Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - The Western Materials/Western Excavating gravel operation expansion south of Lolo on U.S. Highway 93 will receive its next hearing before the Missoula County Commissioners in late June.

I spoke on Thursday to Commission Chairman Dave Strohmaier about the expansion plans that are causing environmental concerns in the surrounding residential neighborhoods.

County Commissioner Strohmaier Explains the Expansion Plans for the Facility

“It's been in operation for quite a while,” began Strohmaier. “As a matter of fact, the kicker is that it is currently, and has been for a while, in a residential zoning district even though it's an operational gravel pit. The property owner is requesting a zoning variance in order to expand the gravel pit operation, and as one might imagine, that brings in diverse opinions as far as whether that should occur or not.”

Strohmaier said the commissioners have asked Western Materials to do more environmental testing and to seek agreement with the residential neighborhoods near the facility.

The Company has asked for a Groundwater Investigation

“Based on a testimony we've received related to concerns about water quality, we've asked them to go back and do a groundwater investigation,” he said. “Secondly, we've asked that the applicant have conversations with the legal counsel for some of the neighbors and see if there couldn't be any sort of meeting of the minds.”

Strohmaier said the facility has been growing over the years to serve more customers.

“It's been expanding over the course of the past number of decades,” he said. “It started out with a very small footprint in the mid-20th century and grew to 15 acres. Now it’s about 70 acres or so and the proposal would be to expand even farther to the west that would provide gravel material for basically the next 50 years.”

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There will be a Public Hearing on June 20

Even though the public comment period has expired, Strohmaier hopes an agreement can be reached between the parties.

“Even though the public hearing has closed to the next time, we will take this up again on June 20,” he said. “At that point, we'll at least get an update from the parties as to whether or not there is any ability to come to a meeting of the minds and hopefully we'll get a status on the groundwater investigation that we've requested.”

Click here to get the full story about the dispute through the Missoula County Voice website.

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