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Science and Environment

Is Your Sand Legal?

Amara Freedman

Over the past two city council meetings, questions have arisen about one of Bethel’s most critical infrastructure materials: sand.


Carole Jung Jordan and her husband co-own a Bethel business selling and delivering sand. The sand fills in things like potholes in people’s driveways, or holes in their backyards to level them for building projects. Lately, she says, the city has been shutting down their job sites.

During the June 8 city council meeting, Jung Jordan voiced opposition to the shut downs. She spoke during the public testimony part of the meeting.

"For the past two seasons, my husband has been dealing with what can only be described as harassment from the city planner. About a week ago, the city planner followed my husband onto a job site that he was finishing up. He demanded that the customer needed a permit, and he proceeded to shut the job down completely," said Jung Jordan.

Jung Jordan claims that she and her husband’s clients don’t need permits to fill small holes with sand on private property. City Manager Pete Williams said that he would follow up with the city planner about the dispute.


The issue came up again during the city council meeting on June 22. Councilmember Rose "Sugar" Henderson said that a neighbor had asked her about it. Henderson also said that she herself was thinking about building a new deck, and might need some holes filled. 


"Since our last meeting, the buzz around town has been about the permits and all that other stuff. And people are asking me. So if my driveway is washing away and I want to add dirt, I have to get a permit to add dirt?" asked Henderson.


In an email to KYUK, Bethel City Planner Ted Meyer said, basically, yes. He referenced the Bethel City Code: “A person shall not make an improvement to land or a structure or commence, change, relocate or expand a use of land or a structure except as authorized by a valid site plan permit.”


"All fill placement projects require a site plan permit," added Meyer.


Meyer said that the reason for this is drainage. He said that Bethel has seen issues with poor drainage that are sometimes so severe that they cause flooding.


“We have seen projects where neighboring front yards are completely flooded as a result of fill placement next door, or there is a washout in the street," said Meyer.


These city permits are meant to keep that from happening. Other, larger projects involving sand need permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Meyer said that anything over an acre has to go to the Corps, although he said that jobs of that size are rare in Bethel. Other projects sent to the Corps include sites that could affect the tundra. Meyer said that those are sent to the Corps at the city planner’s discretion. 


So if you need some sand in Bethel, how do you get a permit?


You can find the application you need on theCity of Bethel website, and email the form to Meyer said that it takes 10 working days for the city to grant a permit. It costs $25 for a residential permit and $100 for a commercial permit. He said that if an application needs to be sent to the Army Corps of Engineers, it can take more than two extra weeks. 

As far as the claims made by business owner Jung Jordan during the recent city council meetings, Meyer said that he could not address them.