RENTON, Wash. — The local Save the Cedar River organization has pledged to make a formal appeal against the construction of a new hot mix asphalt plant in Renton. Its proposed location is off State Route 169, just 150 feet from Cedar River.
The organization’s co-chair, Bob Baker, revealed they would file their appeal by May 4. The period for any organization to file an appeal ends on May 5.
Originally formed in 2018, ‘Save the Cedar River’ and has received support from the City of Renton, elected officials, businesses including clothing company Patagonia, and over 10,000 signatures throughout of the four-year struggle. Patagonia promised the organization $20,000 for legal costs.
“We lobbied and lobbied King County Council, and it fell on deaf ears,” Baker said. “Dunn went to ask for a moratorium to shut down the plant for six months, but no one else on the board backed him for a permanent moratorium.”
King County Councilman Reagan Dunn, representing District 9 where construction is taking place, previously called plans to build an asphalt plant near the Cedar River a “troubling move” when the division of permit from the Department of Local Services approved the plans.
“I have long argued that allowing a course of asphalt in a rural area, along SR-169 and within yards of the Cedar River, is an outrageously poor land use policy,” Dunn wrote. to Division Manager Jim Chan. “One that not only runs counter to King County’s central value of environmental preservation, but also to our state and county’s growth management policy of preserving rural character. “
The asphalt plant has been under construction since 2008 when council member Pete von Reichbauer turned away from the original plan to use the land for more housing.
“In my opinion, a shady business transaction has taken place,” Baker said. “Jamie Durkan approached council member Reichbauer as a lobbyist, and shortly after Riechbauer went to the council and said, I would like to convert this property into industrial land.”
Jamie Durkan is the brother of former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.
All but one of the council members accepted the new proposal, the only exception being council member Dow Constantine.
“Executive Constantine has opposed this project at every stage of the process, dating back to 2008 when Constantine, then a member of council, was the only one to vote against the amendment to the Master Plan which allowed industrial development on this plot. “, wrote Chase Gallagher on behalf of Constantine. “The county council voted for rezoning and did not extend its own moratorium in 2017. Constantine does not have the ability to choose which ordinances are legally passed which departments implement them.”
The property was sold to Lakeside Industries for $9.5 million in 2016 after initially being appraised at $1.3 million in 2008.
The establishment of an asphalt plant near a water source was devastating news for the residents of Renton. Covington residents cited reasons for not building a factory in their town that included noxious odors; poor air quality, pollution and smog; nauseating odor; coughing fits and asthma; difficulty breathing in toddlers and infants; and consistently bad emissions, according to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
Covington is currently banning asphalt plants and Lakeside Industries is in the process of moving its plant out of town.
According to Lakeside President Michael Lee, they chose this site because “it has all the right characteristics of a good site for an asphalt plant.”
Lee said neighborhoods and residents won’t be very close to the plant, but plans for the project revealed it would be within 500 feet of residential areas.
Beyond residential complaints and fears that property values could drop an estimated 56% according to the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League; other potential dangers lurk, according to Baker.
“1.3 million people depend on this river for drinking water,” says Baker. “This water could and will be polluted with particles from the factory.”
Salmon and trout would be at risk of surviving near the plant due to increased toxins in the water and increased lights in the evening and at night.
“Emerging research suggests that artificial nighttime lighting alters the behavior of these juvenile migrants in ways that make them more susceptible to predation and increase the length of time that their predators are actively foraging,” reads an environmental report from Salmon Habitat Conservation. “Reducing predation rates and improving juvenile survival are key to increasing our chances of recovering self-sustaining Chinook populations.”
“It will kill generations and generations of fish,” Baker said.
King County officials announced last week the completion of a five-year, $6.5 million project to restore natural habitats in and near the Green River. Salmon was one of the species positively affected by this restoration plan.
Chinook salmon (also known as king salmon) are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, according to Salmon Habitat Conservation.
“One of the scariest things about this plant is the fire and the potential for fire,” Baker said. “Asphalt plants are constantly burning and exploding. This happens once a month nationwide. It is an extremely wooded region. There is no doubt in my mind that we would lose citizens if a fire broke out.
Another concern is the possibility of a landslide caused by the production of the asphalt plant. This was confirmed by Hugh Brown, Ph.D., the former president of the Indiana Land Protection Alliance.
“Although the project site is relatively flat, geological studies in the area show that the steep canyon walls above the site are covered by unstable ground,” Brown wrote in a report. “These soils have a high potential for displacement and could reach the developed part of the site as a result of an earthquake or erosion processes resulting from a period of heavy rainfall which lowers the strength of the soil. There is ample evidence that the site has significant risks that need to be addressed. »
Brown earned her Ph.D. in Soil Management from Iowa State University and taught Environmental Management at Ball State University.
“All of this has the potential to be another Oso,” Baker said.
Oso, Washington was the site of a landslide in 2014 that killed 43 people and destroyed 49 homes.
“I think this could be one of the greatest environmental injustices since the Duwamish River,” Baker said. “And to be clear, I’m not against asphalt. It is one of the most reusable products we have in the United States. What I’m against is where they decide to put the plants.
King County has decided not to file an environmental impact statement, saying the issues before council do not fall within the parameters of an EIA. An EIS is not required for construction projects of this size, leaving it to the county’s discretion.
“We fully intend to shut down this project,” Baker said. “We are going to go all the way. If it takes another five years, it takes another five years.
“I’m not an activist,” Baker continued. “I am a citizen who preserves my community, my home, my quality of life and the river that I love.
Baker cited this project and the organization has become a full-time job for him over the past four years. He credits the “very dedicated” board of directors who work 20-40 hours a week on this alongside a growing collection of “wonderful” volunteers.
This story originally appeared on MyNorthwest.com.
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