Quarry could threaten Yamhill County’s Garden of Eden

Grand Island has some of the best farm land in Oregon

A tractor drive through farmland. (KOIN)
A tractor drive through farmland. (KOIN)

GRAND ISLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Residents of a community in Yamhill County are concerned about a proposed change to the landscape and their way of life.

Grand Island consists of about 4,000 acres of farmland west of the Willamette River and is known as Yamhill County’s Garden of Eden.

In 2010, Baker Rock Resources, an asphalt and aggregate business based in Beaverton, applied for a zone change for 225 acres of land at the southern edge of Grand Island. Baker wants to make a quarry and mine the land for aggregate.

Concerned community members tried to stop the county commissioners from approving the application, but their efforts failed.

Neighbors are upset about the loss of land in the farming community. Grand Island’s rich topsoil makes it some of the more desirable in Oregon.

“Class 1A is some of the highest productive soil,” said farmer Sam Sweeney. “Meaning you can grow anything in Oregon you want on it and it’s the best of the best.”

Sweeny, who also works with the Yamhill Soil and Water Conservation District, said when he was a teenager, farmers on Grand Island were known for being on the “leading edge” of innovations in farming because of the productive soil.

“This is the type of soil our land use laws should be protecting, but unfortunately underneath this soil are layers of aggregate that the aggregate companies would like to have,” Sweeny said.

Families are concerned about what the proposed quarry could do to the way they make their livings.

“Our family is concerned for the loss of farmland in general but also for everyone who lives downstream,” Kulla said.

Kulla is also a member of Protect Grand Island, a group that fears a quarry would disrupt the flood waters from the Willamette River.

Baker Rock Resources has taken the next step and applied for a floodplain permit. The Yamhill County Planning Commission will hear the application Thursday.

Residents believe if the application is approved it will be a mistake.

“It’s nearly impossible to stop once it starts, that’s why we can’t let this happen to this part of the island,” Sweeny said. “We’re afraid once it starts it will just migrate down and once it starts it’s impossible to stop.”

Baker Rock Resources President Todd Baker provided KOIN with the following statement:

“Baker Rock understands the concerns of its Grand Island neighbors… Baker Rock is a multi-generational Oregon business that has been helping Oregonians build roads, buildings and all manner of public infrastructure for decades. Rock is essential for economic development and health and is recognized as an important Goal 5 Resource under Oregon’s land use planning framework. Baker Rock, the State of Oregon and Yamhill County all recognize that there are impacts from mining. That is why obtaining the necessary permits to extract an essential resource has taken over six years and includes extensive scientific impact analysis and imposition of conditions to limit and mitigate all potential impacts.”