Rural Conservation Alliance--Santa Fe County, NM

RCA NEWS--January 13, 2017

"Small" Gravel Mining Regulations adopted


Suggested amendments to the Santa Fe County Code were adopted December 13 after a 6-month review of the code. The great efforts of concerned citizens resulted in essential progress in strengthening the "small" gravel mining regulations. The Commissioners support was unanimous for setbacks and also for determining limits to the duration of mining activities, both for the public welfare.

The issue of the acreage size of a small mine remains set at (less than) 10 acres. Current Staff appears to be ready to encourage containing via GPSing an affected area nearer to 5 acres and committed to site inspections. However, because Staff members change, we want to see these commitments described in the code to direct a future Staff. Either that or a formal reduction of the size of a small mine to under 5 acres. Keep in simple.



NEWS Posted October 13, 2016

It's very important that citizens and organizations concerned about possible environmental impacts of mining educate the Commission members by advocating for the "small" mining amendments, especially by amending the current 10 acre cut-off to no more than a 5 acre limit for "small" mines. See and download Mining Engineer Jim Kuipers's Memo with an Example Layout showing that five acres for a 20,000 ton gravel mining operation is sufficient in size. Other rationales, below.

Since public input is limited (Planning Commission members contact information are not made available) this makes it all the more important to attend the public hearing this Thursday. Check the agenda on the Events Calendar which should be posted soon.

NEWS Posted September 24, 2016: At the BCC meeting (9/13/16) there were encouraging responses from all the commissioners on 2 of our 3 proposed amendments related to small mines for which we are grateful. Special thanks to Commissioner Stefanics for helping to accomplishing the two amendments. Thanks to ALL the Commissioners for their support. Special thanks to those of you who attended!

Details Plus Mining Engineer Memo & Example Layout Showing Five Acres is Sufficient.

--All 5 commissioners are positive about our proposed 1,000 foot setback from residential structures.

--They are also positive that the duration period for "small mines" be limited to 2 years. County staff was also proposing that an operator could request an extension that might require a public hearing. That's good. But we had proposed that a definite limit of 6 months at most be applied to an extension, if granted.

--CONCERNING THE ACREAGE OF A SMALL MINE--although several commissioners were advocating for the "less than 5 acres" rather than 10 acres, there was no clear consensus. Staff was not convinced that there would be enough room for the staging of the mining. But Staff had not absorbed a mining engineer's rule of thumb suggesting 50% of the area is actually mined "at any given time." The staging area can shift in location over previously extracted areas. This also assumes that the resource is in sufficient abundance (depth) and the mining extraction is thought out, well planned. Five acres is easily enough space for the staging, the extraction and processing (crushing, sifting & trucking) of 20,000 tons of gravel over a 2 year period. See and download Mining Engineer Jim Kuipers's Memo with an Example Layout showing that five acres for a 20,000 ton gravel mining operation is sufficient in size.


The Santa Fe New Mexican has long agreed. From Aug 10, 2015 Editorial: "Commissioner Liz Stefanics has expressed concerns about whether 10 acres is the right size to trigger a project's classification as a development with countywide impact. We agree that 5 acres is a better trigger point."

[Checked off] Are you ok with a gravel mine crushing stone only 200 feet from your property line?

We thought not! Rather, a 1,000 foot setback would be better.

        Setbacks precedence: There are plenty of examples of 1,000 foot setbacks from residential: Robert Freilich, the consultant who directed the writing of the county's oil/gas ordinance, in his book, 21st Century Land Development Code, recommends a "separation distance" of 1,000 feet with or without buffer; also 1,000 feet from sand & gravel mines is also used in Rio Arriba County's Ordinance 2000-02; Jim Kuipers, P.E. mining engineer retained by citizens to aid Staff and county consultants, notes that Olathe City, Kansas too supports the 1,000 foot setback and Mr. Kuipers states that "everything [he] knows suggests that should be a minimum for a variety of reasons". County Staff has been provided with the source documents of these precedence.

[Checked off] And do you think that a small scale mine even with limits on tonnage should have NO LIMITS IN DURATION?

Again, no. Perhaps a nearby resident could live with a small operation with a 1,000
foot setback knowing that it would be limited to a two-year time period.

        Concerning duration, consultant, Jim Kuipers' observations concerning precedents on the duration of small operations are in part as follows: "The most common federal and state regs for small miners limit production to 10,000 tons per year." In consideration for the county's rural residents, limiting the duration of the production period of a small mine to two years, is time enough for a 20,000 ton extraction operation. See Kuipers, July 14, 2016.

[Still unresolved] Do you think a "small scale" extraction area "that affects less than 10 acres of land
and extracts less than 20,000 tons of construction material...." [or ~524 truck & pup trailer loads] is "small"?

Perhaps not so small after all. Take 5! Under five acres is a better fit for a 20,000 ton limit, reducing the affected area of disturbance.

        A clearly marked mine zone of the affected area must be confined to under five acres (as county consultants indicated would be the case if they also require 200 foot setbacks from the affected area within the mine zone to the zone's boundary, but this is not yet outlined in the regs). Under 5 acres is a better fit and more compatible with the specified 20,000 ton limit. Other counties including Rio Arriba consider a 2 acre mine limit a small mine. Again, see the math. Environmental and reclamation concerns could be better focused and managed in a designated less than 5 acre zone. Designing an operation will consequently be more practical for the mining companies to envision and follow and for the county to enforce.

What else is needed?

More empathy for the welfare of the residents of rural Santa Fe County.


ACTIONS: 1) Attend hearings, 2) Send a note to your Commissioner (see sample below), 3) Send letter to Editor: (150 words) to . Letter writer's name, address and phone number required.

--Write a note to your Commissioner to let her/him know that you believe an under 5 acres mine zone is a better fit than 10 and more compatible with the specified 20,000 extraction ton limit. Find your District and Commissioner here. Then select the one:

District 1: Commissioner Henry Roybal <>
District 2: Commissioner Miguel M. Chavez <>
District 3: Commissioner Robert A. Anaya <>
District 4: Commissioner Kathy Holian <>
District 5: Commissioner Liz Stefanics <>

SAMPLE NOTE (best in your own words):

Email Subject: SLDC Six Month Review Input / 10.19. Small Scale Sand & gravel Extraction Mines

Dear Commissioner ___last name here__ ,

As a resident from your District I wish to thank you for standing with the rural residents of Santa Fe County by supporting mining setbacks from residential structures and for placing a limited duration for small mines in the county code (SLDC) amendments.

But I remain very concerned about the 10 acre size of these mines classified as "small" and want you to please sponsor & support the needed amendment to keep small mines to under 5 acres.

Please listen to the mining engineer's testimony on this. An affected area and mine zone of under five rather than 10 acres is a fit more compatible with the specified 20,000 ton extraction limit. An affected area (including staging) with operational planning and layout confined to under 5 acres will lessen environmental impacts and reclamation needs. It will also be easier for the county to regulate. Remember that other counties--Rio Arriba is one--in the attempt to likewise safeguard residents, stipulate that a small mine is one that does not exceed 2 acres. Five is Plenty.


[Your Name and Address]



To: the Santa Fe County Sustainable Land Development Code (SLDC download).
To: Chapter 11: Developments of Countywide Impact (DCIs)

10.19. SMALL SCALE SAND AND GRAVEL EXTRACTION. [10.19. is complete below with a few links to PDFs of code references].

10.19.1. Applicability. This section applies to any mineral extraction activity for construction materials, including but not limited to, stone, sand, gravel, aggregate, or similar naturally occurring construction materials that affects less than 10 acres of land and extracts less than 20,000 tons of construction material and does not use blasting. Such activity shall be allowed where permitted by the Use Table [mining], Exhibit B, subject to approval of a conditional use permit (§ 14.9.6.) and the additional requirements of this section. If the extraction activity requires blasting, then this section shall not apply and the operation will be treated as a Development of Countywide Impact under Chapter 11.

     [Note that Chapter 11 was adopted as Article XVII Developments of Countywide Impact (DCIs). Compare "10.19. Small Scale Sand & Gravel Extraction" with NM State "Minimal Impact Operations" here.]

