• Eugene Weekly Loves You!
Share |

Proposed Gravel Mine in Oakridge Under Fire

As summer nears, people start heading for wineries like King Estate to sit on the patio, drink wine and admire the view of the hills out Lorane Highway. 

However, out in Oakridge, some residents worry their views and summer days will be spoiled if a gravel mine, an investment of Ed King’s Crown Properties LLC, begins to bite into 46 acres of a hillside known locally as TV Butte on the edge of town.

The quarry, Old Hazeldell, promises “strong oversight” on its website and that “as we finish a section of the quarry, we will restore it so it blends into the natural hillside environment.” It also states that it has hired a noise consultant to avoid disturbing the neighbors and, when breaking big rocks, it says it will use “modern techniques that drill small diameter holes filled with ammonium nitrate fuel oil (ANFO).”

ANFO is a popular blasting agent. Ammonium nitrate was implicated in the massive West Fertilizer Company explosion in Texas that killed 15 people, including 12 firefighters and injuring scores of others in 2013. A recent report says the fire was intentionally set.

But it is the possible annihilation of history and the links she sees to controversial local land developers that has Kayla Godowa-Tufti, a Warm Springs Tribe member, troubled. She writes in an editorial published on the website Last Real Indians that there are “Aboriginal Molalla burial sites near the project area, and possibly on the subject property and contiguous ownership.” 

She also says that in her archival research at the Lane County Historical Museum, she found that a “significant and irreplaceable section of the ‘Old Indian Trail’” is located in the boundaries of the area. “This trail is at least 500 years old and was used frequently by several tribes in the area.”

Bob Emmons of LandWatch Lane County also notes the links to the site’s Native American past, pointing out that in 1884, two Molalla natives, Charlie Tufti and Jim Chuck Chuck, owned land claims near TV Butte. Charlie Tufti is Kayla Godowa-Tufti’s great, great grandfather. 

Old Hazeldell spokesman Phil Donovan says that local research group “Heritage Resources conducted a ‘Cultural Resources Records Review’ and an on-site review of the property.” He adds, “We are aware of Kayla’s concerns.” 

Heritage Resources’ report, which refers to the quarry by its previous name, Stonebroke, says, “Results of the records review indicate that no cultural resource sites have been recorded within the project area; however, two sites and several isolated artifacts, features and complexes have been documented within the 1,500-foot buffer surrounding it.” 

Godowa-Tufti calls the fact no artifacts were found inside the direct quarry site “convenient.”

Some 25 miles west of Oakridge sits the remains of Parvin Butte, a local landmark that has also become a gravel mine. That controversial project is associated with local land developers McDougal Bros. and Greg Demers, who have done business in the past with King.

Emmons says King’s hard rock mining proposal at TV Butte embodies the conflict between statewide planning goals that call for protecting natural resources such as aggregate, but also protecting scenic and historic areas and open space and conserving forestland.

The gravel mine has asked Lane County to change the land’s zoning from F1 and F2 forestland to Q, quarry mining.

Emmons alleges that King disguises “his copious development enterprises” with a variety of business names — the quarry itself was first a project of Crown Properties, then Stonebroke, now Old Hazeldell (the former name of the city of Oakridge). But, Emmons says, it will be harder to hide the mountaintop removal of TV Butte from the thousands of mountain bikers who come to the area, and, he says, it will be “harder to mask the sounds and dust of hillside blasting, of rock crushing and processing on a dump site said to contain barrels of pentachlorophenal and other toxic waste from the long defunct Pope and Talbot mill nearby and of 86 diesel trucks a day going and coming along Dunning and Fish Hatchery Road and along Hwy. 58 through the heart of town.”

Donovan has repeatedly stressed, “Greg Demers has no ownership or management interest in Old Hazeldell Quarry.”

 Emmons says that “in 2006 King’s company, Crown Properties, had its agent, Greg Demers, apply for a legal lot verification for two tax lots in Oakridge, one of which includes a landform locally known as TV Butte. Before King bought the land from Murphy [timber] Company for close to $4 million it belonged to the Forest Service, and before that it was used by native peoples, including Molalla, Kalapuya, Klamath and Warm Springs.”

Donovan tells EW that “Demers worked with the Murphy Company in the transaction of this property and some of the paperwork was inadvertently mailed to him. I understand that, years ago, this had to be straightened out because tax statements were being mailed to the wrong address.” 

Godowa-Tufi’s editorial can be found at the Last Real Indians website at goo.gl/kqB65r.