Permitting Process for In-River Dredges and Off-River Pit Mines
Mining sand and gravel from either an in-river dredge site or a pit mine is an industrial process. Sand and gravel mining results in noise from dredging, hauling machinery and truck traffic; in dust from stockpiles of sand and heavy trucks operating on dirt roads; and in environmental damage inflicted on the immediate area. But sand is needed to build homes, buildings, bridges and highways, particularly in the highly populated corridor from Topeka to Kansas City. And for companies considering either a new in-river dredge or pit mine the most important business decision is location, location, location, because transportation of sand to building sites is a big factor in pricing and profit.
The future availability and price of sand will be influenced by a number of variables:
- As sand is depleted from current mining locations, either in the river or in the flood plain, companies will need to find new locations as close to their market as possible.
- Rural sections along the Kansas River in the flood plain, particularly between Topeka and Kansas City, are now dotted with pastoral country homes on small acreages. These folks moved to the country to get away from industry and may resist new mining sites near their communities.
- Some of the most fertile farm land in the nation is in the Kansas River flood plain.
Before permitting a new in-river dredge site or pit mine, one must find a suitable location with a reliable quantity of sand and gravel. In-river dredge sites need several acres of land adjacent to the river to store and process sand and gravel mined from the river. Pit mine sites need considerably more land to locate the actual pit as well as an area to store and process sand and gravel mined from the pit. The land for either operation needs to be either leased or purchased.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers (COE) permits in-river dredging sites, and after all the preliminary permitting with other government agencies is completed (see below) the COE issues a Public Notice that includes relevant information and provisions for commenting and requesting a public hearing by a specific date. Since the early 1990’s, only one new in-river dredge operation has been permitted on the Kansas River. View the 2006 public notice for a permit by Victory Sand and Gravel
The Kansas State Conservation Commission (SCC) permits pit mines. This is an application process that does not involve a public notice. Public input can be made at the local level as an application is being considered by county or city commissions. The SCC is responsible for administering the Surface-Mining Land Conservation and Reclamation Act (Mined Land Reclamation Program). The Act requires that producers who mine industrial materials or minerals of commercial value such as sand, gravel, limestone, clay, gypsum, shale, sandstone, silt, caliche, volcanic ash or salt be licensed to operate a mine, register their mining sites, file a reclamation plan for each site, submit a reclamation bond and reclaim mining sites upon completion of mining operations. The program requires an Annual Report and Site Registration Renewal each year indicating the number of acres affected and tons of material produced. Daily operations and conditional use orders outlined in the company’s operational plan are usually not a part of the program. Rather, the program is more involved at the closing stages of a site to assist in final reclamation planning and inspection to assure reclamation requirements have been met. When all requirements are met, the Reclamation Bond can be released.
Friends of the Kaw would like to see the sand and gravel industry move to off-river pit mines, but permitting a pit mine can become a politically difficult for many county and city governments. Holliday Sand and Gravel, however, was successful in permitting a new pit mine in the city of Shawnee with no complaints. See Shawnee Planning Commission. In the permitting process Holliday Sand and Gravel went above and beyond the SCC reclamation requirements and made arrangements to donate property for future recreational space (for more details on this project see Improving Sand and Gravel Mining in the Kaw River Valley at the bottom of the Sand and Gravel Dredging page.)
Government Agencies and Entities that could require a permit for either process:
- County or City Planning Commission: zoning issues, site plan, excavation permits (for pit mines), special use permit (SUP)** or conditional use permit (CUP)**
- Kansas Department of Agriculture, Division of Water Resource: permit to appropriate surface water for beneficial use
- Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE): comply with conditions stipulated in the Environmental Protection Agency National Pollution Discharge Elimination System Permit (NPDES)
- Army Corps of Engineers: permits for grading activities covered by Section 402 (Wetlands) and Section 404 (Waters of the United States) of the Clean Water Act
- State Conservation Commission application process (pit mine permits)
- Public Notice from the COE** (in-river dredge permits)
- Construction Permits – KDHE, Bureau of Air and Radiation
** Opportunities for public comment
Environmental Statutes that may effect permitting of an in-river dredge or pit mine site:
- Clean Water Act (CWA)
- Clean Air Act (CAA)
- Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
- Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)
- Federal Insecticide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)