Auburn City Council members voted unanimously to have city staff draft a resolution showing support for Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller and the city of Opelika’s potential legal fight regarding a proposed granite quarry outside its city limit.
The City Council will consider the resolution at its meeting on Tuesday.
The resolution was proposed by Ward 3 Councilwoman Beth Witten, who cited concern for the environmental quality of life in Opelika and Auburn that may be affected by the proposed quarry, despite the quarry being outside of city limits.
“The quarry, as whole, for any community, is something to be concerned about,” Witten said. “But I think its proximity in the county to Auburn and North Auburn in particular, we are talking about being within a mile to two miles of the site.
“We utilize Saugahatchee Lake and its resources so therefore, for me, it raised concern. This quarry is not best suited for its location and that’s why I wanted to ask the council's support in offering a resolution to the city of Opelika, who is adamantly working with everything behind them.”
Opelika residents received a public notice from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management on Jan. 21 stating that Creekwood Resources LLC, Inc. applied for an air and water permit for the proposed granite quarry on County Road 168 off US 431 North.
The company, which is based in Florence, applied for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for proposed discharges of treated drainage from wet and dry preparation at the facility. Affected water sources named included Saugahatchee Lake, Opelika’s main water source, associated areas of groundwater and an unnamed tributary to Saugahatchee Lake.
An application was also submitted for an air permit, which would authorize the construction and operation of granite crushing, screening and conveying operations. According to Creekwood Resources, emissions of particles released during the process would be minimized by the use of wet suppression.
As of now, ADEM has determined that both permits are consistent with the state’s Anti-degredation and Water Quality Rules as well as state and federal air pollution control requirements.
The city of Auburn has had a long-standing water relationship with the city of Opelika, according to City Manager Jim Buston.
“Right now, we currently get our water in Auburn from Ogletree Lake and a well,” Buston said. “We are in the works of a second well but when we are really in a bind, like during those summer months, we will purchase water from the City of Opelika.
“Because of that, whenever they have a threat to their water supply, it is a threat to us and we will stand behind them in their fight against that.”
Mayor Ron Anders also offered his support against the proposed quarry, citing its proximity to a well-known nonprofit that has provided services to Lee County for over 18 years.
Opelika’s Storybook Farm joined the fight against the proposed quarry due to its location near the ranch, taking to social media to post graphics with the hashtag #SAVESTORYBOOK.
According to Dena Little, founder of Storybook Farm, it would crush the nonprofit’s mission of providing hope on horseback.
“We see about 1,500 kids, yearly, who are emotionally and medically fragile,” Little said. “I can’t imagine how we will accomplish what we would like to accomplish with dynamite and a quarry literally less than 1,000 yards away.”
Since its opening, the farm has provided a variety of in-depth, healing interactions and therapy for children with special needs. Storybook’s services have always remained free of charge to families in need thanks to donors and partnerships.
The nonprofit prides itself on providing healing through human-animal bonding, something that Little also fears will be in danger.
“We are talking about noise, air and potential water pollution,” said Little. “It will not only be terrible for our families but also terrible for horses, dogs, cats, donkeys and even our goat.
“I fear that if we can’t stop this quarry, we would be in danger of shutting down.”
Storybook and the city of Opelika are urging concerned citizens to get involved by writing a letter to ADEM demanding a public hearing on the quarry. Both have provided a sample letter that can be printed, signed and mailed.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management must receive quarry opposition letters by 5 p.m. on Feb. 20. Further details and sample letters can be found at https://hopeonhorseback.org/save-storybook-farm/ and also at https://www.opelika-al.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=221.
The Auburn City Council will introduce their resolution in support of Opelika at its meeting on Tuesday.
As for Storybook Farm, Little says they won’t be going down without a fight.
“We’ve done too much work at Storybook. They want a fight — well so do we.”