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SPK-2014-01067, San Miguel County, CO

Published Feb. 25, 2015
Expiration date: 3/25/2015

Sacramento District

Comments Period:  February 25 March 25, 2015

SUBJECT:  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, (Corps) is evaluating a permit application to construct a medical center in the Town of Mountain Village, which would result in impacts to approximately 0.447 acre of waters of the United States, including wetlands.  This notice is to inform interested parties of the proposed activity and to solicit comments.  This notice may also be viewed at the Corps web site at


AUTHORITY:  This application is being evaluated under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act for the discharge of dredged or fill material in waters of the United States.


APPLICANT:      Telluride Medical Center                                             

                          Attn: Mr. Gordon Reichard

                          500 West Pacific Avenue

                          Telluride, Colorado  81435

                          Phone: (970) 728-3848



AGENT:             Mr. Mike Claffey

                          Claffey Ecological Consulting, Inc.

                          1371 17 Road

                          Fruita, Colorado  81521

                          Phone: (970) 640-3783

                          Email: MCLAFFEY@ACSOL.NET     


LOCATION:  The 1 acre site is located in the Town of Mountain Village (Town), north of The Town Hall Market and south of the Gondola Parking Garage, at Lot 1003r-1, Latitude 37.9329°, Longitude -107.8559°, San Miguel County, Colorado, and can be seen on the CO-TELLURIDE USGS Topographic Quadrangle (see Attachment 1).


PROJECT DESCRIPTION:  The applicant is proposing to construct a 25,000-square foot building to serve as a medical center for the Telluride Region, to include an emergency room, waiting rooms, doctor offices, examination rooms, administration offices, a testing laboratory, a small pharmacy, and radiology.  The construction of the medical center building and associated structures would result in the fill of 0.44 acre of wetlands and 0.007 acre (144 linear feet) of an unnamed tributary of Prospect Creek, on the project site (see Attachment 2).  The construction of the medical facility would involve the placement of approximately 1,200 cubic yards (CY) of clean construction grade fill for stability, then foundation material, and the building structure.  Prior to the discharge of fill material, there would be mechanized land clearing in the wetland, including excavation and grading to level the site.  There will be fill discharged during the mechanized land clearing as the wetland topsoil would be harvested and removed from the site for the proposed mitigation area.  The amount of material discharged during grading would be less than 20 CY of native material, discharged into the 0.44 acre of wetlands (see Attachment 3).  The building would be designed to allow easy expansion of a second level to add an additional 25,000 square feet for future needs.  The Attachments provide additional project details.


The applicant’s stated overall project purpose for the Telluride Medical Center relocation is to construct an expanded medical center facility to serve the Telluride Region, with pedestrian access close to public transportation and opportunity for pedestrian access for visitors and the elderly, a helicopter pad and access, room for a community Detox space, and adequate space for potential expansion in the future.  The project need is to provide 24-hour emergency care (Level 5 Trauma Center) and primary care center in a facility that meets the existing medical building code standards, to serve the growing community.  The applicant believes there is a need to relocate their current facility to a larger facility that is up to date with current hospital codes for structures.  The current space is approximately 10,000 square feet, and was constructed in accordance with 1978 medical building codes.  Meeting the existing standards would require an expansion to 17,000 square feet without the additional patient facilities.  




Environmental Setting.  The project area is located in Mountain Village at an elevation of 9,200 feet above mean sea level in San Miguel County, Colorado.  Mountain Village sits on a hillside above Telluride, Colorado and below the Telluride Ski Resort (Telski) in a mixed spruce-fir and aspen forest in the subalpine ecosystem.  The project area is developed with residential and commercial development typical of a base village at a ski resort.  Tree cover includes subalpine fir, Englemann spruce, lodgepole pine, and aspen.  Man-made grasslands in the form of downhill ski trails and golf course fairways are prevalent, as

well as asphalt for roads, driveways and parking lots.  The forested cover is interspersed with several willow scrub-shrub wetlands and open water ponds.  The area drains into Prospect creek which flows north to the valley floor then to the San Miguel River.  The immediate project area is bounded by Town Hall, a grocery store, a parking lot, a gondola landing structure, pedestrian trail and elevated bridge, and a large parking structure.  The project area parcel is approximately 1 acre.  The parcel is fairly level topography in the center but with a gentle slope down to the north side.  On the east side of the parcel, the grade is more pronounced (2-4%) to the east as the terrain slopes down to the Double Cabin Ski Run. On the west side the terrain slopes more to the northwest with some more pronounced topography breaks on the western edge where the channel starts and the upland edges grade up to the existing road.


