For now, a Lummi Island quarry will continue to operate under certain restrictions, but the Whatcom County hearing examiner on Wednesday, Feb. 13, came close to shutting down the operation.
He also made sure during Wednesday's hearing that officials from Lummi Rock, LLC, knew he disapproved of their lack of adherence to the rules. The county issued three stop-work orders in 2012 requiring Lummi Rock to cease unpermitted activities.
"This is an organization that's totally out of control," Hearing Examiner Michael Bobbink said. "They do whatever they want whenever they want ... all without permits."
Lummi Rock hasn't denied it lacks the required permits for an internal access road, a pier with a conveyor, and a barge moorage area. The business has applied for a permit for the loading pier, and it claims it has a grandfathered use of the moorage area.
Bobbink was especially upset about a photograph he saw in earlier case filings of plumes of turbid water coming from the quarry site, polluting Smuggler's Cove and Hale Passage, east of Lummi Island.
After requiring a stormwater plan to address the pollution and getting an insufficient document in response, Bobbink was on the verge of closing the quarry.
"I am seriously going to consider it," Bobbink said. Regarding the inadequate stormwater report, he added, "I am extremely displeased with what I consider to be almost a rude document."
Lummi Rock attorney Lesa Starkenburg-Kroontje challenged the hearing examiner's view of the drainage problem. She said the photograph he saw was from 2008 and that no sediment has spilled offshore since November 2011.
"A picture is not always what it appears to be," she said.
Bobbink said he had other reasons to be disappointed. Lummi Rock failed to provide a report he had ordered on how the company was going to replant the shoreline. Also, after Bobbink's November decision to uphold the stop-work orders, the county slapped the quarry with a violation notice about operating after hours.
"I'm trying to work with them and help them stay in business and get going, and I get new violation notices," Bobbink said.
Lummi Rock President David Grainger said he would provide a shoreline restoration plan. Starkenburg-Kroontje said the quarry would appeal the after-hours violation.
The hearing examiner scheduled another hearing for April 10 to determine whether any progress has been made on the quarry's violations. Planning manager Tyler Schroeder said the county will seek to wrap all outstanding permits and a request for a mining area expansion into one environmental review, which could take several months to complete.