County faced with dueling pit plans

Steamboat Gravel Co., Lafarge proposing mines just miles apart


— Routt County officials will have their hands full in the next few weeks as they try to decide on not one, but two, gravel pits proposed along Colorado 131 south of Steamboat Springs.
On the heels of controversial plans from Lafarge Corp. to open a new gravel pit on property owned by Fran Werner, Steamboat Gravel Co. is now proposing another pit just a few miles down the road.
Representatives of Steamboat Gravel Co. appeared before the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission Tuesday to share their plans for a 102-acres pit that would produce 8.5 million tons of gravel.
The pit would be on the More Ranch, east of where Colo. 131 crosses the Yampa River. Twenty acres of land are expected to be disturbed at one time and the company has plans for reclamation of the entire site.
In a short presentation, Jarle Halsnes, agent for the More Family Ranches, LLC, outlined for the city Planning Commission several precautions that will be taken to eliminate dust, visual impacts and long-range environmental impacts of the mine on the ranch land.
"They were complimented for those measures," Steamboat Planning Commission Chairwoman Shelley Pastachak said.
The Steamboat Gravel Co. was referred by the county to the city Planning Commission so members could comment on the proposed gravel pit. There was no vote for or against it.
The More pit is the second gravel mine recently proposed in the south valley. It's unlikely that both pits will be approved by the county Planning Commission or the Routt County commissioners.
"I would hate to be on the county Planning Commission with this decision," Pastachak said.
Lafarge Corp. received a recommendation of approval from the Routt County Planning Commission last week for its plans to open a gravel pit on Fran Werner's land, on the west side of Colo. 131 near U.S. 40. That recommendation came with a condition that the company closes and begins reclaiming its other two mines in the same area.
The county planning board's decision was opposed by surrounding land owners, who claimed that another mine in the same area would be highly visible and go against various local development plans.
Lafarge will go in front of the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Aug. 10 to seek final approval for the mine.
The Steamboat Gravel Co. will go in front of the county Planning Commission on Aug. 3 for a recommendation.
"It's us against them," Halsnes said.
Halsnes doesn't want the county commissioners to rule on the Lafarge pit before they consider other options. He fears the More pit could be overlooked because it's going through the approval process behind the Lafarge proposal.
However, property owners who argued against the Lafarge pit on Werner's land felt the More site could be a better area, Halsnes said.
"We were impressed that they had contacted their neighbors," Pastachak said. She added that comments from the neighbors led the Steamboat Gravel Co. to plan a berm and screen system to cut down on the visual impact.
"We will serve the valley better," Halsnes said.
Halsnes, who is financially connected to the project, insisted that the location of the More pit would be better for the community than Lafarge's Werner Pit.
It won't be seen from U.S. 40 or Colo. 131, he said. Also, there aren't many elevated properties surrounding the pit, unlike Lafarge's operation.
"I live down there. If the commission feels there is a need for a large-size gravel pit to provide material for 30 years, I encourage them to find the right site," he said.
Halsnes actually lives right across from Lafarge's South Pit, which is expected to be reclaimed by 2002.
Though Steamboat Gravel Co.'s site may be less visible, it also is eventually going to take some land out of agricultural use, Pastachak noted.
"It's is a tough issue and this is going to bring it to a head," Pastachak said.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail


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