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Garfield County adopts new 1041 powers regarding gravel, resource extraction

Provision aimed in part at getting ahead of RMI quarry expansion

The RMI Quarry located just north of Glenwood Springs.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Garfield County will now have greater authority to regulate certain types of mineral extraction in the county, including the proposed limestone quarry expansion near Glenwood Springs.

County commissioners on Monday unanimously approved amendments to the county’s land-use and development code expanding so-called 1041 powers to gravel operations and mineral extraction.

Colorado’s 1974 House Bill 1041 allowed for counties and municipalities to have local regulatory control to deal with impacts of certain types of land uses that are also regulated by state and federal agencies.

Garfield County already has the ability to review uses such as airports, transit and municipal water and sewer projects. The new authority expands that to include gravel and mineral extraction, such as the controversial limestone quarry expansion being put forth by Rocky Mountain Industrials, Inc. (RMI).

The proposal to expand the open pit quarry located a mile north of Glenwood Springs from about 16 acres to 447 acres is currently before the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Recently, the BLM said it would not resume its review and begin the public comment process until 2021. If it approves the quarry expansion, under the new county authority, RMI would also have to seek a permit from Garfield County.

Commissioners’ unanimous approval of the new regulatory power on Monday was expected. The board began the discussions back in January, reached out to industry representatives and had two work sessions with the county’s Planning Commission to hash out the details.

The Planning Commission recommended approval of the new regulations in late April.

More than 80 written and verbal comments received throughout the process were nearly all supportive, except for those from RMI and the town of Parachute, senior county planner Sheryl Bower said during Monday’s formal public hearing.

The purpose of the 1041 powers is to give authority to local governments to regulate gravel pits and quarry operations that could have far-reaching impacts on local communities, including recreation and tourist amenities.

Representatives for both the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, Iron Mountain Hot Springs and Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park spoke Monday in favor of the new layer of regulatory review for such operations.

Blasting in particular for rock mining operations could negatively impact the geothermal resources and cave network north of Glenwood Springs, Steve Beckley, owner of the Caverns Adventure Park and Iron Mountain Hot Springs, said.

“We want to make sure those resources are protected,” he said.

In addition to the BLM’s extensive environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act, the county would also have the ability to review mining plans, blasting plans, proposed noise and vibration mitigation, as well as other considerations.

After a pre-application conference to review an application, county planning staff would be able to make a determination to refer it to the Board of County Commissioners and/or the Planning Commission for a formal review, or make a finding of no significant impact.

Opponents of the quarry expansion have maintained the 1041 powers will help set expectations for mining interests.

RMI has said that the ultimate decision should rest with the BLM, and that it would challenge any county-level review provisions. The county, city of Glenwood Springs, BLM and RMI are already locked in various legal battles over aspects of the proposed quarry expansion.

With approval of the 1041 powers, county commissioners also lifted a moratorium on new or amended mining and gravel operations that had been in place while the new regulations were in the works.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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