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Colorado’s Blue River Valley

SILVERTHORNE — City Market grocery worker Oumar Ba breathed deep in Colorado’s Blue River Valley between wilderness mountains.  He remembers the beauty of his native Senegal.  Search homes for sale in Flying Horse Colorado Springs, CO here: http://www.rehava.com

But he also sees benefits of a proposal by Peak Materials to dig a new, 54-acre gravel mine along the river.  It is needed to support construction of roads, buildings and more resort luxury houses in Summit County. “Creates more jobs,” he said.

He has mixed feelings about this gravel mine reflect a dilemma that state leaders were navigating in hearings this week.  There is talk of boosting commerce in Summit County versus saving the nature that remains amid Colorado’s growth and development boom. For two decades, this valley has been a focus for state-backed conservation led by landowners who invested millions in protective easements and restoring habitat for wildlife and fish.

Approval for a Gravel Mine

Officials with the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety have recommended approval for the gravel mine. The state’s mining board is expected to vote Thursday on whether to grant a required state permit.  That is a key step.

This new gravel mine is along the Blue River.  It is 10 miles north of Silverthorne on a former ranch that includes delicate wetlands.  It would add to the 1,163 gravel mines currently permitted around Colorado. These provide 54 million tons a year of sand and gravel used for asphalt, concrete, road base and building site fill material.

Rock Blasted From Quarries is Increasing

The amount of rock blasted out of quarries and scraped out of river valleys statewide has been increasing.  It has gone up from 51 million tons in 2016, according to the Colorado Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, in line with increased gravel mining of 970 million tons a year for developers nationwide.

Landowners including a 600-member group led by nature photographer John Fielder are fighting the project.  They are warning of harm to underground water flows, soil, domestic wells, elk migration and other impacts.  Those include noise, light, and truck traffic. More than 150 filed formal objections and, over two days of hearings this week, experts testified bolstering their claims.

“This is the most beautiful mountain valley with the best access to wilderness of any valley in Colorado.  That is why I moved here. It is the worst possible place to put a gravel mine,” Fielder, 70, a Colorado resident since 1972, told The Denver Post. “Development is never going to stop. So what do you do? At least, you do it in the right place. You don’t put a gravel mine in a protected mountain valley.”

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