Glenwood Springs Council takes stand against quarry expansion

The Rocky Mountain Resources quarry north of the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is shown in this October 2018 file photo.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent file

Glenwood Springs City Council officially voiced its opposition Thursday to the proposed Rocky Mountain Resources limestone quarry expansion above town.

In a resolution passed unanimously by the seven-member council, the city presented a number of findings, including what councilors believe will be negative impacts of RMR’s proposed expansion of the quarry. 

The resolution also asks Colorado’s Congressional delegation for support in fighting the expansion plans.

“[Expansion] of the mine would lead to large visual impacts, mire the city in truck traffic, damage the thriving tourist economy, and seriously impact the water quality and air quality for thousands of rural Coloradans,” the resolution states.

Glenwood Springs is “a small city with an economy based on travel, tourism, outdoor recreation, fishing, hospitality, hot springs, and other sectors that depend upon the mountains, rivers, clear skies, and sounds of nature,” the resolution states; all of which could be damaged by an expanded quarry, it concludes.

It’s the first formal statement City Council has made regarding the quarry expansion plans, which came to light about this time last spring when RMR officials began meeting with business leaders, local government officials and homeowner representatives.

Council has withheld any sort of formal comment pending an application to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which will ultimately review the expansion proposal.

Six members of the public spoke at the Thursday meeting, thanking Mayor Michael Gamba and members of  council for the resolution.

“It’s about time,” Ward 1 Councilman Steve Davis said just before the vote.

RMR is in the process of submitting a Plan of Operations Modification to the BLM, which manages the federal land where the quarry sits just north of Glenwood Springs along Transfer Trail.

RMR is currently operating beyond the scope of its permit, but is seeking to resolve the issue by asking the BLM to approve a much larger expansion.

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.

Another concern the city council has is the increase in commercial truck traffic hauling limestone down Traver Trail and over the Devereux Road bridge to the Union Pacific railroad yard, with as many as 500 trips per day.

The council also requested the BLM provide to the city a copy of the current proposal. RMR submitted a partial proposal March 8. The BLM has not started its completeness review for that proposal, according to a spokesperson for the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office in Silt.

RMR has more to add before BLM can begin its review for completeness, the BLM spokesperson said.

BLM staff will have 30 days from the date of complete submission to determine whether RMR’s proposal is ready to go through public and environmental review processes.

The council also asked the BLM to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement, rather than the less complex Environmental Assessment, to “identify the significant effects the proposed mining expansion will have on the quality of the human environment.”

“Glenwood Springs and the region call for support from our Colorado Congressional delegation and request that they stand with the public values and regional economy of Glenwood Springs,” the council’s resolution said.

The resolution also requests the Department of Interior comply with a Freedom of Information Act Request filed by the Glenwood Springs Citizens Alliance about information RMR has submitted to the federal government.

In a statement, RMR president Gregory Dangler said the company is “deeply saddened by [the council’s] approach.”

“We have fully cooperated with the BLM’s requests to include independent scientific studies addressing a plethora of environmental concerns,” Dangler said. 

RMR will provide a copy of the proposal to the city, he added.

“We remain available to discuss our plans with the public and believe the city leadership should accept our requests to communicate directly,” Dangler said, indicating that the city had not responded to requests prior to submitting the expansion proposal.  

RMR maintains that the quarry expansion will be a benefit by diversifying the economy. The proposal estimates employing 50 people in the expanded operation.

“We respect Glenwood Springs’ local tourism industry and also believe its citizens benefit greatly from a diversified economy,” Dangler said. 

Glenwood Springs-based attorney David McConaughy, representing RMR at the meeting, said his client was disappointed the council added the resolution to the agenda just a day before the meeting.

“We have no objection to your resolution,” McConaughy added.

RMR previously submitted a proposal to the BLM in late November, which the agency returned as incomplete Dec. 21.

At the county level, the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners on Monday is scheduled to hear an update on an investigation into RMR’s alleged noncompliance with its special use permit.

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