Several strong arguments against the Little Fishes mining project have gotten almost no attention so far. Applicants and supporters claim the final fish ponds would improve the environment. Yet professional biologists at the Colorado Division of Wildlife wrote this negative assessment: “While off-channel ponds create aquatic habitat for some species, the CDOW is not convinced that the … project is an improvement over the current riparian condition.”
Second, there’s an unknown risk concerning the behavior of future floods at the site, and how these floods would interact with the ponds. Would fish in the river be affected? Would altered flood routing change the river or damage nearby properties? The applicants have planned to reduce these risks, but active maintenance would be needed forever to minimize them (even so, some risk will remain).
Unfortunately, no regulator has the power to require maintenance after the mined area has been reclaimed. Any mistakes or delays in maintenance could affect others. After a few decades, will future owners know and do the right thing? One planner agreed the project carries long-term risks but said the county cannot regulate them. Effectively, these risks would be assumed by neighbors, river users and the general public.
Sure, the applicants deserve to use their property and make money. But no other mining operation in the county would have such large impacts on so many surrounding homes. Many people believe this project is incompatible with the county code.
I urge you to speak against this project at the BOCC hearing today and to support more specific restrictions in the new county code.
Mary Gillam, Durango