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Lane County vs. Parvin Gravel Mine

Parvin Butte neighbors who have been fighting the destruction of the scenic butte that sits in the middle of rural Dexter had a day in court Jan. 5 when Lost Creek Rock products, owned by Greg Demers and Norman and Melvin McDougal, came before Lane County Hearings Official Gary Darnielle to appeal the fines they have accrued mining Parvin without a site review.

Lane County says LCRP needs a site review in order to mine under its DOGAMI permit. A site review would require the miners to deal with issues such as how much gravel is removed and by how many trucks, hours of operation, whether lights would be used after dark, blasting schedules, and noise, dust and vibration. The butte is surrounded by homes and sits in close proximity to the Dexter post office and other town buildings.

Bill Kloos, attorney for LCRP, said, “We always understood they thought we need a site review. In the final analysis we decided to draw the foul and go out scratching at some rock.”

The county fines for mining without the proper approval began at $330 a day and increased to $1,170 a day after the county found that the mining and was being done in a reckless and intentional fashion, according to testimony by Jane Burgess, compliance officer for the county.

 Kloos and fellow attorney Larry Gildea argue that Lane County code says they don’t need the site review, a permit or county approval if the activity is 200 feet from the neighboring properties. Lane County disagrees. LCRP has since begun a site review process.

At the hearing, neighbors including a retired OSU professor, a retired teacher and an accountant brought photographs and video, and told in careful detail the days and times of the mining they had witnessed, as well as of trucks bearing the McDougal name leaving the property loaded with rocks. 

Demers and the McDougals were in attendance at the hearing. Demers chatted with the McDougals and others in the audience during parts of the testimony, laughing at one point while Dexter resident Jane VanDusen testified from her wheelchair of the mining she witnessed at the butte. VanDusen, a freelance editor, works from home. She and others described the “gigantic claw” of an excavator machine and crashing sounds from the butte, which sits in close proximity to their previously quiet country homes. 

The McDougals and Demers and another of their companies, Willamette Water Co., are also currently involved in a contested case hearing before the Office of Administrative Hearings for the Oregon Water Resources Department over their attempt to get a water right for 22 million gallons of water a day out of the McKenzie River to sell as a “quasi-municipal water source.”

The testimony from the neighbors and from county employees lasted for more than three hours. It was decided the hearing at Harris Hall would be continued at 9 am Jan. 24. After the hearing concludes, the hearings official has 10 days to publish his findings. Then both LCRP and the county have 60 days to appeal the decision to the Lane County Circuit Court if they choose.

Lane County has requested DOGAMI suspend its operating permit for the quarry until site review permit approval has been obtained.