To some of us, it may seem like tilting at windmills to take on Glacier Northwest. The company is huge, rich and relentless. It also, obviously, has a keen financial interest in the tons of sand and gravel that lie beneath its arsenic-laced soil — a commodity that has proven to be quite valuable in booming Pugetopolis, where new development means new roads and new roads mean a hunger for gravel.
But to some of Vashon’s civic activists, the battle with Glacier is hardly hopeless. Amy Carey is a case in point. Tenacious as a terrier, she has taken on Glacier with a determination just as great — or so it seems — as our region’s appetite for more gravel. As the head of Preserve Our Islands, she has become a walking encyclopedia on the complex and arcane regulations governing Glacier’s proposed expansion. Articulate and passionate, she has argued forcefully against the corporation’s expansion plans, using her clearheaded logic and vast knowledge to drive home her points. One would not want to meet her in a courtroom.
This doesn’t mean it’s been easy. Glacier’s opponents have been thwarted in a few critical arenas, including the state Supreme Court and, so far, the state Legislature. Both bodies have refused to take on the issue, a huge disappointment to Glacier’s foes.
But as Carey often points out, the battle is far from over — a point underscored by the latest development.
For years, the state Department of Ecology has said it was enough that Glacier comply with the state’s voter-approved toxic cleanup law by way of its voluntary approach. But last week, after a 90-minute meeting with Carey and Nelson, Jay Manning, the agency’s director, decided Glacier must devise a plan to clean up the site’s arsenic and other contaminants using the law’s formal process, which calls for ample public review and considerable oversight by Ecology.
A more rigorous process will not drive a spike into Glacier’s plans. But it will give Islanders much more opportunity to weigh in on the issue. It will make for a longer process. And it’s yet another sign that Glacier will continue to meet strong opposition to an expansion plan that is ecologically ill-advised.