen residents near the proposed quarry spoke at the hearing and asked the DEC to reject the project. Lorraine Davis lives on Baker Road, 1.7 miles from the site, and relies on well water.

“If we lose our water, there is no other source,” she said. “The negative impact of this is tremendous.”