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There could be a boom of gravel pits in the near future, thanks in part to the booming oil and gas industry and construction in neighboring counties that don’t have the rich resource found in Garfield County. The gravel beds along the Colorado River between Silt and Rifle have long provided material for concrete and asphalt.The need continues. Recently, three applications for special use permits for two expanded gravel pits near Rifle and a new pit southwest of Silt are being considered by the county. One of those extensions would be located south of the river and just west of the Lafarge pit that can be seen from Interstate 70 between the county airport and the Rifle exits. It is this pit that concerns Rifle city councilors and some residents who worry gravel operations would destroy a stretch of riverbank that is considered the entrance to the city.Admittedly, gravel pits are both a blessing and a curse. One small light in this murky picture is a plan for reclamation of the new Silt pit that will turn the land, once it’s mined out, over to the town for use as a park. Typically, when pits are no longer productive, they are allowed to fill with water. So Silt will get a park with a nice water feature once the pit is finished.A thornier problem is what the pit on the south side of the river near Rifle will do to the aesthetics of the entrance to the city. The land where herons and eagles live and willows and ancient cottonwoods dominate the landscape could be virtually stripped off during gravel mining.Perhaps there are other places where currently operating pits could be expanded that would not have as significant an impact on the river corridor visible from Interstate 70. All options should be considered.Certainly, the operators of the pit should have a dialogue with Rifle’s City Council about these concerns.In this region where construction and other industries flourish, gravel pits serve a need. The trick is keeping their impact minimal without shutting down the production of gravel.
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