10.19.2. Related Uses. Related office and material processing activity may be permitted at the sand and gravel extraction sites where approved as part of the conditional use permit and constructed and operated in compliance with the SLDC and so long as the use is consistent. [Sustainable Land Development Code, download complete code: Here MB]

10.19.3. Application. In addition to the submittal requirements for a conditional use permit (§14.9.6.), including any studies, reports and assessments required by Table 6-1 [SRAs defined & NMDOT Access Manual] an application for approval of a small scale sand and gravel extraction activity shall include the following: Operations Plan. An operations plan for the small scale sand and gravel activity consisting of the following:
          1. Maps, plans, graphics, descriptions, timetables, and reports which correlate and specify:
                   a. a detailed description of the method(s) or technique(s) to be employed in each stage of the activity where any surface disturbance will occur;
                   b. the size and location of area(s) to be disturbed, which includes excavations, overburden spoils, topsoil stockpiles, driveways and roads;
                   c. pursuant to the standards of §7.17 (Terrain Management), a description of all earthmoving activities, including backfilling of cuts and leveling or compaction of overburden;
                   d. if applicable, the location and size of all water diversions and impoundments or discharge of water used in extraction activity;
                   e. areas to be used for storage of equipment and vehicles;
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                   f. location and size of any structures;
                   g. areas designated to be reclaimed;
                   h. hours of operation and, if applicable, a description of outdoor lighting; and
                   i. fire protection plans.
          2. A description of how construction materials will be processed on and/or
removed from the site.
          3. A description of how each phase of exploration or extraction correlates to the reclamation plan.
          4. A timetable for each phase of extraction operations and reclamation.
          5. A description of the steps to be taken to comply with applicable air and water quality laws and regulations and any applicable health and safety standards.
          6. A drainage control plan showing methods which will be utilized to avoid erosion on and adjacent to the site.
          7. A description of all hazardous materials to be used and transported in connection with the small scale sand and gravel extraction activity and a description of steps that will be taken to insure that the use of such materials will have no adverse impact on the residents or environment of Santa Fe County.
          8. A description of the projected noise to be generated and an explanation of how the operator will comply with the requirements of §7.21.4 (Noise).
          9. A statement concerning compliance, as applicable, with regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Operational Standards and Requirements.
          1. State Permits. All small scale sand and gravel extraction activities shall submit all required state permits, FEMA and/or Army Corps of Engineers permits with the conditional use permit application.
          2. Hours of Operation. Hours of operation are limited to the period between sunrise or 7:00 a.m. whichever is latest, and sunset or 6:00 p.m., whichever is earliest, Monday through Saturday.
          3. Water Supply. Extraction and filling of a reservoir shall not infringe on a downstream appropriator's rights.
          4. Project Traffic Impacts:
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                   a. All roads carrying small scale sand and gravel extraction related traffic shall conform to the requirements of Section 7.11 (Road Design Standards) of the SLDC.
                   b. Transportation Facility Improvements. An analysis of all roads accessing the site shall be submitted to the County with detailed information concerning the ability of the roads to adequately support the projected traffic, including projected weight of vehicles for 20 years or the life of the small scale sand and gravel extraction activity. Cost of all improvements required, on and off-site, shall be borne entirely by the applicant.
                   c. Trip Generation. The Planning Commission may establish a maximum number of truck trips allowed to enter and exit a processing location.
                   d. Traffic Counts. Traffic counts at the entrance of the operation may be required.
                   e. Designation of construction and haul routes. The application shall designate proposed truck haul and traffic routes that shall be subject to limitation by the Planning Commission, which proposal shall:
                        i. identify the primary haul route including existing road conditions;
                        ii. identify residential areas, commercial areas, environmentally and visually sensitive areas, schools and other civic buildings along the haul route,
                        iii. identify alternative routes;
                        iv. identify the timing of truck haul traffic; and
