By Steve Day, Guest Columnist
If you haven’t taken a drive up Furnace Mountain lately, you should soon because the peaceful drive and the beautiful surroundings are in danger of being lost to Powell County forever. Many of the people that live on Furnace Mountain have bought property and invested all they have into their places. Many have lived there for generations and some have left busy cities to relocate there but regardless all appreciate its beauty, tranquility and grandeur. After having a very small advertisement run (on the 13th page of the Clay City Times) about Red River Materials LLC intent to mine Furnace Mountain, a permit has been applied for to turn part of Furnace Mountain into a limestone surface mine.
I attended the meeting on the evening of Thursday, June 12th to discuss concerns and objections of those living on Furnace Mountain, Pecks Creek and Cat Creek. There were approximately 200 people that showed up for the meeting even though there was no public advertisement of the event. The meeting was disorganized, with the coordinators not even having a fully operational camera to record the meeting, and the plan was not outlined by Red River Materials, or a representative the applicant. Those that conducted the meeting answered relatively few of the questions & objections raised by citizens of Powell County. Many people, including myself, got the feeling that this is being railroaded through regardless. Contributing to this feeling was the response of the chair person that many of the concerns raised were not his department but shifted the burden over to other departments like the Department of Transportation, even though the regulations from the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet clearly contain information regarding many of the objections. Below I will outline just a few:
Some objected about the safety of our children. Concerns have been raised about having Large Trucks hauling rock coming down Furnace. The road being steep and quite narrow which can hardly handle two trucks passing each other as is. Not to mention, have you ever encountered a school bus while traveling up (Highway) 213? It is enough to make your heart stop! Can you imagine encountering a haul truck? Or even worse, what would happen if a school bus and a hauling truck met each other? I am not prepared to lose even one life, not to mention a school bus of children for this mining operation. Yet, when this was brought up, the chairperson said it would have to be taken to the DOT, that it wasn’t his department. This is not true. The Regulations for Permit requirements (405 KAR 5:030E) clearly states in Section 20 Transportation Plan that “the application shall clearly contain a plan for the transportation on minerals over public roads.” “That the plan shall state the legal weight limits and vehicle size limits for each roadway or bridge” and “the plan shall describe the anticipated average number of trucks per working day that will traverse each part of the state and county road systems, and the anticipated dimensions, gross vehicle weight, and number of axles of the trucks.”
The Knowlton Church on Furnace has been there since the 1970’s and concern was raised about what this would do to the church, yet little credence was given him, but the regulations under Section 28, Criteria for Permit Approval and Denial, states “that the mine cannot be within 300 feet…of a church, community or institutional building.”
We have concerns over waters that flow down Pecks and Cat Creeks which originate from Furnace, we have concerns to our gas and water wells being diminished or destroyed. We have concerns over the noise, the dust, our health from breathing more limestone dust and the list goes on and on. People of Powell County and Eastern Kentucky, my family moved here because we wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy these hills and raise our children close to nature. It does not take long driving through rural Appalachia to see the scars left from surface mines that have folded and left mountain tops and hillsides destroyed. We implore you to not let big businesses destroy what we have, because when it is gone it won’t come back.
If you are desirous of notifying someone why you think this mine shouldn’t happen, please send a letter to Mark Tarter with your objections. His address is below.
2 Hudson Hollow
Frankfort, KY 40601
RE: Red River Materials, LLC
We will also be meeting at the Knowlton Church on Monday, June 23th at 6pm to discuss this further. You are welcome to attend. If you are interested in receiving updates to what is happening on Furnace Mountain, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add you to our updates.
Steve Day is the Director of the Home for Health Lifestyle Center located on Peck’s Creek in Stanton.