Meramec Aggregates plan to dredge a large lake near St. Clair was met with strong opposition Tuesday night at the Franklin County Planning and Zoning meeting.
The company presented its request for a conditional use permit to mine raw materials from a piece of river-bottom property across the Meramec River to land it already owns. Once all the gravel has been dredged from the area, the site would have a 35-acre lake.
The plan upsets many neighbors southeast of the proposed location. Citing fears of erosion, flooding and the quality of the lake, a string of residents urged the commission to either reject the permit or take more time before making a decision.
The commission agreed to take more time and unanimously sent the proposal to the review committee. The request wil be kept open until March 28 so more information can be obtained.
Kenny Wilson of Meramec Aggregates said the company plans to go to work on a 60-acre work site for the dredging operation. He said the company intends to start work in the northeast corner of the property — the area farthest away from any dwelling.
Wilson said a pit will be created in an 8-acre area to start with and sand and gravel will be pumped out through a pipe. The 12-inch pipe will go under and across the Meramec River where it will be deposited in land already owned by the company.
Wilson said the pipe being used will be the first of its kind in the state of Missouri. The pipe would be encased in a heavier material so it would sink to the bottom of the river easier.
Once the operation is under way, Wilson estimates Meramec Aggregates would excavate 1.5 to 2 acres a year until a 35-acre lake is left behind.
“We’ll be there quite awhile,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the Department of Natural Resources requires a 100-foot buffer between the river and a lake. He said Meramec Aggregates intends to use some of the overburden and topsoil from the operation to backfill and enlarge the northern buffer.
In order to get the CUP, Meramec Aggregates needs 404 and 401 permits from the Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Wilson said Meramec Aggregates doesn’t have the permits yet, but he doesn’t expect any problems.
“They said that it looks great and to go for it,” he said. “They’re not worried at all about the wildlife.”
Wilson tried to defuse potential complaints before public comments were accepted. He said for those worried about noise, the dredging wouldn’t be any louder than a boat heading down the river.
He also addressed a previous property owned by that company that was used up and left in an admittedly less-than-great state. He said that property was purchased after another owner had already removed 75 percent of the gravel and Meramec Aggregates didn’t have a lot of choice on how to do things.
“We just followed the previous owner’s guidelines from the Department of Natural Resources,” he said. “That’s the reason it looks the way it does.”
Wilson said the final product at the new location would look much better.
“We want a lake,” he said. “We want banks around it and we want it to look like a lake and not a pit. That’s the reason we’re saving the dirt and stuff to put banks all the way around.”
He said the lake would be filled with ground-water, water pumped in and water from flooding.
Meramec Aggregates’ potential future neighbors aren’t sold on the plan. While some favored outright rejection, others just wanted more information.
William Tucker said the plan lacks several details, such as a storm management plan, a design and plans for a dredge.
Tucker said his main concern, however, is erosion. He said if the land is altered, the flood water could be funneled in a new direction that would impact his property.
“That puts us on an island down there,” he said.
Lance Sutton said the condition of the old property concerns him. He also fears the whole property would be mined and not just the 60-acre segment.
Joan Kellar, who owns the property west of the proposed site, said she was contacted about selling her farmland. She objected.
“It would be disgusting to take good farmland and to make a pit of water,” she said.
Kellar said she’s lived along the river for years and doesn’t want Meramec Aggregates nearby.
“You should not be considering a long-term permit,” she told the commission.
Cliff Koebel said he doesn’t believe the noise wouldn’t be a factor.
“This thing is going to be running 24-7 apparently for the next 30 years,” he said. “That’s obviously going to be a disturbance.”
After listening to comments from potential neighbors, the commission unanimously agreed to send the file to the review committee and gather more information. The permit request will be moved to old business and voted on at a later meeting.