No satisfaction for downvalley towns at gravel pit meeting | PostIndependent.com
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No satisfaction for downvalley towns at gravel pit meeting

A second meeting of elected officials hosted by the Garfield County Commissioners Monday highlighted a growing rift between downvalley towns and some of the Garfield County Commissioners. The meetings were called because of growing concerns over a proliferation of gravel pits along the Colorado River. Applications for county special use permits to either expand old pits or open new ones between Rifle and Silt have those governments calling for a moratorium until an overall plan for reclamation and environmental protection can be developed for the whole corridor. But two out of the three county commissioners – Larry McCown and John Martin – oppose a moratorium.Increased housing construction and a burgeoning oil and gas industry is driving up demand for gravel for road base and concrete.The mayors of Rifle, Silt and New Castle and County Commissioner Trési Houpt urged the group to consider regulations and guidelines designed specifically to address impacts from gravel pits drawn up by Routt County. The Routt County gravel pit “report card” rates gravel pits for compliance with guidelines relating to visibility, traffic, dust, noise, wildlife, air and water quality and reclamation. Under its land use permits, operators are also limited in how much land they can mine at one time.Commissioners McCown and Martin maintain that sufficient regulations are in place to mitigate environmental and community impacts.After three hours of discussion, Silt Mayor Dave Moore said, “I’m leaving with as many questions as I came with.”Rifle city councilman Alan Lambert expressed his frustration with the slow-moving process.”We’re frustrated because we’re looking at one gravel pit at a time. We need a (regional) master plan (that will address) what we actually want out there so they don’t impact communities.”Rifle City Council passed a resolution recently that called for rejection of a gravel pit proposed for 93 acres along the south side of the Colorado River about a half mile from the Interstate 70 interchange at Rifle. Council has said such a development would affect that last stretch of open land they consider the entrance to the town.The three mayors and Houpt also have cited the need for phased reclamation during the life of the mine.Discussion also revolved around the variety of state regulations, from water quality to reclamation, which are regulated by state agencies.New Castle Mayor Frank Breslin said if the county would be responsible for enforcement of various regulations for gravel pits in the county, “we can go away.”But Commissioner John Martin said it’s not up to the county to enforce regulations set by state agencies. Those agencies must enforce them.”We need to coordinate enforcement,” he said.Some blamed the oil and gas industry for the sharp rise in demand for gravel. Gravel pit operator Bill Roberts said the gravel oil and gas companies use in road construction is laid directly over topsoil and mud and sinks into the ground, and requires more layers of gravel to keep the roads functional. He said they should be required to build better roads.He also urged the group not to adopt more regulations that would hamper the gravel operators.Commissioner Larry McCown said the county is seeing the tip of an iceberg in the current demand for gravel. “In 10 years we will be looking for gravel,” he said. Further, the number of private landowners willing to lease their land for gravel extraction is diminishing along the Colorado River, restricting access to the resource in the long run.All of those at the table Monday agreed that the public needs to be given the opportunity to express concerns about gravel extraction to the elected officials. But before a public meeting happens, the mayors and commissioners will meet at least once more to review a comparison of Routt and Garfield county regulations governing gravel pits.No date was set for the next meeting, although Fred Jarman, co-director of the Garfield County planning and building department, said he could have the comparison ready in early December.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 16605dgray@postindependent.com


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