Opposition: Singleton Quarry permit OK not set in stone
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent August 15, 2014 5:26PM
Water from the Singleton Ditch breaches Ind. State Road 2 in this June 24, 2014 photo. | Photo provided
Updated: September 17, 2014 6:12AM
Some South Lake County officials say the special drainage board convened Wednesday to consider stormwater permits for the proposed Singleton Quarry needed to wait until IDEM had issued its permits before considering the request.
State Rep. Rick Niemeyer, R-11th, said Friday he contacted the Indiana Department of Environmental Management following the meeting and learned IDEM permitting was required prior to county approval of stormwater permits for Singleton Stone LLC.
“IDEM is saying anybody permitting a stone quarry like they are doing needs to come to the state and get their discharge approval first. They need to apply first to the state,” Niemeyer said.
“If the county acted without those (permits) ... the county drainage board was acting illegally,” he said.
On Wednesday the special drainage board approved 2-1 on each count requests from Singleton Stone LLC to connect and discharge into Singleton Ditch and Dinwiddie Ditch in Eagle Creek Township.
Lake County Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, said that after he discussed the situation with Niemeyer he sent an email to Lake Commissioners Michael Repay, D-1st, and Roosevelt Allen Jr., D-3rd, commissioners’ attorney John Dull and Lake County Surveyor Bill Emerson Jr. expressing his concerns with Wednesday’s decision.
Repay and Allen are two of the three special drainage board members. A third member, Richard McDevitt, is a mediator appointed by the courts to replace Gerry Scheub, D-2nd, on the drainage board after he was removed by the courts in the wake of his opposition. Allen was the lone no vote against the proposal. Strong said he wants to know if the drainage board acted before required IDEM permits were obtained what that does to the action taken.
“Improper protocol was followed. Is it considered a legal vote or illegal vote,” Strong said.
James Wieser, attorney for Singleton Stone LLC, said the statute requiring permitting prior to the application of permits from IDEM does not apply to the project because it is not connecting a private drain to a regulated drain but creating a new drainage system.
Wieser said that because the project will create a new drain to connect to the Singleton and Dinwiddie ditches, developers had to create a stormwater plan approved by the county’s surveyor’s office and drainage board prior to proceeding with the IDEM permitting application process.
“There is no statute in the history of the state of Indiana since it was founded that requires that. It simply isn’t there. The local approval has to be obtained first.”
Wieser said he expects to file for the required IDEM and Department of Natural Resources permits next week.
Dan Goldblatt, public information officer for IDEM, said the need for a permit depends on the type of quarry. The agency has been in talks with the developers of the Singleton Quarry and is aware of their operations. Goldblatt said it appears IDEM permits should have been obtained prior to the county approval process.
“Essentially they would first file a notice of intent for stormwater run-off and a notice of intent for quarry operations,” Goldblatt said. Those notices have not yet been received by the agency.
Goldblatt said it is not necessarily uncommon for the various local, state and federal permitting processes to simultaneously occur. If required IDEM permitting was not received prior to the county-level approvals it will not affect how IDEM proceeds. Goldblatt said the agency would consider the permit applications once they are received regardless of what is occurring at the county level.
“We leave the local issues to the locals,” Goldblatt said. Local officials and the county’s attorneys would have to decide how to proceed if they believe the statute has been violated.
Meanwhile Linda Cosgrove and John Bryant and other local residents opposed to the quarry, say they are prepared to continue their fight downstate. Cosgrove said they plan to request a local public hearing on each permit that must be obtained from the state so their concerns can be heard.
“There are going to be several battles going on simultaneously between the air permit, the NPDES permit and other permits that are required because it is such an environmentally sensitive area,” she said.