Acting on Jan. 22, the Delta County Planning Commission on a split 5-1 vote gave recommended approval to the North Road gravel pit specific development application that area residents faulted over safety concerns.
Before reaching their decision, planning commission members heard concerns from citizens about threats to safety from the pit operations — threats to the safety of traffic at the Highway 65/North Road intersection, and threats to safety of bird watchers visiting Fruitgrowers reservoir.
The specific development permit application is being submitted by Delta County to mine gravel for county road use. If it is approved by the county commissioners on Feb. 3, it will bring the tally of gravel pit applications in the past four years to two approvals for county government pits and two denials for private enterprise pits. All of the applications have been opposed by neighbors.
The gravel pit would be located north of North Road near the intersection with Hulteen Road. It was stated at the hearing that a yearly average of 2.1 truck hauls per day would access the SH65/North intersection. That could increase to five hauls 10 trips per hour when the pit is being accessed for a project. One haul is equal to two truck trips — one trip empty and one trip full.
The planning commission heard statements from area residents that trucks negotiating the intersection would cause problems because of its constricted traffic flow routes.
County staff members including engineer Bob Kalenak, road foreman Larry Record, and mining permit consultant Mike Ripp tried to answer concerns about two 18-wheel, 85,000-pound tractor/trailer dump bellies trying to negotiate the intersection's tight eastbound turn at the same time in opposite directions.
Darlene Fritchman of Cedar Mesa said the intersection was "built for the horse and buggy."
Gary Espinoza, owner of the Big "E," said, "It's a dangerous intersection ... I don't see two trucks making that corner."
Kalenak said a consulting firm is doing a traffic study for CDOT. He explained saying that if the annual average truck-per-day figure creates a 20 percent increase in total traffic at the intersection (which at an estimated rate of 2.1 would seem unlikely) then the county will have to obtain a CDOT access permit.
Espinoza told the planning commission, "I will be surprised if CDOT does anything." He explained his business had reached an agreement with CDOT previously whereby he gave up diagonal parking for his store on the highway in exchange for parallel parking in order to ease congestion.
In summer time, the corner is even more congested with parked RVs, pickups with towed loads, and single vehicles, he added.
The SH65/North intersection is proposed as the main haul route from the North Road pit, Kalenak said. Record added that alternate routes are available, but that the intersection's 30 m.p.h. speed limit makes it an attractive highway entry for trucks.
Private enterprise gravel operator Hans Benson said there is no right-of-way available for making safety improvements at the intersection.
The CDOT traffic study should be completed before any approval by the planning commission, Benson said, adding that would be required of any private enterprise trying to open the same pit. Kalenak said that the county's traffic study and CDOT evaluation will be "exactly the same" as any private gravel operator would have to complete.
Benson pointed to "lost property tax revenue" from the county purchasing 120 acres only to mine 27 of them, as the county proposed to do.
The approximately 120 acres were acquired out of a foreclosure in 2010.
Area resident Eric Fritchman said he is not opposed to the North Road pit, but he said that traffic safety at the North/2600 Road intersection is another safety concern that needs to be addressed. Visibility and traffic control are potential problems there, he said.
Mark and Connie Willis who live on North road near the proposed gravel pit entrance said it is planned at a location that "is an accident waiting to happen."
Connie Willis, a former belly-dump driver, agreed that the pit access and the SH65 intersection are both safety problems.
Record remarked that the access point to the proposed pit could be moved,
The DCI has reported previously on the county's agreement with Black Canyon Audubon Society for mitigations to protect bird watching and bird watchers in Hart's Basin. But the agreement is insufficient, the planning commission was told.
Eckert naturalist Evelyn Horn said a parking area proposed for birders "will do no good. It will be too small."
Horn said she is opposed to the Audubon Society's endorsement of the parking area after studying the proposal. She had been receptive to the society's position previously.
Horn said the parking area will threaten bird habitat when Fruitgrowers Reservoir is at high water, and that it will only encourage foot traffic on the narrow North Road as birders disembark their parked vehicles and begin sojourns of up to 200 yards along the roadway trying to get a better view of birds that are present.
Darlene Fritchman agreed with Horn on that point saying that bird watchers are not paying attention to truck traffic. North Road is "heavily used" and "needs to be widened," she added.
Eric Fritchman said the proposed parking lot won't matter because when people see a bird they simply stop their cars on the road "get out and set up their tripods."
Hulteen Road resident and naturalist Dave Galinat said, "the (proposed) parking lot is in a terrible location. It won't get that much use. It is the best spot (during high water) to view relatively rare shore birds. It will wreck the area."
According to the county application, "The mine operation site is part of three, 40-acre parcels totaling 119.5 acres adjacent to the north side of North road approximately one-half mile east of Fruitgrowers Reservoir and two miles east of Eckert." The county is paying $355,000 for the property, officials said at the meeting, and intends to sell it when all the gravel is mined.
Permitted acres will be 92.3, but mining operations will occur on only 27 of the acres. The 27 acres contain an estimated 650,000 cubic yards of gravel, That is equivalent to 975,000 tons, Ripp said.
The county's application states, "We anticipate that it will take up to 16 years to extract all minable gravel and complete reclamation of the site." During questioning, Ripp said the mining operations "may take 25 or 30 years."
The property will be reclaimed to farmable, irrigatable "rangeland" condition when mined out, Ripp said.blog comments powered by Disqus