MONTROSE COUNTY – A state and county review process is underway for a large gravel pit, encompassing nearly 250 acres, on land located nine miles south of Montrose and approximately one mile west of U.S. Hwy. 550 in Montrose County.
Rocky Mountain Aggregate and Construction, LLC proposes to build and operate the Uncompahgre Gravel Pit on 247.76 acres of land atop a dry terrace, surrounded by irrigated, agricultural lands that would be accessed by T Road. In a five-step mining plan, the applicant proposes to produce 104,000 tons of gravel a year for the next 105 years.
“It’s a large area,” Montrose Planning Director Steve White said Tuesday. “It would be a large pit and they are looking, at this point, [for it to] go for a hundred years.”
White said the applicant is in the very early stages of a two-step review process to get a Montrose County Special Use Permit to operate the gravel pit, on land currently zoned ‘general agricultural.’ Under the Montrose County Land Use Code, the operation of a gravel pit is an allowed use as long as it receives a Special Use Permit.
“What it comes down to is really about mitigation,” White said. “Criteria, like noise and dust, has to be looked at and it has to be addressed.”
So far, White said, the applicant has submitted the required paperwork to the county, which his department has reviewed and sent out to a host of agencies for comment. White has now forwarded those comments to the applicant for review, and that’s where the process stands, he said.
The applicant can take those comments into consideration prior to going before the Montrose County Planning Commission for review, although no date has been set for a public hearing. The final review step in the process will be approval from the Montrose Board of County Commissioners.
White said his department and the Montrose County engineering department have highlighted some concerns with the use of T Road, in response to the application, including suggesting that “they offset their haul road onto their own property where they have their scale, and then go back onto T Road.”
Once a date is set for the planning commission review, it will be fully noticed.
Janice Wheeler, one of the five residents living on the small stretch of T Road that would be affected, said she is not anti-entrepreneurial, but that she has concerns about such a large operation and what it will do the agricultural nature of the setting.
“Eleven million tons of gravel is a heck of a lot of gravel,” Wheeler said. “This is a giant. There is the potential for 130 loads a day. That means 260 semi trucks entering and exiting onto this road. Those are big numbers. I don’t think it belongs here. It affects too many people negatively for one person’s gain.”
Over the course of the gravel pit’s proposed 105-year lifespan, the mining will occur in five stages. Stages 1-4 will create a pit 25-35 below the current terrace, creating a berm and natural visual impact shield around the gravel pit. In Stage 5, the berm will be mined and the terrace elevation will be in effect lowered to the bottom pit level.
The landowner, who is leasing the land to Rocky Mountain Aggregate and Construction, also owns water rights in the Ouray Ditch and the Uncompahgre Water Users Association.
“This water has traditionally been used for irrigation but it has been confirmed that it is allowed to use this water for use in the mining operation,” states the applicants’ proposal.
While the Montrose County Special Use Permit application process is in its infancy stages, Rocky Mountain Aggregate and Construction has submitted its gravel permit application from Colorado’s Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety. The public comment period is on the state issued permit is open until April 24. Anyone wishing to comment on the application may view it at the Montrose County Clerk and Recorder’s office, 320 S. First Street in Montrose.
Written comments can be sent to the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, 1313 Sherman Street, Room 215, Denver CO, 80203.