By Lyndsie Kiebert
The U.S. Forest Service Sandpoint Ranger District announced Thursday approval of the Green Mountain Exploratory Drilling project on the southeast end of Lake Pend Oreille.
The exploratory drilling, headed by Pend Oreille Silica out of Missoula, Mont., is for silica deposits in the area. This specific project involves the drilling of two holes at a maximum combined depth of 200 feet. The job will take about two weeks of daylight-hours work only, with a maximum of two eight-hour shifts per day. Original predictions said the work would happen this summer, but USFS said work will start only after Pend Oreille Silica implements design features and a reclamation bond into their proposal, and receives all required local, state and federal permits.
A reclamation bond ensures the company performs cleanup and restoration to the area affected by the drilling. Some design features USFS is requiring be implemented on the project include compliance with State Best Management Practices, fire safety and hazmat equipment available onsite at all times, cease of operations if cultural artifacts are discovered, noxious weed control protocols, reseeding of disturbed areas and restoration of road drainage.
The rationale for the decision says the drilling project “falls within a category of actions established by the Chief of the Forest Service which normally do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the quality of the human environment and, therefore, may be categorically excluded from documentation in an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment.”
Instead, the project is categorized as “short term mineral, energy, or geophysical investigations and their incidental support activities that may require cross-country travel by vehicles and equipment, construction of less than one mile of low standard road … or use and minor repair of existing roads…”
The site, which is not visible from Lake Pend Oreille, will be reached via USFS roads that are normally closed to the public, along with about 800 feet of temporary access. Sandpoint District Ranger Erick Walker told the Reader in February that the operation will occur under Forest Service supervision most of the time.
Forest service representatives also said there is no evidence of connection between the Green Mountain exploratory drilling and the proposed HiTest Sands silicon smelter in Newport.
For more information on the project, contact Courtney Priddy at (208) 765-7207 or [email protected]