Tipton asks BLM to conduct environmental assessment on RMR study | PostIndependent.com

Tipton asks BLM to conduct environmental assessment on RMR study

Work continues at the Rocky Mountain Resources quarry north of the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park on a chilly and wet Thursday afternoon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., wants the Bureau of Land Management to conduct a more thorough review of RMR Industrials proposed hydrological study.  

After speaking with Jamie Connell, Colorado State BLM director, on Thursday, Tipton wrote in a letter the potential risk the drilling poses to the hot springs source waters requires rigorous study.

“(There) is a great deal of concern within the impacted communities regarding the potential for damage to the hydrology that feeds into the famed Glenwood Hot Springs by drilling these wells. Any such damage could prove beyond devastating for this community and the local tourist economy,” Tipton wrote.

The BLM is currently considering using a categorical exclusion, the lowest level of environmental review, to approve five test wells at the quarry expansion site.

“I … am of the mindset that BLM should operate under an abundance of caution in the area, especially regarding any activity that may impact the hydrology of the hot springs.” —Rep. Scott Tipton

The hydrology study is required as a baseline for the BLM to begin to review the proposed quarry expansion.

Tipton referred to comments from Glenwood Springs City Council on the five proposed wells. The council was concerned that drilling the five wells puts the underground streams that feed the hot springs at risk, and said the BLM had not studied all the risk factors.

“I share this concern and am of the mindset that BLM should operate under an abundance of caution in the area, especially regarding any activity that may impact the hydrology of the hot springs,” Tipton wrote.

“As such, I am requesting an Environmental Assessment be conducted and that BLM does not move forward with a categorical exclusion,” Tipton said in the letter.

Tipton also included the resolutions passed by Rifle, Silt, Carbondale, Basalt, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County opposing the quarry expansion.

“I urge that the concerns they have shared be given serious consideration throughout this process,” Tipton wrote.

The owners of two major hot springs attractions, the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool and Iron Mountain Hot Springs, have also raised the alarm about underground cave systems that could be disturbed and irreparably damaged from the proposed five drill sites.

Groundwater flows through those caves, becomes heated by magma, and then rises up as hot springs.

“The Flattops area, and the area above where this quarry is going, is a recharge area to the hot springs source water,” Glenwood Hot Springs Resort and Lodge President and CEO Kjell Mitchell said in an interview in November.

This is the second time Tipton has sent a letter to the BLM regarding the RMR quarry. In June, Tipton sent Connell a list of concerns Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes sent to him regarding RMR’s ongoing compliance issues.

Tipton did not make a request, but said he hoped the issues would be considered as the expansion proposal proceeds.

“I am confident that we share the same goals of ensuring local voices are considered in federal land management decisions,” Tipton wrote.

tphippen@postindependent.com


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