The future of a new Routt County justice center won't be known until Friday, at least.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expects to announce by the end of the week its decision on whether to grant a wetlands permit the county needs to build the proposed justice center west of downtown Steamboat Springs.
The county, which must have the permit to fill 1.4 acres of wetlands on a site next to the Routt County Sheriff's Office, has been waiting for a decision from the Army Corps for more than a year and a half.
"It's the district's goal to have a decision no later than Friday," said Tony Curtis, the Frisco Regulatory Office chief for the Sacramento District of the Army Corps.
The Army Corps preliminarily denied the permit last summer and indicated it would issue a final decision denying the permit last December, before the county submitted additional information defending the western site. At the time, Army Corps officials said a downtown building site was a "practicable alternative" to the western site, particularly because it wouldn't disturb wetlands.
The Routt County Board of Commissioners originally pursued building the justice center downtown before deciding on the western site in 2003. Commissioners have maintained that a new justice center won't be built downtown, regardless of the Army Corps' decision.
Several groups, including the Steamboat Springs City Council, Main Street Steamboat and Friends of the Justice Center, want the new facility built downtown. Constructing the justice center at the western site would take away from business, encourage sprawl and disturb wetlands, opponents of the site have argued.
Last month, Army Corps officials came to Steamboat to visit with county officials and tour the proposed western site. The Army Corps officials also met with people who favor building the justice center downtown.
On Monday, Curtis said he was finishing a draft decision document, which he would then forward to Andy Rosenau, the chief of the regulatory branch for the Sacramento District. Col. Ronald Light, district engineer for the Army Corps' Sacramento District, will have the final say on the decision to grant or deny the permit, Curtis said.
Routt County commissioners probably will be informed of the decision before it is announced publicly.
"I'd anticipate that the county will probably be briefed prior to it being an official announcement," Curtis said.
However, even a final decision from the Army Corps won't guarantee an end to the lengthy process. The county will be able to appeal the decision if the Army Corps denies the wetlands permit, Curtis said. Groups who support a downtown site, such as Friends of the Justice Center, can't appeal the decision because they didn't apply for the permit. But they could take the fight to the legal system and seek an injunction, as has been done in other Army Corps wetlands permits cases, Curtis said.
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