Both County Administrator Connie Hunt and County Planner Mark Castrodale met with Mt. Sneffels Mining Co. representatives on March 8, explaining that the Ouray County Land Use Code states that any site development and/or exploration that result in surface disturbance of one acre or more in the Alpine Zone is allowed by a Special Use Permit.
The mining company, which currently operates the small Ruby Trust Mine, has filed a Plan of Operations with the U.S. Forest Service and a Notice of Intent to conduct exploration with the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety. They plan to conduct drilling exploration for gold and silver on 27 different surface sites in a 145-acre area of patented mining claims and another 550 acres of unpatented holdings.
According to Castrodale, it is the position of the mining company that because each pad site will be less than one acre, no Special Use Permit should be required.
“We look at this as one project, as the Forest Service does and the state does,” Castrodale said. “The proposed number of pads is 27 and if you add them up along with the roads associated with it, you end up with more than one acre of impact area. That’s the way we look at it.”
According to Castrodale’s report to the Ouray Board of County Commissioners, the company had asked if the county would wait one week before sending them a letter stating the county’s position, to allow them time to discuss the issue with their attorney. After a week, Castrodale drafted the letter and sent it off.
Castrodale said the mining company representatives were possibly going back to the drawing board to eliminate some sites to bring the total acreage below one acre. Their other option, he said, is to appeal the administrator’s opinion with the Board of Zoning Adjustment.
“Right now, the ball is in their court to figure out what they want to do,” Castrodale said.
The exploration plan encompasses approximately 60,000-75,000 feet of diamond drilling at a cost of over $5 million. According to the plan, four drill rigs will be employed, running 24-hours a day, seven days-a-week. Extracted cores will be stored, evaluated and processed at the Ruby Trust Mine and Mt. Sneffels Mining Co. assay lab in Ouray.
During each eight-hour shift, most drill rigs will be manned by a driller and a helper. The exploration project will employ a total of 35 to 40 people on top of the 12 to 15 employees already working at the Ruby Trust Mine.
Child Welfare Spending Is Unpredictable
Ouray County Director of Social Services Allan Gerstle informed the Ouray Board of County Commissioners on Monday that he just received a letter from the state indicating that current fiscal year funding for child welfare is going to decrease by $2,000.
The county was previously set to receive $140,000, which has now been reduced to $138,000. Gerstle told the commissioners that small counties like Ouray County, with only one child welfare caseworker, have a special designation and are protected by the state for up to $235,000 in spending.
“Last year we spent $233,000,” Gerstle said, “and as long as we stay in that $235,000 amount, we are going to receive that funding from the state.” If the county goes over that mark, he said, the county will get thrown into a bigger pool with middle size counties and will not receive the additional protection funding.
While he said his department has a healthy child welfare balance, it’s hard to control what kind of spending may soon come.
“Child welfare is the most problematic to the county because we have the least control on what happens to families in crisis,” he said. “Currently we have two children in placement but if we got a call and had to go out on a child welfare case and to place more children [in foster care], those are real costs and it could be thousands of dollars a month.”
Gerstle told the commissioners that he was there to explain how that system works and what could happen if the county receives enough cases to go over $235,000 in child welfare spending.
Gerstle did say that phone and foot traffic into both Ouray and San Miguel county social services departments is “quieting down.
“In both counties traffic has been less in the last couple of weeks,” he said. “I don’t know the reason and we are trying to figure out why that is.”