Basalt will object to logging project, wants less truck traffic

A logging project for the Upper Fryingpan Valley is on hold for now because of a federal complaint filed by 21 residents. Pictured above is Ruedi Reservoir, which separates the lower an upper valleys, in the summer of 2017.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

The Basalt Town Council wants the U.S. Forest Service to prune a logging project in the upper Fryingpan Valley to limit the number of trucks rolling through town.

The council on Tuesday night authorized a letter filing a formal objection to a Forest Service decision last month to proceed with the project.

Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said making an objection gives the town government standing to continue negotiations with the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District over the project.

“Traffic and safety are the big concerns we have on Frying Pan Road,” Tennenbaum said.

The letter said the Forest Service correctly determined that the project could spur enough logging truck and chipping van traffic that it could pose a public safety hazard on Frying Pan Road and streets in Basalt. However, the federal agency’s response to the threat is inadequate, Basalt officials said.

“While the response identifies certain mitigation measures by the Forest Service, the town of Basalt remains concerned with the safety of its residents and visitors and general enjoyment of the area which will be negatively impacted by the anticipated number of heavy trucks and transport vehicles utilizing the principal haul route through the town of Basalt,” the town’s letter said.

As it stands now, the Forest Service anticipates roughly 376 trips per year by logging trucks and vans that haul wood chips and debris. The project would likely span five years, creating the potential for 1,880 round-trips over the course of the project. That’s about five round-trips per day on average, Forest Service officials previously said.

The project is anticipated to go from July 1 and Oct. 15 each year, but weather could affect the timing one way or another. The Forest Service draft decision says trucks would be prohibited from noon on Fridays until midnight Sundays.

The 1,759-acre project area is roughly 25 miles east of Basalt, beyond Ruedi Reservoir and north of the Fryingpan Valley floor. The bulk of the logging truck traffic would use forest roads and Eagle County routes through the town of Eagle. A lesser amount of traffic would have to descend Fryingpan Valley because of where the logging would occur.

Basalt suggested eliminating 233 acres of the vegetation management project around Diemer and Seller Lakes. A smaller area to log would require fewer trips by logging traffic.

“The elimination of this project area would satisfy the town’s concerns related to the logging truck traffic,” the letter said.

The town also wants the use of Frying Pan Road for the project reduced to “a maximum of one to two years.” The shortened schedule may lessen the severity of impacts on the town, the letter said.

The town also wants the hours of hauling restricted to 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays.

“The Basalt Town Council remains concerned with protecting the safety of its residents and visitors, and the enjoyment of the town and its various amenities for all,” the letter concludes.

Objections have to be made by Feb. 2. They can only be made by parties that submitted comments in earlier public scoping. The reviewing officer has to respond in writing to all objections.