Hundreds attend Glenwood Springs meeting to gear up for quarry fight
Rocky Mountain Resources (RMR), the company planning to greatly expand its limestone quarry on federally leased land north of Glenwood Springs, may be in a “quiet period,” but the newly formed Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance is anything but.
That was evident at the group’s public meeting Tuesday evening at the Hotel Colorado, which was attended by more than 200 people.
The meeting was called by opponents of the mine expansion to arm those in attendance with information about the company RMR itself and what its forthcoming Mid-Continent Quarry expansion proposal is expected to look like, based on early representations from company officials.
Organizers also outlined the potential negative ramifications for Glenwood Springs, explained the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s review process, and advised how locals can fight it if they choose.
Presenters drew some scoffing laughs from the crowd when they read aloud from a RMR’s project website, glenwoodrocks.org, which states, “We operate the Mid-Continent limestone quarry, and are developing plans to modernize the site operations with enhancements that will directly benefit the Glenwood Springs community and the environment.”
RMR officials, including company Vice President of Colorado Operations Bobby Wagner, have said they have big plans for greatly expanding production at the mine situated near the base of Transfer Trail behind Iron Mountain and the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.
They just can’t talk details yet, until a formal application is submitted to the BLM sometime in the coming weeks or months, Wagner told the Post Independent earlier this spring, adding, “We are currently in a quiet period …”
Company officials have touted the potential positive impacts of the expanded operation, including expanding from five full-time employees now to upwards of 40 to 50, according to the preliminary information that has been provided. And the larger mine would contribute $15 million to $25 million annually to the local economy, according to an informational sheet circulated by RMR earlier this year.
The company’s silence pending a formal proposal has grown deafening for some residents who appear ready to fight the plans, should they actually materialize.
Those in attendance at the Tuesday meeting had a mostly negative reaction upon learning about RMR’s potential expansion plans.
According to information shared with representatives of the Oasis Creek neighborhood homeowners near the mine site, the plans may entail expanding the mining excavation site from roughly 13 acres to upwards of 300 acres, increasing semi-trailer dump truck trips from 20 loads to potentially 350 daily, and being able to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Graphics presented to the audience also showed the company’s anticipated “top-down” mining method and the looming scar it would leave on the mountainside that’s visible from much of Glenwood Springs and the surrounding hillsides.
Citing carbon emissions, noise, light pollution, dust and water quality issues, Sarah Rankin Gordon, who identified herself as vice president of the Citizens’ Alliance board of directors, told the Post Independent that the mine expansion could undo decades of work to build Glenwood Springs’ tourism and outdoor recreation economy.
“The accolades Glenwood has won over the last 20 years for becoming this great family friendly tourist destination, and we have all of these new amenities and all of these great new features, and it just continues to grow and get better and better … this will completely crush that.”
In addition to educating the public on RMR’s anticipated formal proposal, speakers on behalf of the Alliance also told residents how they, too, could get involved to try to stop RMR’s mine expansion.
In a previous interview with the Post Independent, Jayson Barangan, lead public affairs specialist for the BLM Colorado State Office, said the agency’s Colorado River Valley Field Office would ultimately make the decision on any mine expansion. That would come after an environmental review process takes place.
“We do include opportunities for public comment,” Barangan assured.
Concerns have also been raised by some about potential political connections at the top of the U.S. Department of Interior, which oversees the BLM. The Post Independent disclosed in a May 6 article that current Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, a Rifle native, once worked for and was a shareholder in Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, the Washington, D.C.- and Denver-based law firm now representing RMR.
Barangan told the Post Independent that such decisions are made at the local and state BLM level, not in Washington.
The environmental review process, which is directed by the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, would entail either a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), or the less-intensive Environmental Assessment.
Multiple 30-day public comment periods are routine during that process at various stages of the review, Barangan stated in that same interview.
“The moment that window of 30 days opens up, that’s where the most powerful impact we can have as citizens happens,” Gordon said. “The more substantive comments that can be made, the more powerful and meaningful that review period can be.”
Although the Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance did not take questions, attendees were encouraged to visit the group’s website, loveglenwood.org, for updates on the quarry and future public meetings.
The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association board of directors has also weighed in on the issue, saying RMR needs to be forthcoming with more information and calling for a full EIS review of the expansion plans.