There is approximately 0.44 acre of wetlands within three areas of the project site and the remaining habitat is an aspen forest with scattered spruce and fir trees.  The wetlands are a mixed scrub/shrub slope wetland within an aspen forest.  Willow species include mountain willow and Geyer’s willow and understory species include cowparsnip, Canada reed grass, fringed brome, Canada thistle, beaked sedge, and water sedge.  There is also 0.007 acre of existing channel on site at the southwest corner of the site.  This channel is a tributary to Prospect Creek and was created as part of the mitigation for impacts associated with extending an existing culvert near the Gondola Parking Structure, Lot 1003, in 2005 (Corps permit # SPK-2005-75097).


Background.  In the summer of 1989, the Corps became aware of unauthorized discharges of dredged and fill material associated with the development of Mountain Village, which impacted approximately 55 acres of waters of the U.S.  The enforcement case was referred to the Environmental Protection Agency in 1990 and to the US. Department of Justice in 1991.  Settlement negotiations eventually led to a consent decree entered by the U.S. District Court of the District of Colorado, in full settlement of the litigation.  The 1996 settlement resulted in site restoration and enhancement, resource protection through conservation easements, mitigation, and monetary penalties.  Under the settlement, the defendants (The Telluride Company and Mountain Village Inc.) jointly paid fines under section 309(d) of the Clean Water Act.  The settlement also provides for protection of 43 acres of wetlands under conservation easements.


Additionally, restrictions were implemented for all future actions within Mountain Village that involve proposed impacts to waters of the U.S. and issuance of Corps permits.  Effective April 1, 1998, Nationwide General Permit (NWP) Nos. 12, 14, 18, 29, and 32 were modified and NWP 26 and Regional General Permit Nos. 4, 42, and 45 were revoked in Mountain Village.  As a result of these past cumulative aquatic impacts, the Applicant has applied for an Individual Permit for this project, proposing an additional 0.447 acre aquatic impact.       


Alternatives.  The applicant has provided information concerning project alternatives, summarized as follows:


No Action Alternatives:  The following actions do not require a discharge of fill material in waters of the U.S.:

Alternative 1 (A) - Lawson Hill, Big Dog Holdings (parcel next to the Conoco Station along Hwy 145):  The Big Dog Holding property is located in the Lawson Hill area in San Miguel County, Colorado.  This parcel covers approximately 3.9 acres.  There does not appear to be any direct impacts to waters of US related to this parcel’s development.  This alternative is available to Telluride Medical Center, but was rejected due to zoning restrictions and approval complexities (see Attachment 4 and 5).  The cost of the land acquisition for this parcel is estimated at $3.25 million, and construction costs are estimated between $17.3 and $22.2 million.  The overflow parking is a public use amenity provided by San Miguel County in the Lawson Hill area.  If San Miguel County requires the Telluride Medical Center to provide alternative overflow space in the Lawson Hill area, that cost could be substantial for land acquisition or an agreement from a landowner.  The increased bus service runs to meet the needs of the public using the medical center would be an additional cost for the Telluride Medical Center.  Finally, there is the cost of a new Planned Unit Development approval in the future for the expansion of the medical center.  A dollar amount estimate for the land use approvals is not available as the actual approval complexities could vary and fees for engineers, planning consultants, architects and attorneys can be substantial.


Alternative 2 (B) - Lawson Hill Lots H and I (on Society Hill Drive on a bluff overlooking the San Miguel River):  These sites are also located in the Lawson Hill area on Society Hill Drive.  These parcels are approximately 1.96 acres.  There is not any wetland impact associated with development of these lots. The lots sit on a bluff above the San Miguel River, and have been cleared of vegetation.  San Miguel County zoning is appropriate for the medical center. The site is served by public transportation from Telluride and Mountain Village, but San Miguel County would require Telluride Medical Center to fund the additional routes required for this community facility.   Lots H and I are not close to major population centers, but provide a central location for the region.  There are no issues with overflow parking and the property is approved for a helipad.  This parcel does have a building size limit of 30,000 square feet.  Immediate construction is estimated between 25,000 square feet and 28,000 square feet, leaving only 3,000 - 5,000 square feet for the future expansion.  The owners of the H and I parcels, Lawson Hill Property Owners Company, are willing to sell for a medical center development.  The cost of the acquisition of the parcel (Lots H and I) is $2.5 million, and the cost of construction is between $20.4 and $23.8 million.  There would be additional costs associated with development approvals through the town of Telluride for water and sewer and through San Miguel County for a development approval, and then an unknown cost for future expansion.  In addition, without a variance from San Miguel County for reduced number of parking spaces, the costs for this alternative would increase by approximately $1 million for an underground parking structure.  That cost would be incurred again when the future expansion is needed.  Beyond the initial cost associated with the facility, Telluride Medical Center would have to bear the ongoing costs of funding the additional buses for public transportation and the costs of hiring private security for the Detox room. These annual costs are not known at this time, but Telluride Medical Center states it has no method to fund these costs at this time.  (see Figures 5 and 6).


