Commission again rejects proposal
By Daniel Arens
For the third time in a row, representatives from Coyote Creek presented a series of possible solutions to deal with issues arising from the company’s plan to close an access road through their proposed mine. For the third time in a row, the Mercer County Commission asked Coyote Creek to go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan that keeps a road open through the mine site.
Safety, convenience, longevity, and costs are among the most important recurring factors that the commission, the mine, and nearby residents are trying to address. Coyote Creek has discussed various proposals to address these factors through alternatives to a road through the active mine, but none of these proposals have appeased residents or the commissioners.
During a regularly scheduled county commission meeting, Chris Friez from Coyote Creek Mine reviewed the history of the discussion, placing the concerns raised about the mining plan into three categories: emergency access, ensuring a road can be placed after mining is completed, and providing landowners with easier access to their properties.
Sarah Flath from Coyote Creek then presented another round of possibilities for handling these concerns. Addressing emergency concerns for the Voigt family, who use the section road as the only secure means of escaping from floodwaters on the Knife River, Flath discussed normal conditions, a typical flood event, and an extreme flood event.
Flath said that in normal conditions, when emergency vehicles did not have to deal with a flooding Knife River, they could follow haul roads from County Road 13 to reach the residence. She went on that the east portion of the existing section line road in debate could be left open enough that in the event of a typical flood, access could be provided by haul roads coming from the north that meet the existing trail west of the actual residence, and that the Voigts could leave from the same route. Finally, in an extreme flood event, the Voigts could follow a trail that the company will use for its work to reach County Road 13 to the west rather than trying to cross the Knife River at any point.
Once again, Flath stressed the importance for the mine of closing the section line road, arguing that its removal was essential to the mine plan, that contracts had to be met, and that the amount of coal gained would be lessened notably if a road was maintained.