LIVINGSTON — The Livingston Parish Council’s ordinance committee tried to put the brakes on a set of proposed gravel pit regulations Wednesday night after getting significant pushback from the mining industry.
Sand and gravel pit operators told committee members the new permit costs, buffer zones and other restrictions would put them out of business or drive them away from areas they’ve been mining for 100 years.
Lance West, of Cash Sand & Gravel, in Denham Springs, said mining operations are not trying to move next to neighborhoods. The neighborhoods are moving into areas where gravel mining is already prevalent.
The clash between residents seeking a quiet, country setting and an industry tied to the river basin has come to the forefront in recent months after Watson residents learned of Southern Aggregates’ plans for a 238-acre mining operation next to Oak Hills subdivision.
Councilman Jim Norred, who lives in Oak Hills, drafted the proposed regulations, which would require a $3,000 annual permit, 8-foot perimeter fence, increased buffer zones and restricted hours of operation, among other things.
The committee voted 4-0 Wednesday to recommend the Parish Council table the measures on Thursday night and open the process for more input from residents and mining operators alike.
Committee chairwoman Joan Landry said, by Norred’s own estimates, the regulations would add another $300,000 to $400,000 in start-up costs to projects that already cost as much or more before mining the first rock.
Southern Aggregates Vice President Kevin Black said the “turn-key” cost for the proposed site in Watson is roughly $2.1 million, including state and federal permitting and wetlands mitigation.
Landry said Southern Aggregates already had offered to make some concessions, despite knowing that the proposed ordinances would not apply to the company’s new pit or any other already in operation. Those concessions included erecting an 8-foot wooden fence along the property line adjoining the neighborhood and barbed-wire fencing around the rest, creating 20-foot-high vegetative berms and moving certain processing equipment as far as possible from the subdivision side of the site.
Environmental attorney Andrew Harrison also tried to allay concerns about water quality by explaining the permitting process the project must go through with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
The water used in Southern Aggregates’ wet-mining process, as well as most storm water, would be captured by the pit, Harrison said. No processed water would be discharged into Spillers Creek, which runs through the subdivision and drains into the Amite River, Harrison said. Only storm water, primarily from nonindustrial sections of the site, would flow off the property.
Harrison said the pit would cause very little air emissions — estimated at three tons per year — and not much noise.
Councilman Chance Parent said he had received some 350 calls about the proposals and was concerned that the ordinances had been drafted too hastily, amended too late in the process and were causing considerable confusion.
“I don’t want to use the word ‘knee-jerk,’ but I think a lot of these problems could be resolved if we just all sat down and talked about it,” Parent said.
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