After reporting unauthorized dumping of highway debris on USFS land in 2007, CVEPA has worked with the Colorado Department of Transportation and the United States Forest Service to develop an appropriate long-term dump location at the foot of McClure Pass.
Since the initial report and adoption of the management plan, the government entities have failed to complete visual screening of the site. CDOT plans an extensive rock scaling project on the upper Crystal in 2021 as well as a long 16’ tall retaining wall for slide material at Penny Hot Springs. CVEPA applauds these proactive efforts but cannot endorse the work until CDOT honors their commitment to finish the rock dump project which is four years overdue.
Highway 133 Road Debris Disposal Site
Since 2009, CVEPA has been working with the Forest Service and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to find a replacement site and develop detailed operating rules for a new Highway 133 rock dump site for the upper Crystal River Valley. In spring and through the summer months, roadside rock and debris is collected by CDOT and hauled to a local dump site. After a review of candidate sites for the upper Crystal, the inside of the horseshoe turn below the summit of McClure pass was chosen for the next generation rock dump site.
This area is an artificial depression created when the highway was constructed in 1964. Most of this land is owned by the Forest Service, so any agreement for its use by CDOT must be approved by both. CVEPA’s role has been to work with these stakeholders to develop a plan that minimizes the environmental impact and to the best extent possible, protects the view plane for passing motorists. In July 2015, both CDOT and the Forest Service signed off on a long term use and re-vegetation agreement for the new dump site.
The Placita Site
Use of the old 3-acre rock dump site at Placita was discontinued in 2014 and most of the land contouring and revegetation has since been completed. CDOT discontinued use of this site because of the visual impact and threat of silt being washed into the Crystal River. A small area at the south end which has been used for the storage of large rocks remains, and will be decommissioned and re-vegetated when a replacement area is developed at the new horseshoe site.
The Horseshoe Site
The new 9-acre site at the horseshoe bend below McClure Pass is estimated to have a life of between 20 and 50 years. CVEPA has worked with CDOT and the Forest Service to create ground-breaking revegetation and Use of Operations plans that will make this a model for future fill-sites in Colorado. Since the horseshoe is in the critical viewshed of the West Elk Scenic Byway, CDOT landscape architects created a comprehensive document entitled Plan of Development, which defines a wide range of details for revegetation and screening. Overall, the plan requires that highway debris be dumped in 1-acre parcels at a time. When each such site is filled, that area will then be re-vegetated and dumping will move to the next adjacent site. A total of seven 1-acre dump parcels have been mapped out in the horseshoe site.
Screening will be accomplished with a combination of earthen berms, bushes and native trees around the periphery on the south and east sides of the site. Berms are a key component of the visual screening. They will have irregular heights ranging from 6 to 10 feet to provide a natural screen/buffer between the highway and the fill site. In order to reduce wildlife-vehicle accidents, a native grass mix will be used that is not attractive to elk or deer. Trees and shrubs will be planted after the seeding has taken root.
In the spring of 2016 a proposal was submitted to CDOT and the USFS for CVEPA to initiate the first phase of revegetation at the Horseshoe site. Under our proposal, CVEPA would provide the manpower to plant trees and bushes on the existing berms and spread a native seed mix on the large exposed area between the berms and the highway. The USFS will provide the trees, bushes and native grass seed. This proposal will first have to be approved by both CDOT and the USFS.