CARBONDALE - The U.S. Forest Service has arranged a Feb. 17 site visit to an alabaster quarry in the Avalanche Creek area, south of Carbondale, as part of its review of a proposal to expand operations there.The public is welcome at the site visit and to offer feedback to the Forest Service on the operating plan submitted by Elbram Stone Co. LLC for the Mystic Eagle Quarry, formerly known as the White Banks Mine.The previous plan of operations for the quarry was approved by the Forest Service in 1995, and expired last year. In October, the agency accepted a proposed new plan of operations, now under review, that calls for year-round operations and snow removal on Forest Road 310 in order to access the quarry. The plan also calls for drilling a well at the site to provide an estimated 1,000 gallons of water per day for the operation, constructing a bypass road around the quarry site, and the construction of a log office building to replace the existing, mobile bath house. The mining of marble and gypsum, in addition to alabaster, is also proposed.The plan is available for public review at www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver (navigate to Land and Resources Management and then click on Projects).While the quarry has the right to operate under the General Mining Law of 1872, the Forest Service is tasked with ensuring that any adverse environmental impacts to the national forest are minimized."I will consider and disclose the potential impacts associated with this proposal and other reasonable alternatives before I approve a plan of operations for White Banks," said Scott Snelson, Aspen-Sopris District ranger, in a letter outlining the agency's review.Forest Service specialists will analyze potential impacts on water and air quality, groundwater, traffic, recreation, biological species, habitat and other resources that could be affected by the new plan for the quarry, according to Snelson.The road that leads past the quarry and ends at the Avalanche Creek Campground and the Avalanche Creek trailhead is closed to vehicles annually from Nov. 15 to May 1 to protect big-horn sheep, and the potential impact of year-round operations on the area sheep population is likely to be among issues addressed in the Forest Service review. The quarry portal is a short distance beyond the winter closure gate.The site visit to the quarry will take place from 1-3 p.m. Members of the Forest Service team analyzing the proposal and a representative from Elbram Stone Co. will be on hand to explain the operating plan and field questions. Anyone interested in attending is asked to RSVP to email@example.com or call (970) 945-3237.The public is also welcome to provide written input on the operating plan by March 18. Written comments should be addressed to: White Banks Project; c/o Skye Sieber, project leader; 0094 County Road 244; Rifle, CO 81650. Comments can also be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to (970) 625-2532.Comments should address the environmental effects of the plan and include the name, address, telephone number and organization (if applicable) of the individual submitting the input.The Forest Service expects to publish an environmental assessment of the proposal in the spring; it will be open to public comment for 30 days.The quarry also operates under a Pitkin County permit; year-round operations will require county approval, as email@example.com
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