Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Garth Meyer
Gazette Reporter 

Stalemate: Dusty grain pads zone change postponed

 

September 27, 2018



The Whitman County Planning Commission has postponed a continuation of a zone change hearing set for Oct. 3 for a grain facility proposal on Highway 26 next to Dusty.

The first part of the hearing Sept. 5 drew a crowd to the Public Service building in Colfax to largely counter the county planning department’s recommendation to approve a four-pad grain pile project a hundred yards outside of Dusty.

The Oct. 3 hearing was held off by request of McCoy Land Company, a subsidiary of Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative which owns the land in question.

“It’s on hold until they decide what they want to do,” said Alan Thomson, county planner.

The McCoy Land Co. project, on 66 acres, would have no grain elevators, but wide concrete pads for grain to be piled, along with a small office and some equipment.

Those at the Sept. 5 hearing voiced concerns related to traffic, the environment, a floodplain, wetlands and dust.

The planning department had recommended approval.

“I did my due diligence and didn’t think there was a problem,” said Thomson. “We’ve been taken to task on that one.”

Approval

Keith Becker, of McCoy Land Co./PNW, told the planning commission that the grain site could bring a maximum of 150 semi-trailers per day (not all new traffic), into the facility during harvest. The rest of the year, a maximum of 100 trucks per day could come through.

The site would be a midpoint on the way to the Port of Whitman County at Central Ferry.

Thomson’s approval of the plan included referring to county code, the comprehensive plan and State Environmental Protection Act.

“I determined there would be no significant impacts to the environment,” Thomson said.

After his initial decision was announced in August, a SEPA appeal process was open for 14 days. No appeal was filed, but Thomson and the planning department did get more feedback.

“My decision stands,” Thomson said.

In order to make the SEPA report, a wetland specialist visited the area and the floodplain was studied. Plans for the concrete pads placed them away from the floodplain.

“There is no impact to floodplain or jurisdictional wetlands,” Thomson said, referring to wetlands that are required to be regulated/permitted. “Other things could be less clear.”

Concerns raised about dust, traffic, noise and contamination of groundwater were also evaluated.

“Everything people complained about can be mitigated, so there is not a serious environmental impact,” Thomson said.

Controversy

For noise, state law maintains a decibel level for individual trucks, dust may be watered down and traffic was part of Thomson’s original study, with Washington Department of Transportation raising no concerns.

“I don’t know how they can’t,” said Loren Scaggs, Commissioner for Fire District 13 since 1994 and Dusty resident since 1985. “The traffic thing is atrocious. That’s about the time the college kids come back, during harvest. They’re gonna be all left turns – to get to and get into what they propose. So many chances for so much to happen.”

The Sept. 5 meeting also drew the ASWSU (Associated Students of Washington State University) president Savannah Rogers, who said she has lost three friends in car accidents near the intersection during her years as a WSU student.

Scaggs continues to voice his disapproval.

“The thing that concerns me most is them guys are willing to give up lives and blood for convenience and money,” said Scaggs, who has driven highways in the area for 35 years as a truck driver for McGregor Co.

Efforts to reach McCoy/PNW for comment were unsuccessful. If they decide to continue the hearing, the planning department will schedule a day and time.

“We’re at a stalemate now,” Thomson said. “I don’t know which way this one will go.”

 
 

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