B&B’s new closing date: Oct. 28
BRECKENRIDGE – Town and county open space officials have pushed back the historic purchase of B&B Mines’ 1,842 acres until possibly Oct. 28.The pending $9 million deal to preserve popular backcountry lands in the Golden Horseshoe north of Breckenridge continues to be delayed by issues related to environmental cleanup of old mine sites. Breckenridge and Summit County government are 50-50 partners in the biggest open space purchase in local history. The land lies between the Swan and French drainages.Breckenridge open space and trails planner Heide Andersen said negotiations are continuing on a consent decree that would limit the town and county’s liability on the mine-contaminated land.
Other issues include how much money – if any – should be given to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remediate natural resource damage and how much the buyers and sellers will pay for cleanup of two mine sites in the area.The town and county want to preserve the land for its recreational, natural resource, historical and cultural values. Acquiring the land will also provide an open space buffer between U.S. Forest Service land and the more urban areas to the west and preclude backcountry development.Officials have postponed the closing twice; it was originally scheduled to take place in June. “I feel like there’s a lot still happening,” Andersen said. “We still have a long way to go, but if we can get the wheels in motion, I think we’ll be able to close (Oct. 28.)”
Attorneys have been working for months hammering out the consent decree that will protect the town and county from any potential future environmental liabilities related to the mines in the area. They are concerned about two areas in particular: the Jessie and Royal Tiger mines, where mine contaminants and heavy metals leach into nearby waterways.Other details that have to be worked out include how cleanup efforts will be measured, whether remediation is working and if money should be put in escrow.The town and county are also negotiating with Fish and Wildlife Service officials who want an undisclosed amount of money for damage already done to the land and to continue work on the cleanup.They also must determine how much it will cost for future Environmental Protection Agency involvement in the cleanups, and who will pay for that work.
Hashing through all the red tape could have been even more difficult had citizens not formed a grassroots coalition with federal, state and local agencies in the mid-1990s. That group, called the French Gulch Remediation Group, organized scientists to conduct tests on the creeks and mine shafts, developed methods to reduce some contamination on the site and essentially kept the Wellington-Oro Mine site off the federal Superfund list.Once the deal is done, the town and county will begin working on visions for the management of the Golden Horseshoe area and hold public meetings to determine what the public wants there.Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or at email@example.com.
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