Lafarge may be one step closer to the controversial gravel pit it has proposed for an area just south of Steamboat Springs.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is on the verge of issuing a permit that would allow Lafarge to disturb wetlands on the site of the proposed pit, said Tony Curtis, Frisco Regulatory Office chief for the district. Curtis said he expects the approval by next week.
Although getting the permit is necessary for the pit, it does not mean the River Valley Resource site, which would include five gravel pits and a permanent concrete plant, is a done deal. Lafarge still has to get approval from Routt County commissioners, who told the company the wetlands permit and other information would need to be in place before the plans could be considered.
The sooner such approval could be feasible, the better, said Gary Tuttle, resource manager for Lafarge.
The company no longer has gravel to sell in the area and is reclaiming both of its previous sites in the South Valley. Various builders and others have complained to Lafarge about the lack of a gravel source just south of Steamboat Springs, Tuttle said.
Not everyone feels that way. Members of Concerned Citizens, a group formed to lobby against the pit for aesthetic, wildlife and safety reasons, are hoping that the Army Corps permit will include prohibitive conditions that make a gravel pit virtually impossible, member Sam Marti said.
Even if the Army Corps permit is approved, Lafarge will have other approvals to secure and other information to gather before returning to the county, county commissioners told the company when plans were submitted in the spring of 2003.
For instance, county commissioners said they wanted to learn how the Suttle Ditch realignment required by the project would affect other neighbors. That issue will be heard in a court trial next May.
"There are a lot of other hoops they still have to jump through," Marti said.
Concerned Citizens will be there every step of the way to protest the gravel pit that Marti said does not belong where it is proposed.
The proposed plant has 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.
The permit from the Army Corps will allow Lafarge to fill about 4 acres of wetlands, which eventually will be mitigated with 10 acres of wetlands, Curtis said.
The Army Corps initially considered denying the permit on the basis that another site was practicable and would not disturb wetlands, but then found out that the county already had denied plans for that other site, Curtis said.
Curtis said there would be conditions along with the permit but could not release those conditions until the permit is finalized.
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