Near a scenic, tree-lined stretch of Highway 62 near Prospect, a landowner has proposed a 23.5-acre mining operation that would increase truck traffic, create noise and impact deer and elk habitat.
RH Holdings LLC owns the property at 49990 Highway 62, accessed off Ginkgo Road. The property is surrounded by federal forests and sits midway between Union Creek and Prospect, not far from popular attractions along the Upper Rogue River such as Natural Bridge and the Rogue Gorge.
The operation, to mine pumice sand, would be a quarter-mile to the east of Highway 62, but the owner has stated it would not be visible from the roadway. The excavation work would take place over a five-month period in the early spring and late summer at the northeast corner of the property.
An adjacent landowner has appealed Jackson County's tentative approval of the project. The Jackson County hearings officer will listen to the appeal at 8:30 a.m. Monday at the Jackson County Courthouse.
Steve Rouse, president of Rogue Advocates, said his land-use watchdog organization has been contacted by members concerned about the project.
"That is such a high-use recreation area in the summer," Rouse said.
So far, his organization hasn't taken a stand on the project, though Rouse said he's reviewing the information to see whether he should voice any concerns at the hearing.
Based on his past experience, he said mining operations can be very loud and can be heard over long distances.
Rouse said it appears there are some safeguards in place to minimize the disruption in the area, according to information he's received about the project.
Matt Ropp, a land-use consultant working for RH Holdings, said a number of steps have been taken to minimize the effects of the excavation.
"If you look at the project, it's a very modest operation," he said.
Ropp said that to address some of the neighboring landowner's concerns about noise, no compaction equipment will be used in the operation or during the reclamation.
"It will be very quiet at the neighboring property," he said. From the house at the neighboring property to the excavation pit, it is about 1,500 feet, Ropp said.
He said he didn't think someone at Union Creek, roughly 6 miles away, would be able to hear any noise from the excavation work. Ropp said the operation would be subject to Oregon Department of Environmental Quality noise restrictions.
RH Holdings also agreed to limit the duration of the excavation work because of concerns about habitat disruption, Ropp said.
A 40-acre portion of the 120-acre property is being set aside to improve forage for elk. Special fencing that prevents cattle from entering but allows elk calves to cross would be installed.
The excavation would take place in five-acre sections. Once the work is done on a five-acre portion, reclamation work would restore the habitat under a plan agreed on by the developer.
Ropp said the property had been logged and replanted as a pine plantation. RH Holdings bought the property for $226,000 on July 26, 2016, from Hancock Timberland X Inc. It was previously owned by Boise Cascade Corp.
During the time of excavation, up to 12 semi-trailers a day would transport sand to the Medford area. Ropp said logging trucks already traverse forest roads in the area.
The excavated sand would be used as an amendment to improve heavy clay soils in the Rogue Valley, Ropp said. Mike Hilton of Hilton's Landscaping and Supplies is also involved in the project.
Ropp said he didn't know how deep the excavation pit would be, saying it depends on the amount of materials found.
"We don't have to rip or blast to dig it out of the ground," he said.
Dan Ethridge, assistant district wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, has recommended approval of the mining proposal. Excavation would occur from March 15 to April 30 and from July 1 to Oct. 14 to help minimize impacts to wildlife.
Ethridge said the property falls within especially sensitive winter range for deer and elk, and his agency is particularly concerned about disturbing elk during the calving season.
— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.