By David Erickson, Missoulian/Montana Right Now
If her neighbors hadn’t alerted her, Hannah Talbott wouldn’t even know that a Missoula contracting company plans to build an asphalt plant and remove a million cubic yards of gravel from a field just down the road from her house near Arlee.
She lives a little bit farther than a half-mile from the proposed site, so she didn’t get a notice and she has no way of officially protesting the application. She strongly believes the traffic, dust and noise from the operation will affect the entire northern portion of the rural Jocko Valley where she lives.
“My biggest concern is water,” Talbott said. “They are mining in a valley with a very shallow water table, and there is no guarantee that our water won’t be impacted. Everyone in the valley deeply relies on ground water. We all live off of wells and irrigation ditches, and if that is compromised, our property values will be destroyed, and potentially livelihoods, as we are a community of small farms and ranches.”
In April, Missoula-based Riverside Contracting sent a letter to property owners within a half mile that they had applied for an open-cut mining permit for a 157-acre property north of Arlee on the corner of White Coyote Lane and Martz Lane. It’s within sight of the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas. Marvin Rehbein, the owner of the field, intends to operate a crusher to process gravel, run an asphalt plant and remove and haul away up to 1 million cubic yards of gravel. It’s a so-called “high and dry” pit that won’t hit the water table directly.