Tuesday, May 08, 2007

General Shale studying possible shale excavation north of Eagle Rock

The Fincastle Herald
Cathy Benson

A General Shale official said two letters to the editor about the company’s interest in a possible shale excavation site north of Eagle Rock had some misinformation.

Dave McNeese is the director of environmental and real estate development for General Shale and is based in Johnson City, Tenn. He said General Shale holds the option on 430 acres that belong to Jerry Fraley. The property is off of “Dudley Stretch,” a part of US 220. Fraley is a Big Stone Gap and part-time Botetourt resident and several thousand acres of adjoining land....

... McNeese said General Shale has been exploring the possibility of being able to use shale from the Fraley property for several years. The company has test fired some of the shale, turning it into brick at its plant in Blue Ridge. The company only has a couple more acres of shale it can mine at the Blue Ridge site, so it has been exploring other possible sources, McNeese said....

... Though he has not done a study on the exact number, he figures it would add about 50 trucks a day to traffic on US 220 from North County to Blue Ridge, hauling as much as 1,000 tons of material.

General Shale has not applied for any permits or conducted any neighborhood meetings about the possibility that it would want to take shale from the Fraley property; although Bob Whittemore a geologist for the General Shale plant in Blue Ridge, has talked to the Raymond Hundley family about the possibility. Hundley’s property adjoins the Fraley property that General Shale has been studying, and is among the Botetourt farms placed under conservation easements in the past 18 months....

McNeese said he was not aware whether General Shale’s attorney, Jim Douthat of Woods. Rogers in Roanoke, has contacted the Botetourt County planning and zoning office yet. “All of this is still being studied,” McNeese said. “We do not know if this site will be chosen.” ...

...McNeese said General Shale had no way to keep the Somerset plant open because it had no economical way to obtain raw material. He would not speculate on that possibility for the Blue Ridge plant.

The General Shale brick-making plant has operated in the Blue Ridge area under several names, most notably Webster Brick, since the early 20th century. Last year the company paid $165,135 in taxes to Botetourt County, according to tax records.

While McNeese said the company has not decided whether it will pursue using the Fraley property, neighbors are still planning to meet within the next few weeks to discuss the project. Garland said there will be an announcement in The Fincastle Herald when a meeting date, time and location are set up.

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