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Oakridge Residents Go To King Estate To Protest Proposed Quarry

On Jan. 30, several members of a group called Save TV Butte held signs at the gates of King Estate Winery reading  “Wines not Mines” and “WTF? King Estate.” 

Oakridge resident Linda McMahon says the action was to call attention to a proposed rock quarry at TV Butte, so called because it was previously the location of a TV repeater. The butte and proposed quarry are just outside the city of Oakridge and close to her rural home. She and other neighbors worry about the noise, dust and dangers a mine could pose as well as repercussions to a local elk herd and possible Native American artifacts, she says.

Old Hazedell Quarry, an investment of Ed King of King Estate Winery, has applied to Lane County to change the zoning of the hillside, currently zoned F1 and F2 forestlands, to allow for quarry mining. Phil Donovan, a spokesman for the quarry, says the area was a quarry before current zoning was put in place in the 1970s. Donovan says that while the King family’s trust fund has several investments, including the quarry, King Estate itself has no financial stake in Old Hazeldell and vice-versa.

Donovan also clarifies that Greg Demers and the McDougal Brothers, who have been involved in a number of controversial resource extraction projects such as the mining of Parvin Butte in Dexter, are not involved in Old Hazeldell. King’s investments and those of the Demers and McDougals have overlapped in the past. 

Donovan says the zoning change application was submitted Dec. 9. According to the Lane County Land Management Division, the application is still in completeness review and the first hearing on it is not expected until April. Planner Deanna Wright says, “These types of applications go to the Lane County Planning Commission and the Lane County Board of Commissioners for separate public hearings with notice and opportunity to comment/participate.”

McMahon says neighbors’ concerns include the fact that many trucks of rock will cross a frequently used railroad track, mining could affect water and wildlife, and fears the trucks and mining will interfere with the recreational biking that has become a growth industry in Oakridge. Protesters at the Wines not Mines demonstration said they would rather have growth in recreational jobs in the area than mining. 

Donovan says he anticipates 10 jobs, possibly a maximum of 30 jobs, if the mine goes to full capacity. He says the rock is not for gravel but rather for transportation needs, and the mine could operate for up to 50 years. The land will be reclaimed concurrently, Donavan says, creating wildlife habitat and planting trees as each section is finished. 

McMahon says she worries about the possible loss of Native graves and artifacts due to the proposed mining. She says Native American Charlie Tufti’s 1880s homestead site borders TV Butte. Tufti was known as the man who discovered Waldo Lake and it was a rarity in 1884 for a Native person to own land, as it was forbidden by white settlers.

Lauri Segel of LandWatch Lane County, which works to protect farm, forest and natural areas, has spoken to the concerned neighbors. Segel says the mine doesn’t have a water source and “the expected water use that I’ve seen was very inaccurate.”

The current estimate of 5,000 gallons a day is the maximum allowed for an industrial property, Donovan says, and would go to things like watering quarry piles and keeping dust down. He says the site will also house a water tower for fire protection of a separate industrial park below the mine. 

Segel says one difficulty in fighting the mine is that opponents don’t have access to the site itself and have to rely on Old Hazeldell’s geology reports on the land. According to documents filed with Lane County, Old Hazeldell has exploration permits for drilling, but in 2011 the owner had drilled one exploration hole without a permit. Donovan says, “Lane is one of the few counties in the state that require a permit to do exploration. Once our geologists learned this, they acquired the appropriate permit.”

In their press release following their King Estate protest, the members of Save TV Butte wrote: “The Oakridge community knows well that the butte holds sacred cultural and environmental significance, and its place at the heart of our community should, by anyone in their right mind, disqualify it for a loud, ugly, and dusty open-pit mine that our grandchildren will have to face.” 

Stop the quarry, they say, because “sustainable and respectful ways of investing in Oakridge exist.”

Donovan says Old Hazeldell “worked really hard to be very transparent” with the residents of Oakridge.