Say NO to the Strip Mine!
Just 3 miles south of the Montrose City limits and less than half a mile west of Highway 550, this proposed Strip Mine by Rocky Mountain Aggregate (RMA) sits on a Mesa 300 feet above the valley floor. With a proposed 105 year life span, the strip mine will be one and half miles long, consist of 250 + acres and when completed, the entire Mesa will be 35-50 ft. lower than today. The strip mine consists of Heavy Industrial Mining Uses including asphalt production and recycling with a 70' smokestack, a concrete plant, aggregate processing, huge fuel storage tanks and heavy truck traffic (every 3 minutes onto the highway).
This Heavy Industrial Strip Mining Proposal is bad for our community for the following reasons:
Incompatibility with current and historical rural agricultural and residential land usage and zoning: According to the Montrose County Zoning:
According to the Montrose County Zoning Resolution, in the issuing of special use permits, the Montrose County Zoning Resolution (MCZR) lists “prohibited uses” for special use permits, which include aggregate processing, asphalt and concrete plants, and fuel storage tanks. The proposed strip mine site is currently zoned agricultural. The MCZR states that Agriculture is considered to be a highly valued resource in Montrose County. Numerous farms, ranches, small businesses and residents exist in close proximity to the site. All these people have chosen to live/work in this area because of its agricultural history and current status as a rural community. Under criteria to be considered for Special Use Permitting, one criteria states that the “ use promotes the best interest of the general public’s health, safety and welfare as set by either federal, state or county regulation.”
Creation of long term health hazards:
This strip mine will produce crystalline silica dust from pit and quarry activities that will blow off site, onto Montrose area residents’ ranches and homes, crops and livestock, and numerous public and private facilities Silica dust is a known carcinogenic and can kill you. The mitigation measures offered by RMA are inadequate. How far can the crystalline silica dust particles travel? Studies have demonstrated that “larger particles can stay in the air for minutes or hours” and “travel as little as a hundred yards or as much as 30 miles.” The smaller “particles can stay in the air for days or weeks” and travel “many hundreds of miles. The location of the proposed strip mine, open to the winds (sometimes extreme) is optimal for the dispersal of these harmful particles.
Steep decrease in Property Values:
A strip-mining operation of this magnitude undermines the value of the surrounding land and suppresses residential and agricultural growth and opportunity in the region. Residential and agricultural properties in the surrounding community can expect a steep decrease (up to 50% within a 6 mile radius) in the value of their property. It will be evident to tourists and prospective investors that southern Montrose County is dominated by industrial activity and is unlikely to attract families, retirees, or agriculturalists.
Signifinant Traffic/Noise Impacts and Road Degradation:
The proposed strip mine's heavy industrial machinery, trucks, rock crushing equipment, loading and earth moving equipment will create constant noise, traffic, and road degradation. Acceleration and de-acceleration lanes will have to be built on Hwy 550 to accommodate heavy trucks. RMA has not offered an explanation of how or who will pay for all the road degradation over the decades the strip mine will be in operation.
Major Water Consumption/Pollution Issues:
There is no water present on the Mesa where the proposed Strip Mine will be located. RMA will have to truck all the water into the site. RMA estimates they will need to buy from Tri-County Water 80,000 gallons per day up to 120 days/year. That means 9.6 million gallons of drinking water a year to make concrete. In addition, RMA will be utilizing agricultural water resources (116+ shares) and another 4+ acre-feet for dust control. RMA has not explained how the transfer of water resources away from intended agricultural and residential uses will affect the current and future regional water availability or what cost increases will occur for all water users in the county. In addition, a separate pit will be dug on the mesa to hold contaminated water on a permanent basis.
Significant Loss of Natural Habitat and Disruption of Wildlife Movement:
Nearly all of the proposed site is occupied Gunnison Sage Grouse territory
according to National Fish and Wildlife Service. This species is being considered for the Endangered Species list, a decision to be made in September of this year. Significant numbers of deer and elk currently utilize the mesa year round for habitat and migration. Numerous other mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects are present. Many species of plants also currently thrive on the proposed site.
RMA has estimated that the proposed strip mine has the potential to create only 3 new jobs. Currently, seven gravel pit mines operate in the Montrose area, with two located just one mile and two miles south of the proposed strip mine on Hwy 550. One of the pit mines south of town is not in operation due to lack of demand for gravel products. In contrast, the property tax base for the county government will decrease dramatically due to the extensive and permanent decline in property values for hundreds of property owners adjacent to the proposed heavy industrial mining complex. The county will also lose sales tax revenue, as current businesses will have to relocate or close up shop due to the introduction of heavy industrial mining in the area.
Ineffective Government Oversight:
The only oversight of the strip mine required is by The State of Colorado Air Pollution Division. The Air Pollution Division is required to make an on-site visit only once every 6-8 years. The county government has no direct oversight responsibilities.
Failure to meet conformance requirements with many sections of the 2010 Montrose County Master Plan:
This proposed strip mine is incompatible with many goals for the southern region of the Montrose County master plan. Examples include: maintaining agricultural related uses (Goal 1), protecting the viewsheds on state highways with particular emphasis on Highway 550 (Goal 2) and encourage limited access points for the federal and state highway system (Goal 6).
Required permit applications not completed:
RMA has not completed its required applications and decisions from the Colorado Department of Transportation and the State of Colorado are still months away. There is not enough information for the County Commissioners to make an informed decision about this permit currently.
Erosion of quality of life for thousands of county citizens at the expense of profits for one corporation:
As citizens of Montrose County, we assert that we have rights as a community to protect the health, safety and welfare of the residents and ecosystems of Montrose County.