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CBMR reservoir in process of wetlands permitting

“ Crescent Lake will be beneficial whether Snodgrass happens or not”

Not all the recent activity at Crested Butte Mountain Resort is taking place on the hill. The resort’s planning department continues to make preparations for future developments like the North Village and Snodgrass, and has applied to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers for a wetlands impact permit for the proposed Crescent Lake Reservoir.

 

CBMR is planning a 60-milliongallon
reservoir called Crescent Lake
that would be located near the center
of North Village, a 1,100-unit development
that has not been officially
proposed to the town of Mt. Crested
Butte. Crescent Lake would have
a surface area of approximately 8.7
acres, roughly larger than the resort’s
main parking lot.
CBMR planning director John
Sale says Crescent Lake is primarily
needed to store water for snowmaking,
both on the main mountain and
on the proposed Snodgrass expansion.
“Crescent Lake will be beneficial
whether Snodgrass happens or
not. We cannot add any more snowmaking
without some sort of a buffer
pond,” Sale says.
The resort currently has approval
for 50 acres of additional
snowmaking on the main mountain
as part of a master improvements
plan that was approved by the U.S.
Forest Service last fall, but the new
reservoir is needed to provide the
additional water.
Sale says the U.S. Army Corps
permit accounts for wetlands that
would be disturbed by Crescent
Lake, as well as other developments
in the proposed North Village. “It’s
all tied into one package,” Sale says.
Altogether there are 3.94 acres of
wetlands that may be affected.
Sale says CBMR has been monitoring
the wetlands for several years
and has hired the Boulder firm Western
Ecological Resources to develop
wetlands mitigation strategies and
file the permit application.
The Army Corps requires developers
to obtain a permit for disturbing
wetlands or waterways under
section 404 of the Clean Water Act of
1972.
The Corps is accepting public
comments on the wetlands impact
until December 17.
Western Ecological Resources
owner and ecologist David Johnson says federal and state agencies like
the Environmental Protection Agency,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
and Colorado Department of Public
Health and Environment are also
invited to comment on the wetlands
permit. He says some of the agencies,
such as the EPA and Fish and Wildlife
Service, have already toured the
site.
Once the comment period ends,
Johnson says, the Army Corps will
ask CBMR to address any significant
comments before issuing a permit.
High County Citizens’ Alliance
(HCCA) water director Steve Glazer
says the standard procedure for
HCCA is to review and comment on
404 wetlands permits, but they have
not had an opportunity to do so yet.
“We plan on doing that in a timely
manner,” he says.
Mt. Crested Butte community
development director Bill Racek says
the town of Mt. Crested Butte has
also not had time to consider making
comments on the permit, but will
likely end up discussing the permit
later on in the official planning process
for North Village.
Racek is also a Mt. Crested Butte
Water and Sanitation District board
member, and says the District may
discuss the permit at its next meeting.
Sale says most of the affected
wetlands are not historical or natural,
and have been created by nearby
irrigation diversions.
Johnson says irrigation for farming
“over the last 100 to 150 years has
created a lot of wetlands.” But Johnson
says that doesn’t make a big difference
to the Army Corps unless one
can prove that farming irrigation is
the sole source of water in a specific
wetlands area, which CBMR has been
unable to do for the current permit.
Johnson says the permit application
required several different
alternative proposals. He says, “The
alternatives analysis was extensive,”
and included proposals for storing
water in a smaller reservoir on the
main mountain or buying the water
elsewhere.
For mitigation procedures Johnson
says the Army Corps will likely
ask for a combination of on-site measures,
as well as buying credits in a
wetlands bank. A wetlands bank is
where wetlands and wildlife habitat
are artificially created, usually on
nearby ranchland, Johnson says. Developers
can then buy “credits” in a
wetlands bank to serve as mitigation
for new projects. Johnson says part
of the wetlands mitigation will also
entail the development of wetlands
areas on site around the new reservoir.
Sale is not sure how soon the
resort will move forward with constructing
the reservoir, but it probably
won’t be sooner than 2010, since
the reservoir’s location must be approved
by the town of Mt. Crested
Butte as part of the North Village
Planned Unit Development (PUD).
Sale says until that process begins
the resort is holding off making an
application to the state for a hazard
classification approval of the proposed
dam.
Because of the snowmaking
benefit, Sale says, Crescent Lake
could be the first development in the
proposed North Village. “It serves
two purposes, one for snowmaking,
but it could also be a great summer
recreation facility,” he says.
For more information on the
wetlands fill material permit, contact
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Colorado West Regulatory Branch at (970) 243-1199.

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