Developers Jarle Halsnes and Chip Coe propose to use this site in the South Valley to host wetlands mitigation for a new gravel mining operation that could last 15 to 20 years. The pond in the photo was created by a temporary gravel pit used solely for the widening of Colorado Highway 131. The Routt County Board of Commissioners will hold a hearing on the application Tuesday.

Photo by Tom Ross

Developers Jarle Halsnes and Chip Coe propose to use this site in the South Valley to host wetlands mitigation for a new gravel mining operation that could last 15 to 20 years. The pond in the photo was created by a temporary gravel pit used solely for the widening of Colorado Highway 131. The Routt County Board of Commissioners will hold a hearing on the application Tuesday.

Gravel pit opponents speak up

Commissioners to consider pre-application Tuesday evening

If you go

What: Routt County Board of Commissioners hearing to consider a pre-application for a gravel mining operation about 6 miles south of Steamboat Springs on Colorado Highway 131

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Routt County Courthouse, 522 Lincoln Ave.

Call: County offices at 879-0108 for more information

On the 'Net

Learn more about Alpine Aggregates at their Web site.

At a glance

Steamboat Sand and Gravel Mine

- Life of pit: 18 to 20 years, depending on market

- Anticipated mining: 300,000 tons per year

- Proposed hours of operation: 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays as needed in summer

- No asphalt or concrete plants

- Plan to mine 5 acres at a time while reclaiming previous 5 acres at the same time

- Visual screening in the form of more than 350 cottonwoods on berms, as well as wetlands enhancement, would be done at the front end of the project

— Opponents of a proposed gravel pit south of Steamboat Springs have caught wind of the project they thought was dead in the water four years ago.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners will review a pre-application for the Steamboat Sand and Gravel Mine and a subsequent land preservation subdivision Tuesday.

Before the pre-application's hearing before the Routt County Planning Commission last month, county planners were worried that they hadn't heard more from the public. That's because the proposal is similar to, and on the same site as, a Lafarge West project approved by the county in 2005 after years of heated debate.

"The word is definitely out now," said Routt County Planning Director Chad Phillips, who said he received 12 e-mails about the proposal last week. "I would anticipate more opposition and, who knows, more support for the application. There was some support (from the public) at the Planning Commission meeting."

Phillips said the commissioners themselves also responded favorably to the new proposal, which was crafted with past concerns in mind. The Lafarge permit never was executed, and it expired. Lafarge had filed a complaint in Routt County District Court contesting several provisions of the permit including the requirement of a conservation easement, the elimination of a concrete batch plant, fog mitigation requirements, restrictions on hours of operation and a limit on the maximum area of site disturbance. The court ruled in favor of the county.

Although Phillips said the commissioners were impressed with the new proposal's reclamation plan and intent to disturb only 10 acres at a time, David Josfan said the proposal is a worse plan in the same location. Josfan is a member of the Concerned Citizens group that fought the gravel pit earlier this decade. He recalled demonstrations downtown protesting the mine, a petition opposing it signed by 1,000 residents and overflow crowds at hearings in Centennial Hall.

"It's something that's very important to us," said Josfan, who said he still worries that many residents don't know the idea has resurfaced.

Chip Coe and Jarle Halsnes are representing Steamboat Sand and Gravel, but Ed MacArthur is shepherding the proposal through the planning process. MacArthur is the managing partner of Alpine Aggregates, which would operate the gravel operation if it's approved.

The proposal is for 147 acres - 87 of which would be mined during 18 to 20 years - six miles south of Steamboat Springs on the east side of Colorado Highway 131. Five acres would be mined at a time while the previous 5 acres are reclaimed. No concrete or asphalt plants are proposed on the site, and MacArthur has said measures will be taken to shield the visual impacts of gravel crushing, cleaning and loading operations. Phillips said a conveyor belt would be the only part of the operation visible from Colo. 131.

"The gravel pit received some pretty favorable comments based on the reclamation plan and disturbed areas," Phillips said.

Alpine Aggregates also placed heavy equipment in the crushing area to give neighboring residents a chance to assess the visual impacts. On its Web site, the company offers to run its machines at the crushing area to allow residents to determine what they would be able to hear from the mine.

Josfan remains concerned about issues including the truck traffic that would be generated from the operation. Alpine Aggregates expects to sell 300,000 tons of gravel a year. Between April 15 and Nov. 15, the company projects that 11 trucks an hour would enter and leave the site during the five-day work week.

Josfan also said the proposal amounts to "20 years of destruction" at a sensitive point along the Yampa River. The Yampa River Wells, which supplement the city's domestic water supply, are nearby, and Josfan said the fill material used in reclamation could have an adverse impact on groundwater supplies.

MacArthur did not return a message left at his office Friday. The gravel mine pre-application claims other public benefits such as donations to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, which MacArthur is president of; enhancement of existing wetlands and the creation of new wetlands; and the lessening of truck traffic from gravel operations west of the city through downtown Steamboat to projects south of the city.

The pre-application process is an informal step in the county planning process that allows county officials and developers to discuss conceptual plans and concerns. Feedback will be solicited, but no formal action will be taken at Tuesday's meeting. Steamboat Sand and Gravel Mine's next step will be to file a formal application for a special use permit.

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