Action Alert: Important Meeting for Proposed Development near Paonia

By Patrick Dooling 1 month ago2 Comments

Paonia Holdings LLC has applied for a land use change for parcels owned by Bowie Resources at 41322 and 41402 Highway 133 in Paonia and an ancillary property at 16180 Stevens Gulch Road, Paonia CO. The proposed development is for commercial and light industrial uses on a site previously used for coal loading and mining support activities. The Highway 133 locations were previously used by Bowie Resources to load coal onto rail cars. Upon completion of mining activities, these lands were intended to be returned to their pre-mining use for agriculture.

According to the application, Paonia Holdings’ new uses for these locations may include: “heavy equipment storage, repair and sales (maintenance and repair of mining, excavation, agricultural and other equipment, as well rentals and sales of equipment and parts); fabrication and machining services, welding services, storage of equipment and contractor supplies, engineering and construction consultant services, sales, repair and manufacturing of firearms and ammunition, and limited agricultural production from the orchard on site….The portions of the property package on Steven’s Gulch will be used for facilities supporting electrical transmission and distribution, communications lines, and water conveyance. Future use of the land off Stevens Gulch Road may include residential development and/or development of more storage yard space.”

The Western Slope Conservation Center is opposed to this application as we do not believe the application, including amendments, meets Delta County’s performance standards for Compatibility with Adjacent Land Uses, Irrigation Water and Ditch Easements, and Water. Read our full statement below.

UPDATE: DELTA COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION DENIES SD-17-003 APPLICATION

  • By a vote of 6-1, the Delta County Planning Commission voted to deny the application from Paonia Holdings on the grounds that it did not meet the County standards for Compatibility with Adjacent Land Uses and failed to mitigate impacts to scenic viewsheds and byways.
  • While this decision is an important first step towards holding Bowie Resources accountable for full site reclamation, the Delta County Commissioners make the final decision on the application. Be sure to submit comments to the BoCC by November 20 (instructions below).

NEXT UPCOMING MEETING:

  • Board of County Commissioners Meeting – November 20, 2017 at 10am in Room #234 at the Delta County Courthouse

SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS ON APPLICATION SD-17-003 TO THE DELTA COUNTY PLANNING DEPARTMENT:

  • No later than November 20, 2017
  • Email to planning@deltacounty.com
  • Fax to 874-2500
  • Mail to Delta County Courthouse, 501 Palmer St, Suite 115, Delta, CO 81416
  • For questions, call the Delta County Planning Department at 874-3226

Western Slope Conservation Center’s Statement on SD-17-003

October 25th, 2017

North Fork Area Planning Committee
Delta County Planning Commission
Delta County Board of County Commissioners

To whom it may concern:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on Paonia Holding’s application SD-17-003. The Western Slope Conservation Center has a 40-year history of seeking community-based solutions that protect our natural resources in the North Fork and Lower Gunnison Watersheds.

On behalf of our 600 members, we ask the North Fork Area Planning Committee, the Delta County Planning Commission, and the Delta County Board of County Commissioners to deny the Paonia Holdings’ application based on inadequate mitigation of impacts for this specific development which does not meet the county’s stated specific development performance standards.

Specifically, we do not believe the application, including amendments, meets Delta County’s performance standards for Compatibility with Adjacent Land Uses, Irrigation Water and Ditch Easements, and impacts to Water. Specific to water, we do not believe Paonia Holdings has proven that it will “mitigate all negative impacts resulting from the proposed development with respect to the quality and quantity of water belonging to others,” as stated in Delta County’s specific development regulations. There has been no language that has addressed Western Slope Conservation Center’s previously stated concerns on impacts to surface and groundwater quality from the proposed specific development.

If the Delta County Board of County Commissioners refuses to deny this application, then we request that significant additional mitigation measures be requested. Should hazardous materials, including diesel and lubricants required for proposed heavy truck and machinery maintenance, find their way into the river in even small amounts, they will negatively affect downstream water quality and the riparian habitat. The water serves multiple agricultural diversions downstream as well as providing a habitat for a number of threatened and listed species. Permitting development within a mere 25 feet of the river will increase the chances of hazardous materials impacting water quality. Accordingly, the Conservation Center requests that Delta County require any land use change at this site incorporate a ¼ mile non-surface use occupancy buffer. This is consistent with the North Fork Alternative setback from any water conveyance, canals, ditches, streams and rivers presented in the BLM Resource Management Plan currently under review.

As stated in the public notice, the applicant also intends to remove the bridge across the North Fork of the Gunnison River. We request that Delta County require extensive and significant mitigation of impacts, including restoration of the impacted river and riparian areas at this location.

Additional mitigation should be required to protect the wildlife habitat and the wildlife migration routes on all of the land in the proposed land use change application. Winter elk migration has followed a route across Highway 133 down to the river in the area involved in the application. Additional mitigation, including recommendations and consultation with Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff, should be required.

On March 1st, 2000, WSCC (then Western Slope Environmental Resource Council) entered into a Good Neighbor Agreement with Bowie Resources to identify and mitigate areas of community concern related to the impacts of coal mining operations. One key goal of the Good Neighbor Agreement was to address “the need to reclaim those coal mining facilities that are or will soon be permanently retired.”

This document, along with the corresponding 2003 Amendment, clearly stated that Bowie Resource Limited would reclaim all properties on site at Bowie #1, Bowie #2, and the loading facility along Highway 133. As former President of Bowie Resource Limited stated to me in an email today, “It was Bowie Resource Limited’s (BRL) intention in our 2000 Memorandum of Agreement and 2003 Addendum with Western Slope Environmental Resource Council (WSERC)… that BRL would fully reclaim its Bowie #1 and Bowie #2 mine sites as well as the coal storage and railroad loadout facility located on Highway 133. The only modification noted to this intention, as stated in the 2003 MOA Addendum, was for possible residential use at the Bowie #1 East Portal, with specific deed restrictions which would prohibit street lights, floodlights, or commercial type lights that would be visible from the town of Paonia. No other exceptions or modifications to BRL’s reclamation obligations were intended.”

The Conservation Center continues to hold Bowie Resources Limited at their word, publicly requesting from Bowie Resources Limited full reclamation of these parcels to approximate original condition and contour. Not only would full reclamation mitigate future surface water and groundwater impacts from previous mining activities, it would also address many of the impact concerns others have addressed in this hearing, including visual resources, wildlife, and other nuisances from the change of use.

Sincerely,

Alex Johnson
Executive Director
Western Slope Conservation Center
PO Box 1612
Paonia, CO 81428

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2 Comments

  • Monica Wiitanen says:

    Please look at the current Delta County Regulation for Specific Developments. In the 1-1-2012 version, Article III, Section 4, Site Plan lists minimum requirements for the application. B especially does not seem to be satisfied by “we might do this” or “we might do that”. The applicant seems to be asking approval for an “unspecific” development.

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