Opinion | Susan Knopf: Oppose expansion of the gravel pit | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Susan Knopf: Oppose expansion of the gravel pit


Last week, I was transported to a dystopic chapter from our past. I witnessed big business and big government run roughshod over the interests of the people of the state of Colorado.

I thought we learned our lesson. Historically, the mining industry has not been a good steward of our precious environment.

I attended the pre-hearing conference for the application by Peak Materials to expand its gravel mining operation into bucolic northern Silverthorne. The application has been conditionally approved by the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety.

Misguided state employees insisted they need extra hearing time to rebut the people opposing the mine. Are they mixed up? State employees are supposed to represent the interests of the people.

Peak Materials says they have more than 30 years of gravel in their current location. So why do they need to despoil the pristine Lower Blue River Valley? There’s gravel in Kremmling. We’ve bought gravel there. It was cheaper than Peak.

For the record, the proposed expansion of the Peak Ranch Resource gravel operation violates our Summit County Lower Blue Master Plan. The plan dated March 4, 2010, calls upon all landowners to “preserve the future rural character and quality of life offered in the (Lower Blue River Valley) Basin.”

It further specifies:

  • Carefully coordinate, consider and respect citizen involvement.
  • Protect the property rights of property owners from arbitrary and discriminatory actions.
  • Preserve and enhance the basin’s tremendous natural resources, including its spectacular vistas, diverse wildlife and ecosystems, and pristine air and water quality.
  • Protect and preserve visual quality, important open space areas, and historical and cultural resources.
  • Preserve important open spaces and improve trail systems and other public recreation opportunities.

I don’t see anything about a gravel pit in there. I’m prejudiced. I live across from the proposed gravel pit site. I’m not happy.

I know people who are unhappier about it. They live next door to the proposed 80-acre mining site. How would you like the state to conditionally approve a gravel mine right next door to your home? Goodbye peaceful home.

No one is trying deprive Peak of their lawful economic interests. The fact is a gravel pit isn’t an approved activity in that location. Even if the state were stupid enough to put our water, fish and wildlife in jeopardy, the county would still have a say. Peak needs two county conditional-use permits to operate the gravel pit.

After the preliminary hearing, I’m putting more faith in our local officials to have more common sense.

The proposed gravel pit poses myriad environmental problems.

In rural northern Summit County, we depend on well water. It’s not plentiful, and it’s often not good. The mine is downhill from many area residents. Water runs downhill. Thus any additional fracture of the already fractured oil shale in which we all find our individual pockets of water could mean disaster. Ever try to sell a house without water?

Just in case you’re wondering, our environmentally anchored recreational industries bring in more money and jobs than all mining and mineral extraction combined.

Locals have been trying to bring back the gold medal fishing status for the Blue River. You can kiss that goodbye. Goodbye fish.

We have elk and mule deer that migrate through the proposed site. Goodbye elk and deer.

We’ve already seen a significant increase in traffic on what is a frequented scenic bike trail. The gravel pit would add 230 more gravel truck trips per day. Goodbye biking.

If the Peak Ranch Resource Project mining expansion is approved, you can kiss goodbye our beautiful, clean peaceful environment on the Lower Blue River Valley.

It’s not too late to have your voice heard. The hearing is April 21-22. Write letters to the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board members and mail them to Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety; 1313 Sherman St.; Denver, CO 80203; Re: Application by Peak Ranch Resource (File No. M2020041).

The pre-hearing conference revealed state staff didn’t bother to research the impact of the proposed mine. It also revealed that board members depend on disconnected state staffers for direction. They don’t review anything more than a couple of weeks in advance. The volume of the material suggests they probably don’t read it all.

Help us stop Peak from despoiling the last pristine corner of our beautiful county. When we combine our voices, we can be heard.

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