Routt County commissioners could decide on gravel pit proposal Tuesday |

Routt County commissioners could decide on gravel pit proposal Tuesday

Routt County commissioners could decide on gravel pit proposal Tuesday

— The Routt County Board of Commissioners could make a decision Tuesday night on the fate of a proposed gravel pit in the scenic ranchland south of Steamboat Springs.

Alpine Aggregates' proposal for the Yampa Valley Sand and Gravel pit has renewed a longstanding controversy centered on the conflicting motives of people intent on protecting a bucolic landscape and the ongoing need for gravel to help build roads and building foundations.

The pit, planned for a 147-acre site about six miles south of the city, would be visible from several locations on U.S. Highway 40 on Rabbit Ears Pass.

"Why, of all places, does it have to be in the only designated scenic corridor in the county?" nearby resident Terry Cobb wrote in a June 30 letter to Board of Commissioners Charwoman Nancy Stahoviak. "This view of the Yampa River and the valley has attracted visitors from all over. When you tell people you live in Steamboat, this view is the first thing they remember and talk about. Visitors stop to take pictures from the overlooks. Instead of seeing the beauty of Routt County, they will be looking down on a gravel pit."

The developers anticipate mining as much as 300,000 tons of gravel per year, stretching throughout 20 years depending on demand. All of the gravel would be crushed and screened on site. No concrete or asphalt would be produced there.

Prospective operator Ed Mac­Arthur plans to mine 5 acres of land at a time and simultaneously reclaim each mine pod as he moves on to the next one. He promises to take measures to limit noise during gravel operations and to screen views from Colorado Highway 131 with heavily landscaped berms.

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He said he also would offset the disruption to the hay meadows on the gravel mine site by conserving land on a nearby ranch.

MacArthur contends that his gravel pit also would provide a public benefit by reducing the need to haul aggregate through downtown Steamboat from other pits west of the city.

"There's a demand over the next 10 years of 2.9 million tons of gravel" south of Steamboat, he said at a July 1 hearing. "That's 270 truck trips through town if this is not out there. We believe the lessening of truck traffic through town is significant."

However, David and Alicia Josfan, whose property overlooks the mine site from U.S. 40 above, said the impacts of the new pit would more than offset the traffic impacts of hauling the gravel from existing gravel pits.

David Josfan, who is a builder and developer here, said MacArthur exaggerated the future demand for gravel in his application.

"From projects like the St. Cloud, that has absolutely no approval at all for anything and is going to a public auction, to the Ptarmigan and Boulder Ridge, those numbers have nothing to substantiate them and rather (are) very inflated," he said.

Ron and Susan Krall pointed out that MacArthur's proposed reduction in truck traffic through town only would be realized if his gravel mine did not export materials to the west side of town, and they urged the commissioners to restrict Yampa Valley Sand and Gravel from sending gravel to sites down the valley beyond Steamboat Springs.

42 conditions

The Routt County Planning Commission voted, 8-1, on July 1 to recommend approval of the project.

The Planning Comm­ission and county commissioners undertook a preliminary review of the gravel mining operation in fall 2009 and asked for changes to be made to the plan.

The current proposal is the second for the site just downstream from the Colo. 131 bridge over the Yampa River. The county approved a gravel mining permit application for the same property in 2005 after four years of public hearings, but Lafarge West was unhappy with the constraints placed on its operations, unsuccessfully sued the county and never acted on its approval, which since has expired.

One difference from the old Lafarge proposal is that MacArthur has entered into a written agreement with his two closest neighboring property owners, promising to mitigate their concerns.

He also has agreed to build highway turn lanes to address the safety issues associated with heavy truck traffic entering and leaving the mine. In the same vein, he has agreed to curtail his hours of operation in fall and winter, when the open water on the river frequently creates a morning fog bank along that stretch of highway.

During its July 1 hearing, the Planning Commission recommended that if the county commissioners approve a special use permit for the gravel pit, no more than 25 acres of land should be disturbed at any one time and the height of gravel piles on the site should be limited. Those conditions were among 42 the commission recommended be placed on the gravel mining operations.

They also recommend pumps used to drain water from mining sites be electrically powered — for noise mitigation — except during early phases, when generators would be allowed. The Planning Commission also urges the operator to be responsible for ensuring that existing water wells in the area are not harmfully affected.

Despite the constraints being placed on the gravel mine, many neighbors remain strongly opposed.

Bill Wallace, of Steamboat Springs, warned the commissioners that fill dirt being imported to the Yampa Valley Sand and Gravel site during reclamation would open the sensitive watershed along the Yampa River to contamination from hazardous waste.

Sam Marti wrote the commissioners to contend that the need to replace sections of the recently widened Colo. 131, which relied on gravel from a temporary pit within the Yampa Valley Sand and Gravel site, calls the quality of the material into question. Marti said the need to dry the gravel for a lengthy period makes it less desirable for road projects.

Tuesday's hearing begins at 6 p.m. on the third floor of the Routt County Courthouse in downtown Steamboat Springs.

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