Gravel, sand from pit near Rifle to cross Colorado River on conveyor
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The Garfield County commissioners on Monday gave the go-ahead for a gravel mining operation near Rifle that would transport crushed gravel and sand on a conveyor system across the Colorado River.
Several nearby residents criticized the proposed project, saying that they have already been “overwhelmed” by oil and gas development in the area.
“I just moved to that area to get away from the city and from the whole (slew) of things that would bother you,” said Don Lloyd, who lives near the proposed project. “I have a real problem with the whole project. If I had my say, it wouldn’t be there.”
But after about three hours of discussion on the mining project, the commissioners unanimously approved it. The gravel and sand mining will occur on a 237-acre property about 2.2 miles east of Rifle on the north bank of the Colorado River.
The property to the south is currently approved for gravel extraction through a special use permit the county commissioners issued seven years ago, the report said. The property for the mining project is owned by North Bank Holdings, and the operator there will be Lafarge West Inc.
The project’s proponents are seeking to mine sand and gravel in two mining areas. Once the gravel and sand are extracted and the gravel crushed, they will be conveyed “via a land conveyor to an overhead conveyor, which will cross the Colorado River,” according to a county report. The overhead conveyor is located within a 100-year flood plain.
Once the sand and gravel are transported across the river to the Mamm Creek Gravel site, which is operated by Lafarge, they would then be processed into commercially sellable material, according to the county report.
It is anticipated that the mining operation on the property will extract 500,000 tons of sand and gravel a year. It is expected to take eight years to mine the area. Another three years are expected for reclamation of the property.
Commissioner Tresi Houpt said the county should limit crushing and heavy operations to standards the county adopted for previously approved gravel pits. The last approved pit allowed crushing work to go from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, Houpt said. Commissioners decided to go with that requirement on Monday.
Houpt also asked what measures were in place to make sure that debris doesn’t fall into the river. David McConaughy, an attorney who is representing Lafarge, said that the conveyor over the river is a trough shaped like a V, so materials can’t fall off. Other measures include a pan underneath to catch debris.
“It is not in our interest for things to fall off,” McConaughy said.
McConaughy said many of the objections area residents made about the proposed mining project were also connected to oil and gas activities, something he and the others behind the project have no control over.
“We want to be a steward of the environment and comply with (county) conditions,” McConaughy said.
John McBride, who once owned property where the proposed mining operation would occur and still owns a 2-acre property inside of it, said he couldn’t imagine that when he sold his holdings there, it would turn into a large-scale mining location. He said the property is an “incredible riparian area full of wildlife.”
McBride also said the commissioners “should seriously consider” the proposed conveyor system over the Colorado River and the precedent it would could set. If it happened, McBride said more conveyors could “spring up over the river from Rulison to New Castle.”
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.