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Threats to Liberty Hill


Knife River Corporation, a subsidiary of MDU Resources based in North Dakota, has a lease on the acreage of Liberty Hill from Weyerhaeuser.  The mining company currently operates the old Watters Quarry on the northern end of Liberty Hill for it's basalt, a rock commonly found throughout the PNW.  A Previous mining company obtained a Land Use Permit from Columbia County in 1992 for a southward expansion of the Watters Quarry onto 120+ acres of  Liberty Hill.  This 32-year-old county permit has never been reviewed or revised despite errors to the original document and the changes the surrounding properties have undergone over the last 30 years - yet it is still considered valid.

If plans go as proposed, mining will remove over 12 acres of wetland and intermittent streams at the site including several acres of camas meadow with their ecologically rare and diverse native plant populations. Considered as ARSC (aquatic resources of special concern) the types of wetlands found in the camas meadows cannot be replicated.  In addition, several upland wetlands and ponds with their sensitive species will be completely removed. The mining plan will also involve the scraping of topsoil and destruction of hundreds of mature native oak and ash trees that are integral to this unique habitat. Even the "indirect impacts" have a great potential to disrupt this environment.  The complex natural hydrology of Liberty Hill that feeds several meadows and wetlands outside of the impact area have the potential to be gravely affected.  Many additional streams and ponds are threatened.

Though a mitigation plan is required, this type of rare wet meadow habitat is virtually impossible to replicate.  The shallow but rich soils of the meadows, rock bottomed vernal pools and streams that support an astonishing array of plants of wildlife were formed over many thousands of years.  If the solid basalt substrate is taken away with mining, it cannot be replaced.  Liberty Hill's meadows and wetlands as they exist today, will be gone forever should plans go through.

Recent photo, looking North into The Watters Quarry, owned by Weyerhaeuser and leased/operated by Knife River.
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