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Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - Water quality certification permit for Singleton Stone Quarry, located in Lake County, raises controversy in two states

The story in the August 28th Daily Journal of Kankakee, Illinois was the first the ILB read of this issue; Jon Krenek wrote under the heading "Feds try to stop Indiana quarry sand." Some quotes:

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is opposing a proposed quarry in Lake County, Ind., over concerns it could harm aquatic life in the Kankakee River. The federal agency is targeting the high volume of water the quarry will pump into the Singleton Ditch, the largest source of sediment to the river.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is reviewing a permit for a 600-acre stone quarry being developed by Singleton Stone LLC. If approved, the permit would allow it to pump between 12 million and 52 million gallons of water per day into the ditch, which would worsen erosion and deposit more silt and sand in the river.

"You'd think if they were pumping that much water and sediment, they would have to do something about it," said Elizabeth McCloskey, the fish and wildlife biologist who submitted the comments. "They have not offered anything."

About 25 residents, farmers and business owners from Kankakee County also submitted public comments to the Indiana agency. Marty Maupin, IDEM permits specialist, said Illinois residents submitted more comments than people in Indiana with concerns centered primarily on flooding and the environmental consequences for the river.

The federal agency, in a formal letter to IDEM and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the impact on fish and mussels "are of particular concern." Extra water will push more sand and silt into the river altering the aquatic habitat for many of the bugs that fish feed on. The extra sedimentation also covers potential breeding grounds for fish. The ability of mussels to feed also is harmed. * * *

"In my 55 years of living on the river I have witnessed firsthand the destruction that sediment from Indiana, both from the river upstream and from the Singleton Ditch, has done," Mark wrote. "It has been my observation that Indiana has no respect for its neighbors downstream."

McCloskey said the federal agency wants the company to reduce the amount of sand and silt the high volume of water will push into the river. Those comments also are being submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which grants final approval after IDEM grants a permit. Maupin said all the comments are being considered as IDEM makes a decision on the permit.

The Chicago Tribune has an August 30th story, including a photo of the Singleton Ditch.

Bill Dolan of the NWI Times has an August 31st story that reports:

LOWELL | Area farmers are making a last ditch effort to stop the Singleton Stone Quarry even as bulldozers scrape off acres of topsoil to clear the way for deeper stone excavations. * * *

Elizabeth S. McCloskey, a biologist for the federal agency, recently wrote the Indiana Department of Environmental Management asking them to deny quarry operators permission to pump millions of gallons of groundwater into the Singleton Ditch where it could cloud the man-made waterway and farther downstream in the Kankakee River with sediment, endangering fish and freshwater mussels.

James Wieser, an attorney for Singleton Stone and its parent company, Reith-Riley Construction Co., said Monday he is unaware of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife letter, but is confident the state is ready to give its final approval for all quarry operations.

John Bryant, a south county farmer against the quarry, said the only thing that may ultimately stop the quarry is a lawsuit by Illinois residents to stop potential damage to the Kankakee River in their state.

Local farmers have opposed plans to mine limestone used in concrete from the local bedrock on 600 acres southeast of Interstate 65 and Indiana 2 in rural Eagle Creek Township, since 2010.

South county agriculture is located on wetlands that must be drained and sand ridges that must be irrigated.

Farmers argued the quarry could lower the local aquifer on which they, their crops and livestock depend for water and overwhelm the surface drainage system when they pump an estimated 12 million to 52 millions gallons out of the ground daily to keep the quarry from flooding and discharge it into the Singleton Ditch, which drains much of the Kankakee River floodplain.

Most state and local officials have sided with Reith-Riley, which has promised the quarry will create jobs and boost the county's tax base while harming no one.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources gave its approval of the quarry last June, and IDEM is allowing preliminary work on the site even though its final decision is pending. * * *

Marty Maupin, IDEM permits specialist, reportedly said earlier that IDEM rarely gets comments on such projects, but has received more than 45 on Singleton, including one from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Federal Fish and Wildlife's McCloskey said the pressure of the groundwater pumped out of the excavation will loosen sediment from the Singleton Ditch's banks and stream bed that could drift far downstream and bury fish-spawning sites and bottom-dwelling organisms on which fish and mussels feed.

The September 4th Gary Post-Tribune has a long story by Carrie Napoleon that includes a photo captioned "A line of heavy equipment is seen Aug. 26 looking north toward Indiana 2 at the Singleton Stone quarry site," and begins:
State Sen. Rick Niemeyer has requested a public hearing from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management regarding the Singleton Stone Quarry water quality certification permit.

The move comes in the wake of the number of submissions to the agency during a public comment period for the permit, including a request to deny the permit from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Marty Maupin, IDEM project manager, previously has said the agency received between 45 and 60 independent comments on the permit. Most permits draw few to no comments, he said.

"I am requesting a public hearing and we will see what happens," Niemeyer, R-Lowell, said. "There have been a lot of comments. There is a lot of paperwork."

Niemeyer said he shares residents' concerns about the impact on their wells, the quality of water, the flow of water into the Singleton Ditch and the Kankakee River, and the potential flooding that may occur during a heavy rain event.

Niemeyer said he is skeptical of claims made by the quarry developers, Singleton Stone LLC, a subsidiary of Goshen-based Reith-Riley Construction, that they would allow the site to flood in a rain event.

"They are not going to flood their quarry with all their heavy equipment in it," Niemeyer said.

Calls to Reith-Riley were not immediately returned Friday afternoon.

He is also skeptical the promises made to obtain the permits already received will be adequately policed by IDEM or the Department of Natural Resources. Niemeyer said he understands neither state agency, nor the local drainage board, would be able to put a person on the ground monitoring the site every day to ensure compliance.

In most building situations, such as a new home or commercial development, all the permits must be in place before work is allowed to begin. The same should have held true for this project, he said.

"Maybe (all the permits) should have been in place before they allowed anything to go on out there. That's a concern of mine," Niemeyer said.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 8, 2015 09:19 AM
Posted to Environment | Indiana Government