Bridgewater Township officials, who requested the DEQ to hold a public hearing on Stansley Mineral Resource's much-revised plans to dredge mine, creating a 20-acre lake that may affect significant nearby wetlands, recently learned that there will be no public hearing on the re-submitted application.
James Sallee of the Jackson office said citizens could submit written comments to him, but the DEQ would be making a decision on the application by or before August 21. No deadline for written comments was mentioned.
THE PROBLEM WITH THIS is that the public doesn't have access to the application/information upon which the DEQ invites them to comment! The revised application includes a revised cite for the lake, a new hydro study, etc. In the normal notification process, adjoining property owners would receive a copy of the application. No such information has been distributed, so how can the public comment intelligently on it???
In October of last year, Huron Ecologic LLC found the wetland northwest and up grade of the proposed lake to be "approaching statewide significance" for its floristic quality. Since then, additional species including on the state's watch list have been identified in the wetland.
A seasonal stream (formerly year-round until the contiguous wetlands west and upgrade of the wetland in question went dry....at the same time SMR was dredge mining to create a very large, very deep lake adjoining them) feeds the wetland in question then travels via culvert to a ditch and waterway on the subject property where the lake is proposed. In addition, very high groundwater features in the area (seasonally rising to the surface to feed the wetland) appear to be complex. In places water rises to the surface seasonally, irrespective of rainfall; adjoining land has groundwater at 10, 15, and even only 4 feet subsurface. Wells near the current dredge mining operation show about a three foot drop in level; one is no longer viable.
The DEQ should, at the very least, do a mailed notification to adjacent landowners/residents and include a copy of the application in that notification and accept comments for a suitable period thereafter so that Bridgewater and concerned people CAN make INTELLIGENT comments. On one page (a map/diagram) of the mining company's revised application/hydro study (the only page I've seen), the location of one of the monitoring wells used for the study was INACCURATE. How will the public or township know if other inaccuracies exist without being shown the study? How can the DEQ accept the mining company's "word" for the validity of the study they themselves did (with an eye toward avoiding what appeared to be a denial of their application possibly?), without independent review AND detailed knowledge of the cites in question?
I invited Mr. Sallee to come see the location of the areas of high groundwater that feed the wetland, particularly in relation to where SMR's monitoring wells were placed. He kindly called on a day he anticipated being in the area, but I had already left home and didn't receive his message until I returned that evening. I reissued the invitation but as yet no DEQ representative has gone far enough into the property to see the areas in question.
Any information/help/advice would be appreciated. Mr. James Sallee, Jackson DEQ office, is in charge of this application's review. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. He has been very helpful concerning this issue in the past.
Edwin and Caroline Hebb
(resident/owners of the wetland in question)