County may close gravel pit

Commission: Reclamation conditions not being met

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— The Routt County Planning Commission recommended Thursday the revocation of the special-use permit for a gravel mine because conditions of the special-use permit to mine on the land were not being met.

The unanimous decision, which essentially recommends the closure of the Duckels Hogue Pit owned by Mike Hogue and operated by Duckels Construction, showed the commission would not stand for permit holders failing to adhere to strict reclamation conditions.

The decision came after the owner of Duckels Construction, Fred Duckels, responded to the five issues at the mine that conflicted with permit conditions.

Routt County Planning Department staffers Jim Goosens and John Eastman explained conditions of the permit were not being met because Duckels failed to extend a berm as mining operations expanded to shield the pit; allowed more than 15 acres of land to be disturbed at one time; didn't consistently maintain a four-inch water flow in the Duquette Ditch, which runs through the property; and didn't maintain noxious weed control on disturbed land.

Staffers also said there is a possibility that an average of more than 12 trucks per hour were turning in to the mine from U.S. 40, which, according to Colorado Department of Transportation rules, means Duckels would have to build acceleration and deceleration lanes for the vehicles.

Duckels addressed the issues about the mine, which is located west of Steamboat across from the Steamboat II subdivision.

He said the berm wasn't extended because he didn't believe he was supposed to extend it.

"We interpreted the map plan as indicating intermittent berms," Duckels said. "We thought we were doing right."

Duckels then explained disturbed acreage would be difficult to reclaim during the mining process, which Goosens conservatively estimated to be 20 acres being disturbed at one time.

According to the 10-year special-use permit, which was approved in 1992 and reviewed in 1997, Duckels was to reclaim land that was no longer being mined so only 15 acres would be disturbed.

He said reclaiming the land would mean filling up the pit with water. But doing that would mean raising the water level of the pit, making it impossible to continue extracting the gravel.

"There are definitely some areas where reclamation could be occurring," Eastman said.

Eastman said Duckels could have seeded disturbed areas with weed-proof vegetation. That would have allowed the county to inventory the land as reclaimed and also would have solved the noxious weed problem. That option is mentioned in the special-use permit.

As far as maintaining a four-inch flow in the Duquette Ditch, Duckels said it has been difficult doing that because sometimes the ditch floods surrounding land, including a golf course.

The condition was to ensure surrounding wells had water. However, pit neighbor Carl Sandelin said that wasn't happening. The county staffers said this was a recurring problem.

Furthermore, Duckels said he solved the problem by pumping the water extracted from the mine into the ditch. But Planning Commission Chairman Troy Brookshire pointed out the permit said Duckels was to ensure the water came from the Yampa River, not from the pit.

Brookshire also said Duckels failed to present proof that truck traffic into the mine was less than 12 trucks per hour.

Commissioner Fred Nichols said the commission has recently spent hours passing conditions for other gravel pits to adhere to, and they must be met.

"I can't see anything to do except to revoke the permit," he said.

"I think I'm taking everybody's best shot," Duckels said in response. "I don't feel like it is as bad as everyone has said here. These bottom pits are important. We supply the only gravel for concrete."

Planning Director Caryn Fox confirmed Duckels is the only large supplier of gravel for concrete in the area.

Duckels will have to appear in front of the Routt County Commissioners in two to three weeks to defend his case. At that point, the commissioners will decide if the pit will be closed and reclaimed immediately or if it will remain in operation, Fox said.

Duckels declined to comment after the meeting.

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