More gravel pits approved in Rifle ‘gateway’ |

More gravel pits approved in Rifle ‘gateway’

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – There is to be a pair of new gravel pits just east of Rifle along the Colorado River, Garfield County officials agreed on Monday.

Despite the fact that the city objected to the proposal, and a pair of nesting Bald Eagles are living in the middle of the property where the pits will be located, the Board of County Commissioners gave their nod to two pits on a 93-acre parcel of land about a mile from the Rifle interchange on I-70.

To be known as the Scott Gravel Pit, it will be operated by the River’s Edge LLC and a development group called the United Companies of Mesa County, according to documents submitted to Garfield County.

The site is adjacent to several other working gravel pits, and is an expansion of older gravel pit operations in the same location, according to the documents.

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Development applications for the Scott pits have been in various stages of submission since 2004, when nearly the entire parcel was slated for extraction operations.

But the current plan is to leave much of the parcel alone, and develop a total of only roughly 25 acres at the eastern and western ends. The central portion, referred to as the Ox Bow for an old bend in the river, is where the eagles are nesting, and is not to be mined, the operators told the commissioners.

The city of Rifle sent a letter to the commissioners explaining that it would rather not see more gravel pit operations along that stretch of the river and that close to I-70, because the area is “a valuable vista at the entrance to the City of Rifle,” and is within a formally designated area known as the Rifle East Gateway Planning Area, according to a memo from Rifle’s attorneys.

“They believe this heavy industrial use will negatively affect the city’s image and economic development,” states the county’s staff memo.

Rifle also is concerned about the “cumulative effects” of the numerous gravel pits operating along the river, regarding water quality issues in general and a nearby city water intake in particular, according to the documents in the application.

Commissioner Tresi Houpt was reluctant to give her approval to the proposed pits, largely because of Rifle’s opposition to additional industrial activities in a zone the city considers The Gateway to Rifle.

“They’re very concerned about people seeing this as they travel into Rifle,” she told her fellow commissioners at one point.

But Greg Lewicki, the consultant representing the applicants, countered that no Rifle officials were present at the commissioners meeting and added, “If that were of huge concern to them, I would expect they would be here.”

Lewicki noted that the applicants have been working with state and federal wildlife officials, county planners and other entities to make the proposal as acceptable to public interests as they could, a feeling that was echoed by Commissioner Mike Samson.

“Two thirds of your extraction of your natural resource there is not going to be harvested because you’ve compromised with Rifle,” Samson said. “That’s a lot of money. They owe you a debt of thanks that you have not tried to bull your way through this.”

And, he said, since the gravel pit is scheduled to operate for less than six years, Rifle stands to gain from the deal by the creation of two small lakes flanking the river.

“For six years, we might have some things there that we’re not real crazy about,” said Samson, who lives in Rifle. “But after six years, that will look pretty nice as a gateway.”

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