Published 9/12/23 in the Longmont Leader and Longmont Times Call
In 1998, Boulder County approved a special use permit to allow gravel mining on 881 acres of property owned by Western Mobile in the St. Vrain River Valley east of Lyons. River valleys are often targeted for gravel mining due to the accumulation of gravel and other sediments that build up in floodplains.
In 2011, the land was sold to Martin Marietta Materials Inc., which is now seeking to continue gravel mining operations on the property. Included with the mines, they’re also planning to build a number of accessory structures within the 100 year flood plain of St. Vrain Creek.
The special use permit included a clause that the permit will lapse if no activity authorized under the permit has been conducted for a continuous period of 5 years or more. On April 11, 2018, Boulder County ruled that the permit is still valid. However, prior to the onset of mining operations, the Boulder County Board of Adjustment must hold public hearings on the proposal.
The first of such public hearings is scheduled for Wednesday, June 6, 2018. The appeal hearing begins at 4:00 PM at the Commissioner’s Hearing Room, 1325 Pearl St., Boulder, CO 80302.
You can find more information about the public hearing here.
Gravel mining on St. Vrain Creek upstream of Longmont would likely increase the risk of flooding, both within the city and in surrounding areas downstream, which would completely defeat the purpose of the Resilient St. Vrain flood mitigation project that Longmont is currently undertaking. This 2014 conference paper by Anthony R. Ladson and Dean A. Judd explains the short and long-term risks of floodplain gravel mining, particularly the likelihood that such mining may alter the flow of flood water and change river channels. As stated in the paper:
A literature review found 37 examples where rivers had broken into gravel mines and the resulting river response had led to bed and bank erosion and threats to infrastructure.
A river is likely to jump tracks into a gravel pond because water follows the path of least resistance. When this happens, it increases the likelihood of damage. In 2013, this was perfectly illustrated when St. Vrain Creek diverted through the former gravel pits at Pella Crossing Open Space in Hygiene as described in this Times Call letter to the editor by Richard Cargill.
Please consider attending the public hearing on Wednesday, June 6 to voice your concerns regarding Martin Marietta’s gravel mining operation.
According to an interview with former FEMA director Craig Fugate, some of the most populous areas of Colorado, including Boulder County, are likely to see more and worse flooding as a result of the current drought. Fugate points to Fort Collins’ program to buy up land in the flood plain as green space as one way to protect against flood damage to homes and businesses.
Our over-reaching concern is keeping the St. Vrain Creek corridor as natural as possible and we’re concerned that economic development will trump wildlife, ecosystem, and public health and safety. If you’re in agreement, please submit comments to the City including the following points:
+ Biological surveys & studies are needed to identify habitat and species along the creek corridor and to designate sensitive areas for habitat and species protection. We need data/science including expert professional opinions in order to plan well.
Specific to the Blueprint Plan for Development: All development in Longmont is required to be based on the 3-legged stool (Environment, Social, and Economic) criteria. The Blueprint is primarily an economic plan.
+The City is updating our Land Use Code, which won’t be ready for City Council until 2018. The blueprint could require major revisions, so what’s the rush with bringing it forward now for City Council consideration on Sept. 26, 2017???
+This plan is premature—the City does not currently have flood mitigation plans finalized for west of the railroad crossing (east of Sunset/Isaak Walton) nor who will pay for this…
+Building in the flood plain (even with mitigation) is unwise. There have been 11 flood events in this corridor in the last 100 years. It’s logical there will be another flood in our lifetime.
+The Longmont Comprehensive Plan needs to be revised to reflect post-2013 flood realities relative to this corridor. To do otherwise puts people & property in harm’s way & puts taxpayers on-the-hook in terms of $$ for recovery.
+The City must hold firm to the 150-foot riparian setback as designated in the City’s Land Development Standards for any and all proposed new OR re-development along creek. Especially essential is not allowing developers to be granted the variances they are certain to request.
+We must preserve St. Vrain Creek as a wildlife movement corridor and as a natural area by not allowing lighting along the path (wildlife moves at night) & limiting noise (i.e. Lefthand Brewery’s designs to expand with decks, more music etc.).
+We must preserve as many mature trees as is possible for creek health (cooling). Riparian and aquatic habitat including several rare and native fish in our creek have been identified by CPW as having “immense conservation value to the State of Colorado.”
+Development along our St. Vrain corridor is a HUGE game changer for the residents of Longmont. Therefore, much more public participation is needed. Perhaps a vote of the people is in order??