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County Denies Permit For Compost Site

Commissioners decide following closed door session

A controversial proposal to site a composting facility near Spearfish Lake in Dallesport has been shot down by the Klickitat County Board of Commissioners.

On Monday, Sept. 8, the commissioners voted unanimously to deny granting a conditional use permit for the Northwest Premium Compost facility. The county's action stops the process.

"The project is dead at this point," said County Commissioner Don Struck. "It wasn't a good fit for that area. I support the concept, but that was just not the right place for it."

The Tigard, Ore.-based company proposed operating an open-air composting facility on a 17.5-acre parcel within the Dallesport Industrial Park. The plan called for handling food waste (50,000 tons per year), paper pulp (15,000 tons), bark and wood by-products (15,000 tons), and manure solids and liquids (2,000 tons).

Yard debris, vegetables, fish waste, and ash were also expected to be accepted in small quantities.

The business was expected to create jobs for 11 workers.

The county's Planning Department originally issued a "mitigated determination of non-significance" (MDNS) for the composting operation, but the Yakama Indian Nation, which owns 281 acres of land less than a mile from the site, appealed.

Commissioner Struck explained that the board issued a two-part ruling. First, the commissioners unanimously voted to deny the appeal by the Yakama Indian Nation. The commissioners ruled that State Environmental Policy Act guidelines were adhered to in the Planning Department's review of the application.

Following that, however, the commissioners denied the conditional use application for the project. The end result was that the project was not approved.

"We felt the conditions attached to the MDNS [mitigated determination of non-significance] would cover the issues the tribe brought up, but we also felt the tribe and others brought a good case regarding compatible uses," Struck explained. "It's not a compatible project with the surrounding area."

The Yakamas sought to halt the facility partly because of the impact of odors on adjacent tribal property and because the facility would be within 400 feet of Spearfish Lake, a recreational area used for trout fishing, swimming, and boating.

"The MDNS failed to consider the cumulative impacts of the proposed project," read an excerpt from the Yakama's legal filing.

The first appeal hearing on the case came on July 9. The case was then continued to Aug. 4, and finally to Sept. 8.

In addition, in its comments on the composting project, the Washington Department of Ecology expressed concerns about possible contamination of surface water and ground water. WDOE warned that composting operations could harm Spearfish Lake as well as the Columbia River.

The proponent of the facility, Rece Bly of Portland, was not present when the commissioners made the decision. Attempts to contact Bly for comment were unsuccessful.

According to Klickitat County Prosecuting Attorney Tim O'Neill, Bly has the right of appeal.

"In order for the project to go forward, there would have to be an appeal. The proponent can appeal to Superior Court," O'Neill said.

The property where the compost site was proposed is owned by Jim Riley of Goldendale.

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