An email from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission recently obtained by the Caswell Messenger should give efforts to keep a proposed rock quarry out of Prospect Hill in Caswell County a small shot to the arm.
On Sept. 27, Olivia Munzer, Western Piedmont Coordinator Habit Conversation for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC), sent an email to Brenda M. Harris, Mining Program Secretary Land Quality Section of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Land Resources (NCDEQLR) containing the comments of NCWRC biologist pertaining to the mining permit application by Carolina Sunrock LLC. NCWRC biologists formed their comments in accordance with provisions of the Mining Act of 1971 (G.S. 74-46 through 74-68 15 NCAC5).
The property, located at 1238 Wrenn Road in Prospect Hill, is currently comprised of agricultural fields and forest, which was primarily cleared by a timber harvest in 2018. Of the 630-acre property, a total of 380 acres are being proposed for mining activities.
According to the email, Sugartree Creek and unnamed tributaries to South Hyco Creek and Sugartree Creek pass through the proposed site. Sugartree Creek in the Roanoke Basin is classified as a High-Quality Water and Water Supply II stream by the North Carolina Department of Water Resources (NCDWR). In its permit, Carolina Sunrock stated two small wetland areas will be permanently effected by construction. However, it was also stated that streams will be permanently impacted by the development and mining of the land.
Perhaps one of the biggest developments found in the email had to do with maritime wildlife found in the area.
The NCWRC stated it has records showing that a rare breed of crawfish — the Carolina ladle crayfish — lives near the site. However, the commission also went on to state an on-site survey is the only way to prove if the quarry would have a negative impact on federal or state rare, threatened or endangered species.
NCWRC biologists concluded their comments by stating they hesitate to agree with the approval of the mining permit. They also expressed concerns for the direct and indirect impacts to aquatic and terrestrial resources in and adjacent to the proposed project.
Along with direct impacts, NCWRC biologists also stated their concerns over some of the indirect impacts of the quarry, including on the streams and wetlands. Biologists referred to The Hydrogeological Study Report which indicates substantial water-table drawdowns were seen during testing and equal or greater impacts during quarry dewatering. They also expressed concerns the aquifer may have trouble recharging as well, especially during drought years like the one Caswell has experienced this year.
In its mining permit application, Carolina Sunrock stated a 100-foot buffer will be installed along Sugartree Creek and its accompanying larger two tributaries. The company also stated that surrounding intermittent and ephemeral streams and wetlands will have 50-foot buffers as well. A fact the NCWRC is pleased to see as they included in their comments.
However, the commission also pointed to the application where the company indicated that throughout “Phases I, II and III within Pit A” will be mined, leaving a 50-foot undisturbed bugger along all streams and wetlands within the ultimate pit boundary of “Pit A,” which the commission found inconsistent with Carolina Sunrock’s original claims.
The NCWRC biologists also expressed their concerns over the overburden/pond fines disposal areas are adjacent to streams and are only separated from the construction activities by a silt fence and undisturbed stream buffer. Biologist recommended to Sunrock that if the stream buffer is less than 100 feet, then it should consider using a small bern or other type of structure to protect the stream from sediment in the chance the silt fences fail.
Lastly, the commission recommended to Sunrock that it should remove non-native plants and consider a mix of reed clover, creeping red fescue and a grain — such as oats, wheat or rye — when reseeding the proposed site.