Corps' proposal to open Naselle Quarry has oystermen worried about negative impactsNASELLE, Wash. - Pressure is mounting on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to look elsewhere for rock to shore up local jetties.

Oystermen around Willapa Bay are concerned about the Corps' proposal to reopen the Naselle Quarry near the Naselle River Bridge.

It includes removing 375,000 cubic yards of "overburden" to expose the rock beneath, and transporting it to a clear-cut site across Clearwater Creek. The quarry would be increased in size from 1.5 acres to 10 acres. More than one million cubic yards of rock could be removed from the reopened quarry for jetty "A" repair. The project would also require road construction.

Oystermen are concerned runoff from the project would affect water quality in Willapa Bay. There are several commercial shellfish grounds located in the area around Clearwater Creek and the Naselle River.

Oysterman Tim Morris plans to submit a letter to the Corps asking engineers to carefully consider the economic importance of the region. He would like them to look at other local quarries as a source for the rock before going ahead with the project. He's puzzled that the Corps did not contact them directly about the quarry project, as engineers have done in the past.

"It's very strange that we were not included in the environmental assessment," he said.

Oysterman Richard Wilson, who has a doctorate in geology, has concerns too.

"The mere fact that they are not talking about this concerns us," he said. "They don't say what their plans are."

According to Corps jetty repair project manager Norm Tolonen, the Corps is still examining the suitability of the site. Engineers need 10-ton boulders for the jetty repair work, which will focus on the trunk portion of the jetty and not the tip.

Ultimately, the contractor hired by the Corps to do the work will determine the source of the rock. According to Tolonen, the Corps hopes to hire a contractor in February 2005.

Tolonen said the Corps is looking at the Naselle site because it would not have to purchase the rock. Although Weyerhaeuser owns the land, the Corps retained the mineral rights when they sold the site to the company.

Wilson, however, believes the cost of removing the overburden, building roads, and the potential damage to the environment and economy, outweigh the benefit of free rock.

"If they could remove rock from there without disrupting people and animals, that would be fine," he said.

He would also like some more extensive environmental review.

The Corps is accepting public comment until Dec. 2. Letters should be addressed to District Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineer District, Portland, Attn: CENWP-PM-E, P.O. Box 2946, Portland, Ore., 97208-2946.

Elizabeth Long is a staff writer for the Chinook Observer

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