                        v. include a fugitive dust plan for designated routes to prevent loss of
loads and fugitive dust during transportation.
          5. Project Description. The applicant shall provide a detailed statement describing the proposed small scale sand and gravel extraction activity including:
                   a.The amount and type of materials to be excavated;
                   b. Duration of the excavation activity and reclamation activity;
                   c. The proposed method of excavation;
                   d. The amount of fill to remain on site; and
                   e. A statement from a New Mexico professional engineer indicating the type of material(s) to be excavated and their suitability for road and structural fill construction.
[Page] 10 - 27
          6. Access. Adequate and available access required per Section 7.4 (Access and Easements) of the SLDC.
          7. Visual Screening Measures. Visual screening, which shall include all phases, is required per Section 7.6 (Landscaping and Buffering) of the SLDC plus the following standards:
                   a. General. The view from all public roads, rivers, parks, open space and adjoining residential areas shall be screened.
                   b. Buildings. All buildings' design, scale, and location shall be minimized.
                   c. Surrounding Vegetation. Any vegetation on site that can act as screening of the extraction area shall be preserved, including vegetation existing in the required setbacks.
          8. Lighting. All small scale sand and gravel extraction activity must comply with Section 7.8 (Lighting) of the SLDC.
          9. Signs. All small scale sand and gravel extraction activity must comply with Section 7.9 (Signs) of the SLDC, but are limited to two signs of 4 square feet each.
          10. Parking and Loading. All small scale sand and gravel extraction activity must comply with Section 7.10 (Parking and Loading) of the SLDC.
          11. Hazardous Materials. Any fuel, explosives, or other hazardous materials stored on the site shall be contained within an impoundment structure.
          12. Wildlife. Protection is required for critical environmental resources including wetlands, riparian areas, and important wildlife habitats.
                   a. Any modification of the terrain within a floodplain area shall be environmentally sound and not result in net loss of wildlife habitat.
                   b. All small scale sand and gravel extraction activity shall be limited to locations and times of year that ensure no significant negative impacts to federally listed endangered species.
                   c. No small scale sand and gravel extraction activity shall interrupt a wildlife corridor.
          13. Protection of Historic and Archaeological Resources. Any application for small scale sand and gravel extraction activity shall submit an archaeological report conforming to the requirements of Section 7.16.3 (Protection of Historic and Archaeological Resources) of the SLDC.
          14. Terrain Management. Requirements of Section 7.17 (Terrain Management) of the SLDC shall be met.
                   a. Removal of Organic Materials. Fill areas shall be properly prepared by removing organic materials, such as vegetation and rubbish, and any
[page] 10 - 28
other material which is detrimental to the proper compaction of the site or not otherwise conducive to the stability of the site.
                   b. Site Vegetation Removal and Revegetation. The removal of existing vegetation shall not occur more than 30 days prior to the commencement of grading; however, permanent revegetation shall be commenced as soon as practical after the completion of grading. Site specific native seed mixtures shall be used to revegetate all disturbed areas with the exception of lawn and landscaped areas if any. Mulching shall be used in order to assure vegetation growth.
                   c. Topsoil, Stripping, Stockpiling, and Redistribution. The existing topsoil shall be stripped and stockpiled on site for redistribution over the completed final grade.
                   d. Cut and Fill Slopes. Cut and fill slopes shall be graded to a slope no steeper than 2:1, or 50%, to allow for permanent revegetation or landscaping unless a retaining wall is used or a steeper slope is approved by the County. The County may require the submission of a detailed engineering report and analysis prepared by a professional engineer or landscape architect relative to the safety of such cuts and fills, if necessary considering soil type, soil stability, and any proposed structures.
          15. Sediment and Erosion Control. Practices for sediment and erosion control shall be designed, constructed and maintained to mitigate further entry of sediment to streams, lakes, ponds, or any land outside the permit area. Where applicable, sediment and erosion control measures to prevent degradation of the environment shall be instituted and consist of utilization of proper reclamation methods and sediment control practices including, but not limited to:
                   a. grading material to reduce the rate and volume of run-off;
                   b. retaining sediment within the pit and disturbed area; and,
                   c. establishing temporary vegetation or mulch on short term erosion, sedimentation or windblown dust.
          16. Air Quality and Noise.
