Does this sound like a good thing for our valley?

Editor:

Riverside Contracting of Missoula has applied for a permit to the Department of Environmental Quality to dig 12 feet deep to extract gravel, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day 3.5 miles south of Emigrant. Riverside also plans to operate a gravel crushing and washing plant, and an asphalt plant at this site. Does this sound like a good thing for our valley? With the proposed site 75 feet from the historic Drysdale homestead?

The Emigrant Neighbors, a group formed to resist this industrial development, doesn’t think so. On July 19, 71 people came to Emigrant Hall to learn more about Riverside’s proposal and what actions they can take. Concerned citizens discussed many topics.

Martha Drysdale said the Park County demographic has changed. “In 1978 Paradise Valley was all agricultural. Now tourism is the main economic driver.” This is backed up by the fact the Livingston-to-Gardiner Highway 89 gateway is the only year-round Yellowstone Park access. According to the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition, Park County experienced $196 million in non-resident tourism revenues in 2014. Yellowstone Park had 4.1 million visitors in 2015, a new record. Visits in 2016 have increased by 10 percent over last year at the same time. Recreation and tourism account for 22 percent of labor income in Park County, significantly greater than ranching activities.

In 2015, 760,166 visitors to Yellowstone Park traveled via the Paradise Valley Highway 89 corridor. The peak number in July 2010 was 3,200 per day. People who reside in this 52-mile stretch are in a unique position. The combination of a 70-mph speed limit, curves, hills, short passing lanes, many driveways, rental RVs, hay wagons, cement trucks and impatient drivers make these 52 miles a danger zone. 

The proposal submitted by Riverside Contracting, opencut No. 2824, makes no mention of an acceleration or turn lane. How do they think the trucks with full loads will get up to speed? Just south of the mile 27 site is a short no-pass zone. People discussed that the loaded trucks will not get up to speed before this zone, leading to more impatience.

Health issues are voiced as a major concern. Asphalt releases airborne benzene, gravel dust contains silica, and both are known carcinogens. With the famous Paradise Valley winds, these odors and particulates could travel for miles.

In addition, the region from Mill Creek south contains several buffalo jumps, holding archeological significance. One is the basalt cliff looming to the west of the proposed site. The site is in the Yellowstone ecosystem, exactly where elk and mule deer cross Highway 89. This leads to increased potential for more animal-vehicle incidents, perhaps resulting in injury to humans and death to more animals.

Three water courses conjoin at the southern boundary of the proposed site, and alarm is voiced about water quality degradation flowing to the trout waters of the Yellowstone River.

Landowners and nearby business owners brought up fears of depressed property values and loss of business due to an unsightly, noisy, smelly operation. Jeff Ladewig received applause when he stated, “We respect private property rights, but with those rights comes the responsibility to not do irreparable damage to others.”

More information about permit application can be found at Department of Environmental Quality, www.deq.mt.gov. Go to opencut mining permit No. 2824. Information on action you can take is on the Park County Environmental website at www.envirocouncil.org.

Jerry Ladewig
Emigrant

Category: