The stream-restoration project is part of a 2011 settlement agreement among CalPortland Co., environmental groups and the state Department of Ecology that would allow CalPortland Co. to seek permits to expand its regional mine in DuPont.
The DuPont City Council endorsed the settlement agreement in January, but it also ruled in May that the gravel-mining company proposals to extract some 53 million cubic yards of sand and gravel on 313 acres north and south of the existing mine might have significant environmental effects, and require an environmental impact statement.
Mining the 142-acre north parcel would not interfere with groundwater flows and would be the first expansion of the mine, noted CalPortland permitting manager Pete Stoltz.
Mining the 171-acre south parcel would require groundwater diversion and pumping, and can’t proceed without completion of a plan to restore the Sequalitchew Creek watershed.
Initial planning for the stream-restoration project will begin at a meeting of all the interested parties July 18 at DuPont City Hall. The meeting is open to the public and the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group has been selected to lead the restoration planning effort.
Among the groups expected to join the settlement agreement participants in development of the plan are the Nisqually Tribe, Joint Base Lewis McChord, citizen and community groups and government agencies.
The goal is to have an agreed-to plan for the Sequalitchew Creek watershed by the end of the year, said Tom Skjervold, president of the Nisqually Delta Association.
Meanwhile, a citizens group called the Sequalitchew Creek Watershed Council has secured an opinion from Ecology that CalPortland would require a water-right permit, if it used groundwater pumped from the south mining unit to improve water flows in Edmond Marsh and Sequalitchew Creek.
Because the water would be put to a beneficial use, it would require a water-right permit, Ecology southwest region director Sally Toteff said in an April 23 letter to Seattle attorney David Mann, who represents the watershed council.
The watershed council, which fears that dewatering the south parcel mining area could damage the creek and DuPont water supplies, has suggested the water-right permit could take years to approve and could derail the settlement agreement.
According to Skjervold, using the diverted groundwater to benefit the marsh and creek would be an interim measure while a long-range marsh- and creek-restoration plan is developed.
“With or without out it, it’s not a deal-breaker,” Skjervold said of Ecology’s requirement for a water right.
“It was just an option,” Stoltz said. “We don’t have to put the water to a beneficial use.”
If CalPortland decided to seek a water right, it might not take that long to process, considering that the water is being withdrawn just before it drains into Puget Sound, said Mike Gallagher, section manager for Ecology’s southwest region water-resources program.
Under state law, dewatering an area for construction or mining is not considered a beneficial use and doesn’t require a water right, Toteff said in her April letter to Mann.
Watershed council member Laurie Fait said the council disagrees with Ecology’s position on mine dewatering and plans a legal challenge.