Fountain Creek: New board to get its feet wet overseeing gravel pit operation

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The shiny new Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District is looking at an application by LaFarge to run a gravel mining operation along the creek. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Up until now, the La Farge request would have been handled solely by El Paso County, but the new district has land-use authority within the 100-year flood plain of Fountain Creek between Fountain and Pueblo. That means at least part of the gravel pit decision will be up to the district. The district will have a nine-member board, made up of four representatives each from El Paso and Pueblo counties and a final member selected from a citizens’ advisory group. A “supermajority” of seven votes is needed to make any decisions. The governing board was set up earlier this year as a stop-gap measure between a Vision Task Force, which suggested the new district, and the district, which was signed into law by Gov. Bill Ritter last week. The La Farge proposal was, in fact, one of the major concerns of the Vision Task Force in the past. Two years ago, the group heard about the proposal, along with two wastewater treatment plants and a gas-fired power plant, and wondered whether the projects on the ground were outpacing the group’s ability to shape Fountain Creek…

The La Farge proposal is upsetting to neighbors who object to the noise and dust that could be generated by up to 780 trucks per day at the new gravel pit. “It’s across the creek from our conservation easement, and we’ve written several letters to El Paso County Planning Commission,” said Ferris Frost, whose family ranches and farms along the creek. Besides those land-use issues, she worries about the impact on water quality and the flow of Fountain Creek from the proposed operation. The asphalt and batch plant would create a new “hard point” along the creek that could send waters from the near flood across the farm’s fields. Landowners along Fountain Creek know all too well the propensity of the creek to eat away farmland…

Two committees of the governing board will meet Thursday on the La Farge proposal. A technical advisory committee, which is building on the work done for an Army Corps of Engineers study, and a citizens advisory group, which is continuing the Vision Task Force effort, will have separate meetings to discuss it. The governing board is expected to transition into the appointed board after July 1, but legally the two are separate entities, [Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner] explained.

The district has no money, and the governing board is living on resources donated by the two counties or cities within the county. The district, which includes all of El Paso and Pueblo counties, has the power to charge fees and levy taxes with a vote of the people. So far, there is only one source of funding in sight, however. If the Southern Delivery System comes through Pueblo County, and after it is built, the district would receive $50 million over a five-year period. The money is part of conditions applied by Pueblo County commissioners required for a 1041 land-use permit granted to SDS last month.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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