1. Will the public have a chance to be involved in the process?

Yes — The public will be engaged throughout the exchange process, through open houses, presentations within the local community, meetings with stakeholder groups and direct outreach. This website is the best way to stay up to date and to provide comments to the project team.

2. How are the public’s comments being handled in the exchange?

During this “pre-scoping” period, all comments, questions and feedback received by the land exchange team are being collected and organized into a comment database. Substantive comments will be addressed in a Response to Comment (RTC) document published before scoping begins. The RTC will include “issue statements” that capture the themes or intents of comments that are repetitive but very similar in nature. This approach is used by federal agencies during NEPA scoping periods. MEMC will review and consider public comments as opportunities to incorporate public feedback into the proposed land exchange where appropriate.

3. Will the land exchange include NEPA?

Yes — the NEPA process will begin once the Agreement to Initiate is accepted by the U.S. Forest Service, expected in summer 2022. The public input received before that time will inform the proposal and federal decision-making to that point.

4. Will the change in ownership change the quality or oversight of the water treatment facility?

No — The water treatment facility is still 100% accountable to state and federal water quality standards, exactly the same as it is today. The only ‘layer’ of process that will be removed is having to receive USFS permits for improvements, which have no bearing on the quality of water.

5. Will the land at 3 Peaks Ranch be open to the public post-exchange?

Yes — 3 Peaks Ranch will become public and allow for year-round recreation and enjoyment.

6. What is the importance of 3 Peaks Ranch?

3 Peaks Ranch is an ecologically-rich basin, with a unique riparian corridor and extensive system of beaver ponds. It is known for its abundance of plant and animal species, year-round.

7. What is the relationship of the water rights to the land exchange?

MEMC is addressing this issue through its Diligence Application case in Water Court and expects the land exchange to provide certainty to the process.

8. What is happening to Mt. Emmons water rights on Slate River?

MEMC is addressing this issue through its Diligence Application in Water Court and is working towards determining its water needs from all decreed water sources.

9. What makes the land exchange in the public’s best interest?

The agreement between the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and MEMC will exchange parcels of land with equal value for public benefit. The land to be acquired by the USFS is considered high value and includes Canada lynx, Gunnison sage grouse (both threatened species) as well as elk habitat and cold-water recreational fishing. Additionally, upon completion of the land exchange, a separate conservation easement and mineral extinguishment agreement will be implemented. The easement and agreement will further reinforce the importance of the land exchange to the public’s interest by forever eliminating commercial mining from Mt. Emmons.

10. What is the purpose of the conservation easement and what are its terms?

Upon completion of the land exchange, MEMC will implement a conservation easement and mineral extinguishment agreement that will permanently and forever:

  • Prohibit commercial extractive mining on all MEMC lands post exchange.
  • Prohibit commercial and residential development on all MEMC lands post exchange.
  • Allow for non-motorized public access to higher elevation portions of MEMC land while restricting access for public safety to currently industrialized portions of the MEMC property.

The conservation easement and mineral extinguishment agreements are legally binding and enforceable between MEMC and Crested Butte Land Trust.

11. Did the process take into account feedback from the Town of Crested Butte and Gunnison County?

Yes. MEMC, Crested Butte Land Trust and the USFS solicited and incorporated significant content from the local governments for the land exchange and when drafting the conservation easement and mineral extinguishment language.

12. Do the Town of Crested Butte and Gunnison County have authority over the agreements?

The town and county, while not a party to the agreements between MEMC and the Crested Butte Land Trust, do have the ability to enforce the non-mining and development restriction provisions in the conservation easement, such as year-round non-motorized recreational access and the prohibition of future residential or commercial development. This enforcement authority is expressly granted to the town and county in the conservation easement.

13. Do the governing authorities change as a result of the land exchange?

Operations under the authority of the USFS will no longer be in place following the land exchange. Going forward from the exchange, MEMC, as it has in the past, will continue to conduct its operations in compliance with all governing laws, regulations and ordinances. This includes operation of the water treatment plant in accordance with permits issues by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

14. What is the timeline for the land exchange?

We anticipate the land exchange process will continue throughout 2022 with extensive opportunity for public input through MEMC meetings, open house eventsand a USFS public comment period. MEMC is currently anticipating the exchange to be complete mid-2023.

Reclamation Update

This summer we are planning to complete the recontouring and stormwater channel improvements on the tailings dam surface that we were unable to complete last year due to supply chain and labor availability issues that affected construction across much of the country. This work will promote drainage on the tailings dams, reduce the volume of water needing treatment and improve the quality of snow melt and spring runoff entering Coal Creek.