State fisheries division blasts PCS Phosphate’s plans

Published 8:37 am Thursday, February 15, 2007

By Staff
Calls for a look at ‘no-action alternative’
By NIKIE MAYO, News Editor
One state agency found no acceptable alternatives on the table for PCS Phosphate to continue its mining operation in Aurora.
In written comments submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers earlier this month, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries requested a “no-action alternative” be considered. Such an option would allow “mining only in nonjurisdictional and noncoastal wetland, stream and public-trust and coastal waters areas” according to a division memorandum. That memo suggests that the limited mining be “augmented” by importing phosphate rock from Morocco.
A section of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, released by the Army Corps of Engineers in the fall, deals with the no-action alternative, dismissing it as impractical.
But the fisheries division contends “more information is needed to justify dropping this alternative.”
Concerns about the PCS-preferred expansion site didn’t stop at the state level. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that mining operations at the site the company wants to use would “negatively impact estuarine trophic structure” and “may result in substantial and unacceptable adverse impact to aquatic resources of national importance.”
PCS has applied for permits to continue mining at a site just east of its current operations. Because the proposed expansion would impact 2,408 acres classified as wetlands, the Army Corps of Engineers issued a draft statement in October detailing the effects of mining that area. The Army Corps of Engineers will ultimately decide whether to permit PCS’ “applicant-preferred” site or ask the company to redirect its plans.
Before a final report is created, the public and various agencies are allowed to submit comments on the DEIS. In its comments, the fisheries division termed the DEIS “inadequate.”
During a Dec. 14 public hearing on the proposed expansion site, the majority of speakers were overwhelmingly in favor of PCS’ proposal. The company has also discussed several reclamation and mitigation projects it touts as successful, including those at Whitehurst Creek and Parker Farm, respectively.