Grand Island Farmland Protected From Gravel Mine
On October 10, 2012, the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) issued a decision that Yamhill County’s approval of the Grand Island gravel mine was flawed. Since 2010, Crag has walked the local farmers through the process of organizing and challenging the proposal.
What Was at Stake
Grand Island is a unique farming community located on the Willamette River near Dayton, Oregon and the crossing of the Wheatland Ferry. The island supports a variety of farming operations ranging from larger traditional crop farming to smaller family-run farms. Farms on Grand Island produce many different fruits, vegetables, seeds and grains and provide the local and surrounding communities with fresh, organic produce through “Community Support Agriculture” programs, farm stands, farmers’ markets, U-pick operations and a pumpkin patch.
Farmers and neighbors in the area who care about the island challenged a proposal for a gravel mining operation that would have lasted 30 years and dramatically increased traffic, dust, and noise. Concerned about impacts to agriculture, tourism, water quality and quantity, and quality of life for island residents, these community members reached out to Crag.
Step by Step
Crag first helped the group of neighbors formalize their organization, creating the non-profit Protect Grand Island Farms. Next, we carefully reviewed the application and governing laws, and identified experts to help explain important issues to the Yamhill County Commissioners, like impacts to water, wetlands, and flooding. The farmers and island residents themselves were the experts with regard to impacts to farming operations,.Crag helped them organize their testimony and make a clear case for why gravel mining and farming are incompatible on Grand Island.
Our clients were disappointed that 2 of 3 County Commissioners approved the proposed gravel mine, and decided to take the matter up with the Courts. Crag took the case to LUBA for the local community and presented the case in mid-September.
In October 2012, our clients’ perseverance and dedication to protecting their community was rewarded with a decision sending the matter back to the County on two important issues. The appeals board found that Yamhill County erred in approving the project because of its impacts on groundwater used by residents for drinking water and irrigation and because of its failure to ensure compliance with floodplain laws. The County had illegally granted the miner permission to build a massive berm in the floodway, putting neighbors and farmers at great risk.
The Willamette River floodplain is a sensitive resource for local agriculture and residents who live and work within the valley. With the community efforts, Grand Island remains a vibrant center for agriculture.
Crag represented Protect Grand Island in this case. Protect Grand Island started as a way to organize community members and farmers in an effort to challenge and deter the large gravel mine on the island. The community-based group continues its work today through education, outreach, restoration and participation in public decisions affecting Grand Island.
Protect Grand Island’s mission is to promote and support the protection and restoration of Grand Island’s farmland and special areas within the Willamette River floodplain for present and future generations of local residents, property owners and visitors.