Lafarge continues process

Company working toward gravel pit on south side of town

Lafarge continues to work toward approval for a controversial gravel pit six miles south of Steamboat Springs, with hopes that the new site will be open by the end of May when its permits for another site expire.

If the permits expire before the new River Valley Resource site can be approved, Lafarge will find a solution to continue serving its customers, said Gary Tuttle, Lafarge regional land manager.

"If we aren't operating after May ... we won't be able to service our customers," Tuttle said. "But we intend to operate. We're not going to abandon our customers. We'll find a solution."

Lafarge is waiting to see if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will grant a permit to fill about 4 acres of wetlands at the new site. If that permit is granted, Lafarge will move on to the Routt County planning process.

At the end of February, Lafarge gave the Army Corps a response of about 150 public comments -- more than 500 pages' worth -- about the wetland permit.

When it was discussed last spring, the plan drew criticism from residents who worried about the wildlife, water quality, wetland and visual impacts the gravel pit could have. The operation's impacts, Tuttle said, would be "minimal or insignificant."

The plans for the River Valley Resource site include operating five gravel pits, a permanent concrete plant, a seasonal crushing and screening plant and a washing plant. The site is on a 128-acre parcel on the More Family Ranch, which sits on the east side of Colorado Highway 131. The site could have an operating life of 12 to 14 years, Tuttle said.

The company originally asked for an asphalt plant as well, but has since taken that request off the table.

The new operation was recommended for approval by a 5-3 vote of the Routt County Regional Planning Commission last spring, contingent on Lafarge receiving a permit to fill wetlands. It then was tabled by the Routt County commissioners, who wanted more information, Routt County Planner John Eastman said. The city of Steamboat Springs had recommended that the operation not be approved.

Tony Curtis, chief of the Army Corps' Frisco regulatory office, said his office probably would start reading through public comments and Lafarge's response in late May, then develop a new list of questions and information needed.

Curtis said Lafarge's response came Feb. 24, about five months after the public comment period closed, and that he was surprised by the delay in getting a response.

The company's North Pit, a few miles down river from the proposed new site, is 70 percent reclaimed, while the company's South Pit, about 0.5 miles from the proposed new site, is about half reclaimed, Tuttle said. Through reclamation, ponds and slopes are made to look natural, wetlands are constructed, and topsoil, seed grass and trees and shrubs are put in place.

If permits for the old sites expire before the new site is approved, Tuttle said the company would consider getting an extension at the North Site, or finding another site on the west side of Steamboat Springs.

"We'll come up with a solution that can carry us through until we get River Valley all done," he said. "I think there are several people that continue to be committed to not having us replace our operation there in the South Valley, but for us, Steamboat is an important market. We know that we provide a valuable product. And having our operation on the south side near the ski area prevents a lot of truck trips through downtown."

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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