Steamboat Springs In a hearing that extended late into the evening Tuesday, the Routt County Board of Commissioners allowed the Camillettis to remain in the gravel business for another 10 years, unanimously approving a gravel pit south of Milner.
Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said the pit was approved because it met the zoning and subdivision regulations in the county.
"That's what gravel pits are all about," Stahoviak said. "You have to determine if the petitioner can mitigate the issues and concerns outlined in the zoning and subdivision regulations."
The land the pit will be on is owned by Frank Camilletti, who lists the petitioner as Camilletti and Sons. The mine is a replacement of the existing Camilletti-Milner Pit. The new pit began the county approval process last July.
Dave Zehner, of Precision Excavating Inc. and an operator of the gravel mine, said he and the Camillettis will wade through the conditions of the permit for most of the summer, and he doesn't know when operations will start.
"I would think by late summer," he speculated.
One major issue dealt with by the commissioners was the protection of numerous cottonwood trees on the property. It is feared that mining operations on the land would lower the groundwater level, which could kill the trees.
The county hired Jord Gertson, of SourceWater Consulting, to do a study on the land. Gertson presented his results at the meeting and concluded that if the water table were to fall, the trees could be in peril. To alleviate that problem, Gertson said the groundwater should be monitored. If it falls below a certain level, then actions should be taken, such as surface irrigation.
However, his method of surface irrigation to bring the water levels up was questioned in a letter written by a consultant the county contacted to review the plan.
"This all seems so speculative that it's unrealistic," stated David Cooper, research scientist and associate professor at Colorado State University.
Cooper also commented that some of the assumptions made in the study were off.
Gertson defended the study and the technique. The county also brought in a another expert, Karmen Klima, to comment.
"I feel that it is sound," Klima said of Gertson's work.
The commissioners went with Gertson's study and included conditions in the permit to monitor the water levels every two weeks. If the level goes 12 inches below the seasonal level, action will be taken.
"We've heard opinions on both sides of the spectrum," Stahoviak said. She added that Klima's rm which stated she was an aquatic toxicologist, environmental scientist and owner of a company that did similar studies made her a credible source.
Issues also were raised about traffic on County Road 179.
"I feel that it's a fatal accident waiting to happen," Milner resident James Pavlik said in public comment.
The commissioners took note but said truck traffic on the road is already high. Plus, Camilletti and Sons is required to pave the road to make it safer.
Numerous members of the public raised concerns about traffic, along with the environmental, visual and noise impact of the pit.