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Elam gravel pit will put bigger machines to use

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Elam Construction Inc. won approval Wednesday to use bigger equipment at the company’s sand and gravel pit near Woody Creek this year as it gears up for a $6.7 million paving project on Highway 82.

Pitkin County commissioners voted 4-0 to approve an amendment to the company’s permit for mining the materials with Commissioner Michael Owsley absent. Owsley’s district encompasses Woody Creek.

The amendment allows Elam to use bigger, more efficient machinery, including a larger bulldozer and a trackhoe, which boasts a bucket at the end of a rotating boom. The latter will be used to fill trucks that can carry 27 tons of material.

The purpose of the larger equipment is not to mine the material faster or to extract more of it but rather to more efficiently move it a greater distance within the gravel pit, according to Todd Bauer, Elam president.

The company will extract material from an expansion area approved in 2009, which is farther away from the on-site crusher. The bigger machines are better for moving the material from the area where it’s mined to the crusher, he explained.

Despite the change in equipment, Elam representatives assured commissioners the operation will remain within already established limits for noise, dust and visual impacts. Keeping the machines at certain levels below the lip of a berm on the edge of the pit will keep noise levels in check, while an existing watering regime will control dust. The large trucks produce more dust, but far fewer trips are necessary, explained Greg Lewicki, a mining and reclamation engineer working with the company.

Elam is committed to making sure it doesn’t exceed the allowable thresholds for impacts, he said.

The gravel pit opens for the season on April 1. Elam also makes asphalt and concrete.

Attorney Jody Edwards, representing the closest residential neighbors to the gravel pit, the Brauns, asked commissioners to require third-party monitoring of noise and dust during the upcoming season, but commissioners weren’t convinced that step was necessary. The company has a monitoring plan in place.

The Elam operation is reviewed annually by commissioners; they granted annual review approval for 2011 on Wednesday. The elected officials will have the opportunity to withdraw approval for the bigger machinery at next year’s annual review if there are problems, noted Commissioner Rob Ittner.

Elam’s contract with the Colorado Department of Transportation for the Highway 82 work is good news for the company, Bauer said following Wednesday’s discussion.

“It’s key to getting our existing employees back to work,” he said.

In all, about nine miles of the four-lane highway are scheduled to be milled and repaved, including a 2.2-mile stretch in the Basalt area and 7.1 miles between Gerbazdale and the Baltic Avenue intersection at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport and Aspen Business Center.

Brian Pettet, the county’s director of public works, is hoping the county can capitalize on the Highway 82 project by piggybacking on the bid Elam submitted to CDOT. If the company can provide the same unit price for paving that it did to CDOT, Pettet said he might take a proposal to commissioners to contract with Elam for several county road projects that weren’t scheduled to be done this year.

Paving on Smith Hill Road near Woody Creek and Jack Gredig Road (the road to the county landfill) are both already slated for an asphalt overlay this year. In addition, Pettet said he’d look to add the paving of Castle Creek, Emma and Sopris Creek roads to this year’s planned county projects if a favorable price can be arranged.

“We’ll see what we can do for Pitkin County,” Bauer said. “We’ll try to help them out this summer.”

janet@aspentimes.com


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