Gravel pit expansion before county

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A proposal to expand a small Toponas gravel pit to 184 acres goes before the Routt County Planning Commission tonight.

King Mountain Gravel LLC now has a 10-acre gravel mining operation, known as the Hewes pit. It is proposing to expand the pit to 184 acres and to continue to include an asphalt plant and crusher.

As much as 250,000 tons of gravel could be mined a year, but only 27 acres would be mined at a time, project consultant Paul Gesso said.

If the maximum 250,000 tons was mined during a year, there could be 425 vehicles, including trucks and employees, going in and out of the mine each day, the planning report indicates. Gesso said that operation most likely would mine about 100,000 to 125,000 tons a year, which is close to what it is mining now.

The mining would take place on 184 acres of a 341-acre parcel that is about five miles west of Toponas, according to the planning report. Angus Investment LLC owns the surface and mineral rights to the land, but King Mountain Gravel has a lease to mine the property.

The mine is expected to stay operational until 2032 at the earliest, or 2067 at the latest, the report indicates.

Gesso said he thinks the operation would be helpful to the area, especially with expected improvements to Colorado Highway 131. The only other mines that could provide gravel for those improvements are west of Steamboat Springs, Gesso said.

"I think it's going to be really beneficial for the southern part of the county," he said.

A response from the Colo--rado Division of Wildlife states that the operation likely would harm populations of greater sage grouse, which is a species of special concern in Colorado. Other wildlife also could be negatively affected.

Gesso said that effects to grouse likely would be a major issue with the project. King Mountain Gravel is working closely with the DOW to come up with a mitigation plan, he said. So far, that includes increasing the quality of grouse habitat during and after the mining, Gesso said. Areas will be over-seeded with grouse-friendly seed mix, and berms should protect grouse breeding areas from mining noise.

The mining area will be reclaimed for rangeland, the planning report indicates.

Planner Jim Goossens said he received one letter expressing concerns about traffic on Colo. 131. He also received a letter supporting the project, which said the Toponas mine would be a good alternative to the controversial River Valley Resource site that Lafarge has been proposing during the past few years.

Goossens said that the Planning Commission would consider King Mountain Grav--el's mine as a stand-alone issue.

"We're looking at this on its own merits, not whether it's a good alternative to Lafarge's property," Goossens said. "That's a separate proposal."

The Routt County Planning Commission meets to discuss the King Mountain Gravel proposal at 7 p.m. today in the Commissioners Hearing Room of the Routt County Courthouse An----nex. The Routt County Board of Commissioners will make a final decision at 2:30 p.m. April 12.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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