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County officials to evaluate Diamond Bluff sand project

Pierce County officials will meet this month to discuss complaints surrounding a controversial sand-hauling project in Diamond Bluff.

Andy Pichotta, land management administrator for the county, said the issue will be placed on the Oct. 20 Land Management Committee meeting agenda.

The project, which has been a sore spot for many residents in the river town, came under fire Wednesday when an attorney representing an opposition group called on the Pierce County Board chairman to consider terminating or modifying the conditional-use permit issued for the project.

According to Citizens for Diamond Bluff attorney Patrick Hynes, the project's contractor, LS Marine, has been "regularly" violating terms of the permit since the project got under way in mid-September.

In a letter to board Chairman Paul Barkla, Hynes alleges trucks hauling sand from Mississippi River banks through town are not covered with tarps, as the permit requires.

The letter represents the second formal complaint issued by the citizens group since the project began. A Sept. 17 letter to Pichotta alleged similar violations.

"It is clear that Pierce County does not currently have the resources to monitor the project, and it is unreasonable to expect that the residents of Diamond Bluff constantly monitor the project to report violations," Hynes' Sept. 29 letter states.

The group requests the county to consider amending the permit's language to include a provision calling for a county employee to supervise the project full time. LS Marine would cover the cost of placing the county worker at the site, according the group's proposal.

"I'm not sure that's a feasible option," Pichotta said.

Still, he said the county will step up its presence at the project site. That could mean a county worker monitoring the situation for up to two hours a day, Pichotta said.

The project currently is suspended due to high river levels, but work could resume next week, Pichotta said.

The citizen group's complaints represent the latest in a litany of objections that began early this year while project officials were still seeking approval.

Residents first objected in January to the $1.83 million project, claiming the constant parade of dump trucks offloading the sand would disrupt life and jeopardize safety in the town.

The project involves barges unloading 400,000 cubic yards of sand from Corps Island to a temporary dock on private Diamond Bluff land, where it is transferred to the trucks. LS Marine predicts truck traffic to be about 18 vehicles every hour from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week for 145 days.