Opposition is growing against an applicant wanting to transfer a permit granted nearly a decade ago that authorized instream gravel mining at a site just upstream from Spring Creek in Cherokee County.
Beth Rooney, past president of the Spring Creek Coalition, said the permit was issued by the Oklahoma Department of Mines without proper publication of the required legal notice. M5 Enterprises Mining Co., she said, moved heavy equipment in and began removing gravel from Double Spring Creek near Teresita before area residents knew a permit had been issued.
Pam Kingfisher, founder of Green Country Guardians and adjoining landowner, lodged an objection with the state agency after learning the company had published its legal notice in the wrong county. In addition to disrupting the quality of life for those who lived in the area, Kingfisher pointed out the company's failure to comply with the U.S. Corps of Engineers' mining guidelines and the impact it had on her property and the creek.
Kingfisher said while Double Spring Creek is has no special protections as a "high quality waters," it is an Ozark stream listed for beneficial uses as a public and private water supply, and cool-water aquatic community. The "intermittent stream," she said, flows into Spring Creek not far from the instream gravel mining site, and it "is considered the most pristine large Ozark stream in the state of Oklahoma."
"It changed my land forever: It eroded the creek bank and changed the way floods happen; when they happen they are so much more volatile," Kingfisher said about the M5 Mining's activities. "When you pull out gravel, it alters the flow of the creek, and it pulls down more gravel (from the banks) than it ever would have before — the gravel area in my creek has probably doubled."
A U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet notes instream gravel mining has the potential to create channel instability, increase turbidity and degrade aquatic habitat. Other known effects include erosion that leads to the loss of wetlands, loss of fisheries, increased sediment loads and channel degradation.
State regulators granted some concessions in response to Kingfisher's objection when they granted the permit after the fact. After issuing a permit for an applicant who had improperly published the mandatory legal notices and then conducting an informal hearing in response to Kingfisher's objection, the agency established a 50-foot buffer between properties and ordered reclamation and site survey if the owner was unable to provide maps he purportedly possessed.
Kingfisher said no mining has taken place at the site since the permit was issued in 2011 with conditions imposed. She said there was no reclamation for the damage to her property that occurred as a result of mining activities, and the state agency never undertook efforts to inspect the site or enforce its order.
"If the first mining company never sold one rock, what is the business plan of this second mining company?" Kingfisher said. "He bought a boondoggle in a creek bed."
Rooney said the permitting process provides property owners and residents who live within a mile of the mining site with a right to protest an application or transfer of a permit. Representatives of public entities or agencies also have that right — she said Spring Creek Coalition members "have that right" and urged all members to exercise it.
"We are a public entity," she said, noting an example may be obtained by sending her message by email to email@example.com. "You would expect they would meet and listen to our concerns."
Rooney said objection letters should reference the permit located in Cherokee County at Sec 20 - T19N - R22E by applicant Jerry Halpain and state the sender's qualifications. Those who object, she said, should request an "informal conference."
Objections must be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
How to object
Landowners and residents within a mile of the proposed mining site or any public entity or public agency may submit comments or object to the issuance of a permit in writing. Comments or objections to the transfer of the M5 Mining Enterprises Co. permit located in Cherokee County at Sec 20 - T19N - R22E by applicant Jerry Halpain must be submitted by Wednesday by email to:
Contact Beth Rooney (email@example.com) for an example email.