Routt County Elam Construction Inc. of Grand Junction and Native Excavating of Steamboat Springs have announced they intend to join the parade of new gravel pit proposals pending before Routt County government. Their plan would create a pit near the city's southern edge, where a private water ski lake and three large gravel piles now are. It would bring the number of possible new gravel pits in the county to six.
Elam has utilized gravel from the Lafarge pit on Colorado 131 for its asphalt paving business here in recent years. A company spokeswoman said this week that Elam has formed a partnership with Native Excavating to develop the new pit on the 90-acre site just south of Steamboat.
The property has been the source of some controversy since 1997, when Native Excavating owner Ed MacArthur and a group of partners proposed building a luxury 18-home subdivision surrounding a water ski lake on the property. The subdivision never went forward after the city of Steamboat Springs refused to annex the site, but MacArthur built the water ski lake as a stand-alone project. MacArthur told Steamboat Today in November 1998 he intended to develop two homesites on the property. The piles of gravel excavated from the lake have remained on the site.
Michele H. Jensen, a special projects manager with Elam, said a water ski lake is still in the property's future.
"Our project will include removing the existing gravel piles as well as mining and processing additional gravel and gravel products, before eventually developing the property into rural home sites with a shared ski lake," Jensen said. "The ski lake will likely also be made available to various other users. In a resort community such as Steamboat Springs, a ski lake is very consistent with other recreational uses and would be an attractive asset."
MacArthur returned phone calls on Tuesday, but could not be reached for comment. He told Steamboat Today on July 22 that he would be bringing a proposal to the county within 60 to 90 days but declined at that time to reveal the nature of his proposal.
Jensen indicated in a July 31 letter to the county commissioners that her firm is sensitive to the number of gravel pit permits currently confronting Routt County.
"We understand the Routt County Board of Commissioners and the community are undertaking efforts to evaluate and understand the overall needs and impacts of gravel pits in the Steamboat area," Jensen wrote. "As a major user of gravel in our asphalt paving operations, Elam Construction likewise has a particular interest in this issue. Our property, Yampa Meadows, is immediately south of the Shop 'n' Hop on (U.S.) 40 and includes the water ski lake. We felt it would be helpful at this time to let the board know of our plans and time frame, and to offer our assistance in addressing Routt County gravel issues."
Jensen said she anticipates submitting a formal application for the gravel pit sometime this fall. But, she added, Elam is committed to taking as much time as is necessary to deal with issues of wetlands, wildlife and other impacts of the gravel pit that may need to be mitigated.
"Dealing with these important issues and dealing with them correctly takes much time," Jensen wrote. "It is our desire to take our project at whatever pace is necessary to do this."
Jensen added that the partnership is interested in helping the city extend the Yampa River Core Trail through its property. She said the partnership believes there may be opportunities for it to assist the community's efforts toward affordable housing.
Jensen was not available for comment on Tuesday, but Tom Logue, government affairs manager for Elam, said he expects the application to Routt County to include an asphalt batch plant. Logue said he's not certain, but he anticipates the application also will include a concrete batch plant, even though Elam is not in the concrete business.
"We might ask for a concrete plant," Logue said. "Our approach is to put all of our cards on the table and say, 'This is what we really want.'" From there, he added, company officials are willing to negotiate the final terms and conditions at the gravel pit.
"The leadership at Elam believes there is always a middle ground," Logue said.
Logue also said the new gravel pit is estimated to contain between 2 and 4 million tons of reserves, but that number would be affected significantly by the amount of delineated wetlands on the site, a figure that has not been calculated.
"Additionally, we may see some reductions in the total reserves available during the public review process," Logue said.
He added that the greatest percentage of Elam's business in Routt County involves public road projects.
Jensen's letter says the proposal would result in the removal of the existing gravel piles on the site.
"It is easy to understand why some people wonder why we haven't just 'gotten rid of the gravel piles.'" Jensen wrote. "Unfortunately, the gravel cannot be removed from the property without a mining permit from the Colorado State Division of Minerals and Geology."
The mining permit cannot be issued until the county issues a special use permit, and that permit would have to be preceded by a wetlands permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, Jensen added.
County planner John Eastman confirmed on Monday that to this date, MacArthur has not applied for a permit that would have allowed him to remove the gravel piles created by the lake.
To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210, or e-mail email@example.com