Letter to the Editor: Stay the course on opposing pozzolan mining
It has been nine months since we discovered Drake Cement staking claims for an open pit Pozzolan mine on the east slope of Bill Williams Mountain. Drake seems intent on developing this mine, and to that end has filed a Plan of Operations with the Kaibab National Forest to do exploratory operations at the site to: determine if there is quantity of the mineral to make it worth mining and, deterimine if the mineral of sufficient quality to proceed.
Drake is in the process of having their Plan of Operations approved by the USFS.Once it is approved it will enter the scoping stage of the NEPA process.
“Scoping” is an open process for determining the scope of the issues identified by the public, other agencies and tribal partners to be addressed by a study. The USFS will announce and invite public comments. It will roughly proceed thusly: You will submit written comments, a USFS team of experts, or a contract team of experts, will read the comments and answer each with an explanation of how they will investigate, study or mitigate your concern(s).
Once all comments have been answered/mitigated the USFS will declare the public comment period closed and will then determine the level of analysis Drake, or USFS staff will have to do. This will become a report and decision document known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or an Environmental Analysis (EA). The EIS is more robust and demanding and is completed when there is a finding of significant impacts to the human environment or an irretrievable loss of resources.
Here is the part that is hard to get your head around. Your comments will essentially be explained away with mitigation measures designed to alleviate the concerns you have. They will not prevent this plan from moving forward. They will only change the way the plan is implemented. So, prepare yourselves for this aspect, it can be disheartening for some.
Here is what can be accomplished though. We need everyone to submit comments. It serves two purposes. One, the more comments received with issues you want addressed the more likely the USFS will have reason to demand a more thorough study/analysis of Drake, and two, if any future actions on the plan need to be taken, your comments now buy you a “seat at the table.”
So, in short, we need everyone to begin to think about issues you would like to see addressed in the scoping period for the exploratory Plan of Operations (not to be confused with the actual open pit mining that may be proposed in the future). When the public comment period opens, we will alert everyone. Again, as seemingly unimportant/irrelevant as this path sounds, it is vital we get as many people as possible to engage in this step.
The opposition to the mine will now become a two-pronged approach on our part. The NEPA process, above, is not the only process we are confined to. We will continue to work outside the NEPA process as we have for the past nine months. We will continue to write and lobby our Congressional delegation to oppose this mine and help us achieve our other objectives of encouraging Drake to look elsewhere, consider expanding their already approved operation at Frenchy Pit and to seriously consider the use of recycled alternatives to Pozzolan.
We will also continue to explore and enlist collaborative organizations to support us. Soon after the NEPA scoping comment period is announced by the USFS, we will likely begin another round of letter writing to Congress. We will also need your attention and help here. We will announce when and support you with thoughts and ideas.
So, begin gathering your thoughts, warm up your pens and word processors and be prepared to open this two-front approach. If you have any questions or need ideas now, do not hesitate to let me know, we will assist.
Lastly, I wish to thank everyone that has taken time to write Letters to the Editor at the Williams-Grand Canyon News. You have made an incredible impact on the playing field. If you have not yet seen these or read them, please go the Williams Newspaper website, and read them. There are many and the viewpoints are excellent. Many thanks to those members that wrote the Editor. Well done.
We will be in touch. Thank you for your opposition support and community action. You are genuinely appreciated.