Politics & Government

Will Thurston County consider Lakeside Industries’ recycled asphalt plan for the Nisqually Valley?

Lakeside Industries uses recycled asphalt at more than a dozen of its plants in the Northwest.

And now, after nearly a decade of lawsuits, appeals and negotiations, officials from the Issaquah-based company think they have a shot at getting an environmental review of using recycled asphalt product at its plant in the Nisqually Valley.

The company’s request to amend the Nisqually Subarea Plan to permit the use of recycled asphalt in the production of new asphalt is on the preliminary list of Thurston County’s Comprehensive Plan Amendments for 2017-18. The Board of County Commissioners is seeking public comment on the list, more commonly known as the preliminary docket, through Thursday afternoon. Public comments help county commissioners prioritize docket items, officials say.

“The docket is a list of proposed changes that we’re going to look at over the next year, or in some cases next two years,” said Allison Osterberg, a senior planner for Thurston County. “…We’re not making a decision on any of those items immediately. It’s just a list of projects that might be considered.”

Osterberg said Lakeside’s proposal has made it onto the preliminary list the past couple of years, but it hasn’t been selected as a priority by past commissions.

Lakeside officials believe that’s about to change, thanks to the power of politics: All three commissioners — incumbent Bud Blake and newly elected Gary Edwards and John Hutchings — are political independents who campaigned on making Thurston County more business and consumer friendly. Lakeside division manager Dean Smith said company officials believe their proposal will finally make it to the official docket this year.

“We’re excited that the commissioners are listening to us,” he told The Olympian on Tuesday. “It’s been a long journey.”

Lakeside has tried to get its proposal to use recycled asphalt product at the Durgin Road plant heard several times, Smith said. A couple of years ago, when county officials said they didn’t have the staff to conduct the environmental review, Lakeside offered to pay for a half-time position. Smith said the company is willing to keep that part of the bargain.

“We just want to get the science and the facts out there we’ve been denied for all these years,” Smith said. “… There are 2,500 asphalt plants in the United States, and they’re capable of recycling. And there’s one that’s not allowed — and that’s this one.”

However, some of the plant’s neighbors say they will continue to fight Lakeside’s proposal.

“We’re absolutely opposed to it,” said Jan Pigman, owner of Pigman’s Organic Produce Patch at 10633 Steilacoom Road SE. “We didn’t want the asphalt there in the first place.”

She said her main concern is that recycled asphalt contains toxins that could contaminate the groundwater. While regular asphalt is made of rocks and oil, recycled asphalt is made from ground road surfaces and sometimes roof shingles, which opponents say can contain pollutants. Lakeside’s plan is to mix recycled asphalt product with virgin products to make the natural resources last longer.

James Myers, who owns Medicine Creek Winery at 947 Old Pacific Highway SE, said he worries that pollutants from the recycled asphalt could be introduced into the Nisqually River, area agricultural lands and the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

He’s also concerned about the increase in traffic on area roads if production is increased at the plant.

“I don’t see where increasing the traffic trips in and out, and the amount of product in and out, makes any sense,” Myers said.

The plant opened in December 2008 and can produce 300 tons of asphalt per hour. Company officials say the plant is state-of-the-art and has won two ecological awards from the asphalt industry.

But it was built inside the Holroyd gravel mine, which supplies rock for the plant, in an area of the county that has zoning regulations prohibiting recycled asphalt product in asphalt manufacturing.

Smith said there are several reasons the new commissioners have taken interest in Lakeside’s proposal: The plant employs 55 workers, and supplies material for local road projects, including ones managed by Thurston County Public Works. If Lakeside can use recycled asphalt product, it can sell its asphalt for local projects for less money, Smith said.

But first, it will have to make it on the docket and be granted an environmental review. It’s a lengthy process that would include planning commission meetings, public hearings and public comment periods, Osterberg said.

Smith said numerous agencies have written letters in support of Lakeside’s proposal. Company officials have been in talks with Edwards and Hutchings since their campaign days, and all three commissioners have indicated support for allowing the proposal to have an environmental review, Smith said.

“Whichever way it goes is fine, but this being in limbo for so long, it isn’t fair,” he said.

Besides Lakeside’s request, the preliminary docket also includes:

▪ Required updates to the Comprehensive Plan, the Shoreline Master Plan and the Capital Facilities Plan.

▪ A prairie habitat conservation plan.

▪ Review of the Nisqually Subarea Plan and the transfer of development rights program and policies.

▪ Updates to the Grand Mound Subarea Plan and design guidelines.

▪ Development of policies related to the Voluntary Stewardship Program and urban forest policies.

Other proposed projects include a site-specific comprehensive land use amendment in rural Thurston County, a land use plan amendment for The Evergreen State College that includes creation of standards for an institutional zoning district, and a policy amendment to review the 100-acre project size for Planned Rural Residential Developments, or cluster developments, in rural areas of the county.

To view more information on the proposals, go to: co.thurston.wa.us/planning/comp-plan/comp-plan-changes.htm.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433, @Lisa_Pemberton

Comments sought

Written comments on Thurston County’s proposed comprehensive plan amendments are due by 5 p.m. Thursday and can be emailed to osterba@co.thurston.wa.us, or dropped off at Thurston County Resource Stewardship Department, c/o Allison Osterberg, senior planner, 2000 Lakeridge Drive SW, Olympia.

A list of the proposals is at: co.thurston.wa.us/planning/comp-plan/comp-plan-changes.htm.