                   a. The requirements of Section 7.21 (Air Quality and Noise) of the SLDC shall be met; however, only a preliminary air quality report is required for submittal with the application. Once approved, a final air quality permit is required prior to commencement of any activity on the site.
                   b. Noise Study. A noise study showing the projected noise from the specific equipment to be used is required to be submitted with the application. Such noise study shall provide a baseline of three consecutive weekdays representative of existing conditions.
[page] 10 - 29
                   c. Fugitive Dust Control. Dust control is required for all active small scale sand and gravel activity.
                        i. The presence of fugitive dust at a small scale sand and gravel extraction activity is attributable to earth moving, soil or surface disturbance, construction or demolition; movement of motorized vehicles on any paved or unpaved roadway or surface, right-of-way, lot or parking area; and the tracking out or transport of bulk material (i.e., sand, gravel, soil, aggregate, or any other inorganic or organic material capable of creating fugitive dust related to extraction activities) onto any paved or unpaved roadway in Santa Fe County.
                        ii. Fugitive dust consists of airborne particulate matter from a source, resulting in particulate matter emissions that can be detected by the human eye.
                        iii. Dust control measures include but are not limited to the use of wet suppression through manual or mechanical application; the use of fabric fencing material or equivalent that shall be a minimum of 24 inches in height and anchored 6 inches below the surface on the bottom edge installed around the perimeter of the disturbed surface area; the use of dump truck tarps; and the use of chemical dust suppressant applied in amounts, frequency, and rates recommended by the manufacturer.
                        iv. In no circumstances shall a small scale sand and gravel extraction operator continue extraction activity during a high wind event.
                        v. All small scale sand and gravel extraction activity shall incorporate an entry/exit apron, steel grates, or other equivalent devices capable of removing bulk material from the tires of vehicle traffic.
                       vi. An applicant for a small scale sand and gravel extraction activity conditional use permit shall submit a fugitive dust control plan as part of the application. The fugitive dust plan must detail the control measures the operator intends to use to reduce the quantity of visible fugitive dust, transported material, temporary cessation of activity during a high wind event and track-out leaving the property or area under the control of the operator.
          17. Setbacks.
                   a. 200 feet from all property lines.
[200 foot setbacks are not enough for the public welfare. According to Robert Freilich, they should be at least 1,000 FEET from "residential" structures.]
                   b. 200 feet from all public road rights-of-way, public recreational easements, and environmentally sensitive lands.
[page] 10 - 30
                   c. Vegetation within the setbacks from the property boundary shall be preserved and supplemented, as necessary, for mitigation of negative impacts. Existing native vegetation on the entire operation site shall be preserved to the maximum extent possible.
[Is "the property boundary" the mining zone's? Is there a specified 200 foot setback within the mining zone between the zone's edge and the affected area? If so, from what boundary is the 200 foot setback to public road rights-of-ways? All these--property lines, property boundaries, mining zone boundary lines--need to be defined or clarified.]
          18. Protection from Trespassing. The proposed use shall be fenced in accordance with the standards in Section 7.7. (Fences and walls) of the SLDC, for health and safety protection.
          19. Height. Any equipment used for small scale sand and gravel extraction activity must meet the height standards for the zoning district in which it is located. Height shall be measured from existing grade prior to commencement of any grading activity on the site, and shall also conform to the height measurement requirements of Section
          20. Activities In or Near Water Bodies.
                   a. Uncontrolled/Natural Watercourses. When working near uncontrolled, or naturally flowing, watercourses, the proposed activity shall be conducted in a manner that improves fisheries and waterfowl habitat. This requirement shall apply to any water body, which shall include: naturally occurring rivers, streams, ponds, lakes, seasonal streams and seasonal lakes.
                   b. Minimum Buffer. A minimum 100 foot buffer of natural vegetation between the water's edge and any small scale sand and gravel extraction activity site is required.
                   c. No Negative Impact. No extraction shall be permitted that is deemed by the County to have a negative impact on the water body or neighbors.
          21. Solid Waste. All small scale sand and gravel extraction activity must comply with Section 7.20 (Solid Waste) of the SLDC.
