By Ted Shorack

The Bulletin

Deschutes County and Latham Excavation have reached an impasse in a dispute over permitted activity at a pumice mine in Tumalo.

A Deschutes County circuit judge will determine who is right in a three-day trial next year if the two sides remain at odds.

The 76-acre pumice mine is southwest of Tumalo State Park and east of Johnson Road. The county gave final approval of mining activities at the site in 1997. The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries issued an operating permit to the previous owner and operator of the mine in 1981, according to the agency.

The county alleges the Bend-based excavation company has violated restrictions in land use approvals for the site.

Deschutes County Assistant Counsel John Laherty has written in court documents that the company removed unapproved soil and volcanic rock from the property, conducted mining outside of sanctioned areas and has mined on more than 5 acres of the property at a time.

“The parties continue to negotiate a settlement, but there hasn’t been one reached to date on those three issues,” Laherty said on Wednesday.

Laherty said a resolution is still being worked on between the county and Latham Excavation. The negotiations will continue between now and the March trial date, he said.

Michael Peterkin, a Bend attorney representing Latham, said the company is in compliance with the requirements for mining at the site.

“We do not believe the county is correctly interpreting and enforcing the permit and is not taking into account other legal issues,” Peterkin said Wednesday.

Peterkin argues in court documents that the site is not subject to county enforcement since it was approved by the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries prior to the county adopting surface mine regulations in 1990.

“DOGAMI has no problem with Latham,” said Peterkin.

He said, for example, the state agency gave Latham an award in 2014 for reducing impacts to neighboring properties and for reclamation efforts.

In 2008, Latham submitted permit applications and plans for expanding mining operations at the site. The company faced opposition from neighbors who voiced concerns about dust and noise.

Deschutes County approved rock crushing, cleaning and other additional activities at the site that were upheld after a series of appeals went as high as the Oregon Court of Appeals. The county, however, found that increased mining for tuff, a volcanic rock, couldn’t be allowed based on past environmental analysis.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, tshorack@bendbulletin.com

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