If you received our latest newsletter, you probably read about Tidewater Contractors’ request to renew its permit for gravel mining at the old plywood mill site adjacent to the Rogue River in Curry County.  Tidewater mined the site last year in violation of its Curry County and State permits.  Tidewater failed to get the required stormwater discharge permit, mined by a method not approved in the permits, and failed to stop work after receiving notices of violations and a suspension order.

Despite these violations, Tidewater sought a renewal of its county permit.  The Curry County Planning Commission denied the renewal request, but Tidewater appealed to the County Board of Commissioners.  Crag represented Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition and Curry Sportfishing Association in the appeal, arguing that the permit violations, and more importantly the change in mining methods, gave the County ample authority to deny the renewal request. Specifically, the original approval made findings and conclusions of law expressly relying on the mining method to reduce or eliminate adverse impacts to the Rogue River and adjacent land uses.

On May 5, the Board also denied the renewal request.  Noting its significant discretion, the Board stated that it “cannot agree to look the other way” and ignore Tidewater’s permit violations.  The Board also found that Tidewater’s actual mining methods and proposed future mining methods “substantially deviate from the methods approved in the conditional use permit.”  The Board noted that it had never evaluated whether Tidewater’s actual mining methods meet the applicable local ordinance standards.  The Board concluded that “it is not appropriate to bypass the County land use process just because DOGAMI or other state agencies will review the new mining methods for compliance with state regulations.”  In sum, the Board found that it “cannot renew a conditional use permit for a use that was never evaluated or approved.”

The Board of Commissioners stood up to an applicant that was asking it to look the other way and ignore its violations, and to approve a revised mining plan without any analysis of compliance with the land use laws of the county.  This is a rare and sweet local victory for residents, fishermen, native fish and the mighty Rogue River.

To see the Board’s entire decision, click here.