          22. Water Supply and Liquid Waste. All small scale sand and gravel extraction activity must comply with the requirements of Section 7.13 (Water Supply, Wastewater and Water Conservation) of the SLDC.
          23. Phasing. All phases shall be clearly staked prior to commencement of any activity on the property. The applicant must GPS all stakes and make them digitally available to the County upon request in GIS format based on the standard Santa Fe County GIS spatial reference.
                   a. Only one phase of the development shall be excavated at a time. Reclamation Plan, Bonding and Financial Guarantee. A reclamation plan shall be provided that is designed and certified by a New Mexico registered professional engineer or landscape architect, and meets the reclamation standards specified below in Section The plan shall restrict extraction activity to areas of workable size so that no area is left
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inactive and un-reclaimed for more than 60 days, unless approved by the conditional use permit. The plan shall specify any phasing of reclamation and estimate the cost of the entire reclamation project. A financial guarantee shall be posted to implement the reclamation plan at 125% of expected cost of the reclamation. The reclamation plan does not replace a landscape plan that may be required for any subsequent development of the gravel processing and extraction site. Reclamation Standards. The reclamation plan shall comply with the following standards:
          1. General. Reclamation shall restore land areas to a condition suitable for new land uses. Wildlife habitat shall be restored in a manner comparable or better, to the habitat conditions that existed prior to the small scale sand and gravel activity. In general, all slopes shall be graded to 3:1 or flatter to promote revegetation.
          2. Grading. Disturbed areas shall be re-graded to blend into and conform to the general natural form and contours of the adjacent areas. In general, all slopes (cut or fill) shall be graded to 3:1 or flatter. Such methods must be approved as part of the reclamation plan.
          3. Revegetation of all disturbed areas is required. The reclamation plan shall describe the vegetation prior to any grading of the site and shall demonstrate how the site will be returned to its original, or better vegetated condition.
          4. Small scale sand and gravel extraction activity shall be allowed to progress so long as the disturbed areas within previous phases have been reclaimed within 6 months after the commencement of the new phase; provided that, the County will consider extensions due to weather conditions and taking into account seasonal changes. Reclamation shall commence within 30 days of the commencement of a new phase of extraction.
          5. Prior to Approval of Reclamation Study. In no case shall a location and time of excavation be approved that may have negative impacts on any state or federally designated endangered or threatened species, or critical habitat. Annual Operating Plan and Monitoring Report. An annual operating plan and monitoring report, capable of audit, shall be prepared and submitted to the Land Use Administrator by January 31st each year. The report shall summarize the operations of the previous year including number of truck trips and sizes of trucks, the area mined, quantities mined in tonnage and cubic yards, the amount of area undergoing reclamation, and the success of reclamation including any notices of violation issued and their outcome. Existing small scale sand and gravel extraction uses. Any small scale sand and gravel extraction activity existing prior to January 1, 1981 and having been in continuous operation, may continue operations and may expand up to 25% beyond the area currently and formerly mined on that parcel.Any small scale sand and gravel extraction activity approved by the County prior to the adoption of this SLDC may continue operations in accordance with their final County approvals. Any new phase or further expansion proposed, not previously approved, shall comply with this SLDC.
[End of 10.19.]

To: Developments of Countywide Impact (DCIs) Article XVII of the SLDC as recorded. On August 11, 2015, the Board enacted Ordinance 2015-7 and established regulations for landfills, junkyards and sand and gravel mining of 10 acres and over. Again, as in the "small" sand and gravel regs, it's our opinion that the operation setbacks in Article XVII (10.3.18-2) of only "500 feet from all public road rights-of-way, public recreational easements [parks?] and environmentally sensitive lands" are NOT adequate. There are no time or tonnage limits on DCI gravel mines, and even 1,000 foot setbacks which we are advocating, might be cutting it close. These regs do have a 1/2 mile setback to residential structures which is a good start.



To: Mitigating the Effects of Gravel Mining upon Rural New Mexico and Alternative Materials in Road Construction

Posted for the public by the Rural Conservation Alliance, an alliance of community organizations and individuals
dedicated to the preservation and protection of the natural resources and rural character
of the Galisteo Basin area of Santa Fe County, New Mexico.


--Any comments opinions: RCA, c/o POB 245, Cerrillos, NM 87010--

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Page Updated Jan. 13, 2017