During the first week of August, 2022, CVEPA received a number of complaints from concerned residents of the Crystal Valley regarding a project along the Crystal River by the Marble Airstrip involving multiple pieces of heavy equipment. Complaints described extensive “re-engineering” and excavation of the river and both banks. Reports indicated that approximately 250 yards of the river course had been straightened and all vegetation removed from the channel and banks.
A visit to the Airstrip confirmed the presence of large machinery at the river. However, no public notices or permits of any kind were posted in the area.
On Monday, August 8, CVEPA contacted Gunnison County to express concern and inquire about permits. Gunnison County said they were unaware of the project but, at CVEPA’s request, sent an officer to investigate. On August 12, Gunnison County Community Development issued a stop work order (SWO) to Marble Airfield LLC, the owner of the airstrip property, which outlined a number of violations to the county land use resolution regarding unpermitted development work within a riverbank’s inner buffer or in a floodplain. The SWO gave the LLC until August 26 to either submit appropriate applications for the project or a plan for remediation and rehabilitation of the site – that is, for returning the site to its prior condition.
CVEPA also attempted to contact the USACE (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), after a resident indicated that USACE had permitted the project. An equipment operator reportedly said the USACE was aware of the work. However, the USACE Durango office replied that they were unable to find an application for the project. USACE said a “courtesy” pre-construction notification of work, or informal PCN, was received by USACE from ERO Resources Corp in December 2021 on behalf of the property owner. ERO “specialize in natural resource and environmental assessment, planning and permitting.” USACE said they have been attempting to contact the consultant.
When asked, Colorado Parks and Wildlife voiced their concern and surprise at the extent of the reported riverbank development work.
Because the Marble airfield is owned by an LLC, it is difficult to determine the real parties in interest. However, when the property was sold to Marble Airfield LLC in 2014, a Statement of Authorization was filed with Gunnison County indicating that a Richard D. Chapman, Assistant Secretary for the LLC was authorized to act for the company with a mailing address in Bentonville, Arkansas. Mr. Chapman is reportedly the CFO of Walton Enterprises and oversees all aspects of the Walton Family Office in Arkansas.
CVEPA has asked Gunnison County to make public any subsequent permit application(s) that are filed for riverbank development work by the Marble Airfield LLC or adjacent property owners, and to provide an opportunity for public input.
The extent of the riverbank “re-engineering” work in the Crystal River surpasses anything seen to this date.
Righting a Wrong on the Crystal River in Marble - Aspen Daily News article by Scott Condon
Heavy Equipment Moved from Red-Tagged Project in Marble - Aspen Daily News article by Scott Condon
Army Corps of Engineers Says Marble Airstrip Work is Non-Compliant - Aspen Journalism article by Heather Sackett
Complaint Leads to Stop Work Order on Crystal River Project- Aspen Daily News article by Scott Condon
Gunnison County Stop Work Order - Open PDF