Corps issues draft decision on Lafarge pit

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— The company proposing a gravel pit just south of Steamboat Springs has received a draft decision from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Because Lafarge's proposed mining operation would impact wetlands, the company is required to get a permit from the Corps. A draft decision about whether that permit likely will be issued with conditions or will be denied has been given to Lafarge.

The draft decision was approved by area Army Corps offices and ultimately the district engineer, and cannot be released to the public, said Tony Curtis, Frisco Regulatory Office chief for the district. Lafarge has unlimited time to respond to it, and the decision could still be negotiated, Curtis said.

Curtis said he expects the company will act quickly, as it does not have a full-time gravel pit operation in the county because permits for its other sites recently expired.

"I don't see them waiting very long," Curtis said. "I don't see the dust settling before we start re-communicating again."

Representatives for Lafarge could not be reached for comment.

Plans for the pit, called the River Valley Resource site, include operating five gravel pits, a permanent concrete plant, seasonal crushing and screening plant, and a washing plant, with an estimated operating life of 13 to 15 years. The site is on a 128-acre parcel of the More Family Ranch, which is on the east side of Colorado Highway 131 near Steamboat Springs.

The proposed pit has sparked opposition, as well as some support, from residents across the county.

Although the Army Corps could not give details on the draft decision, a newsletter published last week by the Concerned Citizens group does. Concerned Citizens was formed to lobby against the pit for aesthetic, wildlife and safety reasons.

That newsletter says the Army Corps offices discussed the application on June 21, and the district engineer decided Lafarge could mitigate environmental impacts at the proposed site.

However, according to the newsletter, the Army Corps also said that there is a practicable and less environmentally harmful alternative for the gravel site -- the Werner site, which is adjacent to the North Pit at the intersection of Colorado Highway 131 and Werner Lane. County commissioners denied a conceptual plan for that site in 2000.

Now, the city is working on buying the North Pit site for open space.

Jennifer Robbins, who represents Concerned Citizens, said the information in the newsletter came from the Army Corps. She said the draft decision could delay and increase the cost of Lafarge's proposal, making the pit difficult to build.

Curtis said that the decision was preliminary and that he did not know where a lot of information in the newsletter originated. He confirmed that the Werner site is a less damaging alternative, but not whether it would be practicable. Curtis also said it was premature to say Lafarge could mitigate environmental impacts at the proposed site.

"The bottom line is we haven't made a decision -- the (draft) decision is not a final decision. We provided our thought process to Lafarge," Curtis said.

Routt County is waiting for a similar draft decision from the Army Corps, which Curtis said he expects to be made soon. The county has asked for a permit to fill wetlands at the west-of-downtown site for its new justice center.


-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203 or

e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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