Big Lake Gravel Pit Grovel

Big Lake Gravel Pit Grovel

Last week, the MatSu Borough Assembly turned down a request for an industrial permit to expand a gravel pit on Big Lake.  The vote was 6-1 against.

The small business was established in 1999.  The expansion would have allowed the business to remove up to 750,000 cubic yards of gravel with up to 100 truckloads of gravel a day through 2040.  The business currently removes around 2,000 cubic yards of gravel yearly, which does not require an industrial permit.

Once the gravel is gone, the owners plan to turn the remaining pit into a subdivision with 16 2-acre lots for future homes.  This is not uncommon, as a gravel pit near Sand Lake in south Anchorage and a gravel pit off O’Malley Road were both turned into housing developments over the last 15 years.

Final bit of information is that gravel extraction is one of the few resource extraction industries in the MatSu.

Opposition cited the comprehensive plan, truck traffic on a small road, noise and dust as reasons to oppose the permit.

In this one, the NIMBYs and BANANAs won.  What at what cost?

A business that needs the use of a small road to get product to market will take steps to improve that road, saving the Borough some amount of money.  A business that will expand will also put people to work, something highly important in a time of declining oil revenues.  The more people working, the fewer people need the services of a bloated state government.

The MatSu over the last 20 years managed to get itself a real nasty anti-development reputation.  Recent activities include shutdown of efforts to produce coal bed methane in the Valley, strident opposition to Usibelli’s expansion of its Wishbone Hills coal mining operation, and kneejerk opposition to Wayne Carmony’s efforts to put in a pair of 100 MW coal-fired electric generation plants in the MatSu.  Expansion of gravel pit operations in Meadow Lakes and Trapper Creek was rejected last February.  Even opposition to the Watana Dam is driven by BANANA & NIMBY –ism.

Any and all of these projects would have put people to work.  Most of these projects would have at some level made local energy more affordable.  And all of these projects were killed by a combination of NIMBY, BANANA, and green opposition.

Where does this stop?

I think the MatSu Borough Assembly made a mistake.  I truly do get it when home owners don’t want industrial things in their back yards.  The problem is that the definition of backyard has been so expanded and mangled that it is getting impossible to build or do anything new in the Valley any more.  This will end up biting the locals in the backside sooner rather than later, for if we aren’t growing as a community, we are dying.

If a project will put people to work, it ought to be approved.  Part of that approval should be based on how the operators of the business can be good neighbors and conduct their business in a reasonably unobtrusive manner.  In this case it is the neighbors of the gravel pit operation who are not being good neighbors.

Alex Gimarc lives in Anchorage since retiring from the military in 1997. His interests include science and technology, environment, energy, economics, military affairs, fishing and disabilities policies. His weekly column “Interesting Items” is a summary of news stories with substantive Alaska-themed topics. He is a small business owner and Information Technology professional.

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NIMBY Not In My Back Yard

BANANA Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone




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