Calif. firm eyes Coos Bay sand

COOS BAY — A California development company with an Ashland office hopes to mine sand on a 69-acre property on Ocean Boulevard and build a 500-unit housing development there when the mining is done.

Ocean Grove Development Group LLC is seeking proposals from contractors to extract and sell sand.

The company estimates that 3.5 to 4 million cubic yards of sand could be removed from the site, flattening it to the level of a nearby Kmart site.

Once the sand is removed, the company hopes to build 500 units of housing on the property, intended to serve people employed in an industrial renaissance the company says it foresees in Coos Bay.

"Extensive investment from the Department of Homeland Security, multiple publicly traded corporations, private investors and speculators have come together to create a new infrastructure of increased output in several industry sectors over the next one to five years," says a statement on the company's website.

The company's CEO is Brian Barbuto, a California real estate developer. The group registered as a limited liability company in Oregon in August and has an office on Ashland Street in Ashland.

A company representative said all the company's officials were vacationing and were unavailable for comment.

Although the company's website says sand is in demand nationwide, local contractors haven't yet been able to sell sand out of the area.

Different sands are used for different purposes, depending on their mineral content and the shape and size of their grains.

The rise of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as a technique for increasing the production of gas wells in many parts of the country has created a demand for suitable sand, drawing it away from other uses.

In fracking, sand and water are pumped into a gas-producing rock formation under high pressure. The pressure creates fissures in the rock that liberate gas, and the sand grains prop the fissures open after the water is pumped away.

Not all sand is suitable for fracking. "Frac sand" mining has taken off in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where much of the sand is suitable for fracking, but has itself created controversy in those areas because of concerns about silica dust.

A document from the Wisconsin Towns Association said drillers pay $125-$350 per ton for frac sand, depending on how far the sand has been hauled and how much moisture it contains.

In addition to fracking, Ocean Grove claimed that proposed infrastructure projects in the Northwest, including the proposed Columbia River Crossing in Portland and a proposed shipping terminal in Coos Bay, will increase the market for sand. Sand also will be needed to replenish beaches destroyed in Hurricane Sandy, it said.

But so far, local sand miners haven't been able to cash in on demand elsewhere, said Marci Goodrich, a project estimator with Benny Hempstead Excavating in Coos Bay, which has a sand pit on the North Spit.

'Everybody wants to," said Goodrich. Pit owners have their sand tested to see if it's suitable for certain applications, such as making glass or fracking.

But so far, companies with sand pits have sold sand strictly for local construction, she said.

Reporter Gail Elber of The World in Coos Bay can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 234, or at gelber@

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