Landowner under fire for dumping dirt in wetland |

Landowner under fire for dumping dirt in wetland

Pitkin County halted a project east of Aspen after it was allegedly discovered that the landowner dumped a large amount of dirt into a wetland.

The action came after a complaint was filed by Aspen City Councilman Terry Paulson, who said the soil was dumped sometime last fall on property owned by Richard Lewis. The property is located at the intersection of Highway 82 and McFarland Gulch Lane.

Joanna Schaffner, Pitkin County’s Chief Zoning Officer, said Monday that the county issued Lewis a notice two weeks ago.

Because Lewis hasn’t responded to the county’s complaint, Schaffner and County Wildlife Biologist Jonathan Lowsky have prepared a letter, which will be sent to Lewis after approval by the County Attorney’s Office. The Army Corps of Engineers, the agency which enforces federal wetlands regulations, has been notified, but Schaffner isn’t certain whether that agency has begun to investigate the complaint.

Paulson said the dirt was dumped into a marshy flood plain area near the Roaring Fork River and near some beaver ponds. He said he couldn’t guess the exact amount of dirt, but said it’s many truckloads. Dumping more than 50 cubic yards of soil requires a permit from the county, and Schaffner said Lewis did not obtain such a permit.

He also said dumping the dirt in the flood plain of the Roaring Fork is potentially a threat to public safety, because it could divert flood waters across neighboring properties.

Paulson said he thinks Lewis plans to build a barn on the site. But Schaffner said the county has not received an application for approval to build a structure there, and she hasn’t any reason to think that’s the purpose of the fill dirt.

“Right now I see it as filling the wetland. I can’t presume he’s building a barn until there’s some evidence,” Schaffner said.

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