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Helena Valley gravel pit application deemed deficient

Gravel pit map

The highlighted area shows the location of a proposed 61.5-acre gravel pit in the Helena Valley.

An application for a 61.5-acre gravel pit near 600 Helena Valley homes has been deemed deficient by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

The application, submitted by Valley Sand & Gravel and referred to as McHugh 2, failed to clearly state how it would adequately protect the local groundwater and surface water resources and make adequate provisions for noise and visual impacts on nearby residential areas, according to a DEQ determination. The application review was extended for 90 days prior to this deficiency determination.

The notice says that the DEQ is concerned that excavations to 20 feet into area groundwater, along with potential de-watering and pumping water out of and into resulting water retention ponds, could alter hydrology at the site and potentially negatively impact groundwater quality and quantity. The construction of a flood water detention basin has not been approved by Lewis and Clark County, nor has it presumably been designed or stamped by a professional engineer.

Additionally, the DEQ said the applicant's statement that "no adverse effects on nearby surface water resources or groundwater well water rights are expected" is not substantiated and must be further investigated and supported.

The deficiency letter requests a number of tests and evaluations that prove adequate protections for surface and ground water quality. If the project is approved, the department may require laboratory analysis of surface water samples collected from the pond during periods of site operation.

The other major deficiency cited in the notice is the lack of negating noise and visual pollution on nearby residences. The letter states the DEQ may not accept a plan of operation unless it shows that noise and visual impacts on these residences will be minimized to the degree practicable through berms, vegetation screens and reasonable limits on hours of operation.

Under the Opencut Mining Act, mining activities can take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays for maintenance.

The letter also call for a environmental noise study that includes a long list of requirements. This could bring additional requirements depending on what the study shows.

Ultimately, the letter lays out three possible options for Valley Sand & Gravel to address the deficiencies. If the company submits revised application materials that resolve all deficiencies, a permit will be issued. If it submits a revised application that doesn't meet all deficiencies, another deficiency notice will be issued.

Additionally, the company has the option to not submit any revised materials and after one year the application will be abandoned and void.

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