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Local residents wary of plans for a gravel mine in western Washtenaw County

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
An aggregate mining operation in Lenawee County, Michigan.

The demand for sand, rock, and gravel — collectively called "aggregate — is higher due to Michigan’s efforts to fix the roads, a promise Governor Gretchen Whitmer made during her first campaign for the office.

Stoneco operates a dozen gravel mines in southeast Michigan. It’s applied for a new site in Sharon Township.

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
The increased rate of road repair in Michigan has led to some aggregate mining companies to pursue new sites for gravel mines.

The permit process has to determine whether there’s a need for the material. The township planning commission found Stoneco had established a “low-to-moderate” level of need.

Now the aggregate mining company has to show that a gravel mine won’t result in what’s called “very serious consequences” at an upcoming public hearing.

Barbara Schmid is with Sharon Preservation Society, opposing the mine. She says there are lots of serious consequences.

“Traffic, negative impact on property values, impact from noise, dust — potentially dangerous dust, impact on surrounding wetlands.”

Stoneco will have the opportunity to address those concerns while it tries to show the planning commission why the mine won’t result in "very serious consequences."

Some of the local residents are suspicious of the aggregate industry’s claims about needing more gravel mines, particularly when Michigan exports some of the material.

As previously reported by Michigan Radio, in an interview with Pit & Quarry magazine, Michigan Aggregates Association President Douglas Needham said, “As a country, we have now seen how supply chain issues cause shortages and price increases. As a state, anti-gravel activists are generating our own supply chain problems."

The claims of supply chain problems seem to be based on two reports that were discredited by both the State Transportation Commission auditor and the Michigan Office of the Auditor General. The auditors questioned the veracity of the reports after emails obtained by the Detroit Free Press under the Freedom of Information Act revealed Needham unduly influenced the direction of the studies.

Just a few miles away from Sharon Township, in Lenawee County’s Cambridge Township, another aggregate company wants to start a gravel mine in the Irish Hills on land in the midst of four lakes, generating opposition there as well.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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