Glenwood Springs, citizens’ group await BLM decision on quarry proposal
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is expected to make a decision by Friday on whether to move a proposal to expand the so-called Mid-Continent Quarry north of Glenwood Springs into the review and public comment process, or send it back for more information.
Rocky Mountain Resources, also known as RMR, submitted its modification proposal to the BLM in November. The proposed modification, known as a “Plan of Operations,” has not been publicly released by the BLM, but copies of the proposal circulating in the community have already raised concerns.
The BLM has through Friday to decide whether the proposal is complete and ready to move into the formal environmental review process required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) including the public comment period. No public meetings on the proposal have been scheduled.
“This is a step that we normally take before the formal review,” BLM spokesman David Boyd said of the proposal review period.
If the BLM determines that RMR’s mining plan does not have the necessary detail required by mining regulations, it will alert RMR, which may revise the plan and resubmit it to the BLM, Boyd said.
A copy of the proposal provided to the Post Independent shows that RMR seeks to expand the active quarry area from its current size of around 20 acres to 320 acres, with the aim of removing five million tons of rock each year. The operators seek to sell both chemical grade limestone and lower-quality dolomitic limestone, often used for construction and road base.
It would take at least 20 years for RMR to extract all the limestone from the quarry area, plus an additional two to four years for complete reclamation, according to the proposal.
The Glenwood Springs Citizens Alliance, which formed out of community concern over the potential damage an expanded quarry would have on the city, said in a statement Thursday that the quarry would have “real consequences for our community, our economy and our environment.”
PROPOSED MINING PROCESS
The process of extraction would be strip mining in a series of “benches,” starting at the top of the hill and working down to the current quarry operations, according to the proposal. Each bench would a berm at least 25 feet high that RMR says would limit dust and block the scar from sight, at least for parts of the city.
The quarry would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with blasting happening only between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., hauling, crushing and processing occurring from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and a midnight maintenance and security shift from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The rock would be transported to the base of the quarry by conveyor belts elevated at least 10 feet from the ground, and painted to blend in with the hillside. Trucks would haul the rock down Transfer Trail to Traver Trail, then across the Colorado River via Devereux Road to the Union Pacific Railroad yard and deposited on train cars.
RMR estimates between 400 and 500 trips per day total on Transfer Trail — which the company plans to upgrade. Mining traffic would be 80-90 percent of that. At the low end, that’s 320 trips, and at the high end, 450 trips each day. Roads would be sprayed four or more times per day to control dust.
The reclaimed hillside would be a mix of native grasses and shrubs, and the proposal did not mention that RMR plans to replant the pinyon and juniper trees currently scattered on the hillside.
“Sadly, the plan is even more impactful than RMR has previously discussed,” the Citizens’ Alliance said in its statement.
If RMR gains approval from the BLM, it would need additional permits from the BLM, as well as from the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety and from Garfield County, to begin operations.
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“I feel I have the opportunity to go out and work for the people, and represent the people directly,” Wilhelm said.