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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lands Commissioner Goldmark asks Glacier NW to halt Maury Island mining operations

Washington's Commissioner of Public Lands, Peter Goldmark, has just announced the release of a letter sent to Glacier Northwest's mining division to halt operations at the behometh's Maury Island mine until questions have been answered about the mine's compliance with the objectives of the Maury Island Aquatic Reserve and the effort to clean up Puget Sound.

Here's a statement released by the Department of Natural Resources summarizing the contents of Goldmark's letter:
It is the Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ responsibility to ensure that this lease is carried out in the best interest of Puget Sound and the people of the state. After a thorough review of the lease, I am not confident that NW Aggregate [Glacier] will be able to comply with the lease in a way that is consistent with both the objectives of the aquatic reserve and the clean-up and recovery of Puget Sound.

It is not clear how or if NW Aggregate will implement and monitor actions to ensure compliance within the existing lease. I have asked the company to cease operations on the site until these questions are answered.
Emphasis is mine. Now, here's an excerpt from the letter itself:
My staff has reviewed the lease, related regulatory permits, and the revised mitigation plan, in the context of the Management Plan. Given this review, I have grave concerns about how your dock and gravel loading operation may affect the health of Puget Sound and the Reserve. The lease requires compliance with the Management Plan which in turn requires the protection, preservation and restoration of the important aquatic ecosystem in the lease area for the entire lease term through performance measures, monitoring, reporting, and adaptive management. NW Aggregate has not submitted sufficient information to demonstrate lease compliance.

[...]

Please submit all required information prior to July 30, or provide an alternative deadline that you will be able to meet and explain the reasons for delay. DNR requests that no further activities proceed in the lease area until DNR is satisfied that NW Aggregate has complied and can comply with the lease requirements over the full term of the lease.
Again, emphasis is mine.

It's a relief that we finally have a Lands Commissioner who is not a rubber stamp for big timber and mining companies, but rather a true guardian and steward of our precious natural resources. Commissioner Goldmark's determination that Glacier Northwest has not provided adequate documentation to ensure compliance with the lease it was previously granted is a very welcome step in a new direction, a direction that respects the concerns of those who believe the expansion of this mine would be harmful to the common good and to our common wealth.

What is ultimately needed, however, is legislation that will protect this valuable ecosystem and assure that it will not be further damaged under any circumstances. We at NPI will continue to urge our Legislature to take action to preserve Maury Island... because the well-being of Puget Sound depends upon it.

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