Gravel Pit Near Glacier National Park May Grow

By Beacon Staff

WEST GLACIER – A gravel pit less than one-fourth mile from Glacier National Park would expand to 24 acres, from 2 acres, under a plan before the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

Bob Spoklie bought the land in 2004 and sought to reopen the pit, which had been idle since 1995. He said he wanted the gravel to use in building the infrastructure for his 400-acre Martin City housing development called Glacier Hills.

Spoklie’s gravel pit led to a legal tangle with Flathead County, followed by an agreement that he eventually would be allowed to expand the pit but the enlargement would require a new permit from DEQ. On March 20, the state agency posted an environmental assessment for an amended permit. DEQ is taking public comment until April 3.

“Glacier National Park is very concerned about the proposal,” said Amy Vanderbilt, the park’s public affairs officer. “We are just now preparing our comments.”

In 2005, Flathead County ordered Spoklie to cease operations at the pit because of conflicts with the West Glacier Zoning District and a land-use system. Proximity to the park led West Glacier residents’ opposition to the gravel operation several years ago.

The agreement negotiated between Spoklie and the county places a number of conditions on the gravel operation.

They include limiting the active gravel-removal area to a maximum of 8 acres at any one time. The overall size of the pit was capped at 24 acres, and rock crushing would be prohibited from both June 15 to Aug. 21 and Nov. 15 to March 12.

Besides raising the operating area to 24 acres, the amended permit would increase the maximum mining depth from 30 feet to 70 feet, and increase the amount of gravel to be removed from 46,400 cubic yards to 1.8 million cubic yards. A performance bond for the expanded pit would rise to $52,050, from $1,500.

The operation would involve a daily 22 trips by dump trucks. A washing plant that would be supplied with well water and would use up to 22,000 gallons a day, a figure that reflects some recycling.

Spoklie told The Daily Inter Lake that the state permitting process is merely a “formality.” Trees screen the pit and it is not the scar that some contend, he said.

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