Alternative 6 - No Action Alternative:  Under the No Action alternative, the proposed medical center would not be constructed.  The No Action alternative does not include Telluride Medical Center remodeling or enlarging the building they are currently housed in now.  The current building is too old to bring up to code for hospitals, and Telluride Medical Center only subleases the building without a possibility for a guaranteed long-term rental from the owner or potential purchase.  


Alternative 3 - Two properties in Mountain Village (Lot D and Lots 1007/1008):  These two properties are not available to Telluride Medical Center for purchase, therefore are considered not practicable.


Alternative 4 – Applicant Preferred, Mountain Village, Town Hall Site, between Mountain Village Town Hall and the Parking Structure:  The applicant’s preferred alternative is described above, under PROJECT DESCRIPTION.  The cost of land acquisition is zero.  The Town proposes to donate the land to Telluride Medical Center as the Town sees a major public interest for their citizens to have the medical center in Mountain Village.  The costs of construction range between $17.9 and $20.9 million.  There would be a reduced cost for development approvals as the Town has waived development fees.  


Two onsite alternatives to the proposed action are discussed below. These alternatives attempt to minimize wetland impacts at the site.


Onsite Alternative 1 – West Edge Minimization: With this alternative, all grading on the west side of the building is eliminated except for 5 feet from the buildings edge, and the driveway for the ambulance emergency access is placed on an elevated structure.  This would result in the reduction of approximately 0.07 acre of permanent wetland impacts if the 5-foot off set from the building is possible.  For the elevated platform of the ambulance entrance, the foundation or footers for that platform on the east side of the structure would conflict with the buildings foundation, and there would not be adequate room for a proper footer construction.  This elevated ambulance entrance would have to be at the same grade as the building entrance and thus only a foot or two above the wetland substrate.  The whole building could be raised to accommodate a higher structure, but then the structure would be on a steep grade for short distance, as the roadway elevation cannot change.  This would not be suitable for most homes or buildings let alone an ambulance entrance to an emergency room.  At the lower elevation for the structure, very little if any light would reach the wetland and very little vegetation would persist.  An open grate type system could not be used to allow light penetration because patients on wheel chairs and gurneys from the ambulances would have a tough time operating on an open grate system that would be wide enough to allow light penetration.  Since the platform could not be elevated substantially and the wetland would be eliminated functionally.


Onsite Alternative 2 – Emergency Access on Elevated Platform: With this alternative, there would be no reduction in grading, but the ambulance entrance and drive-up entrance would be elevated.  It would be constructed on pilings or require a large footer on the east side in wetlands which would involve fill placement. The same concerns described above with elevating a structure like this in a mountain environment and remain for this alternative. To provide access to the building the platform would need to be ground level at the access point and would likely result in the loss of wetlands below the structure due to light attenuation.


For these two minimization alternatives, the use of an elevated platform to avoid a normal discharge of fill material would have no discernible reduction in adverse impacts to the aquatic ecosystem over the proposed action which is the use of fill material.


Alternative 5 - The RV Lot on the Pearl Property in Telluride adjacent to the San Miguel River on the west side of town:  This property is not available to Telluride Medical Center for purchase, therefore is considered not practicable.


For additional details on Project On-site and Off-site Alternatives, contact the applicant’s agent or Corps.  See Attachment 6 for more details on Alternatives.


Mitigation.  The Corps requires that applicants consider and use all reasonable and practical measures to avoid and minimize impacts to aquatic resources.  If the applicant is unable to avoid or minimize all impacts, the Corps may require compensatory mitigation.  The applicant has proposed to mitigate these impacts by restoring/establishing 0.74 acres of willow-scrub/shrub slope wetlands to compensate for 0.44-acre of wetlands lost. The proposed mitigation would involve the establishment of willow scrub/shrub slope wetlands at two offsite locations owned by the Town of Mountain Village and zoned as Open Space (parcels OSP-18 and OSP-54).  The first site, known as mitigation site 1 or the Entrance Site, is located at the intersection of Highway 145 and Mountain Village Boulevard.  Mitigation site 1 currently supports existing wetlands, but a larger wetland existed on the site prior to historic alterations to water source, groundwater, and surface flows.  Slope wetlands would be created adjacent to and adjoining the existing wetlands and improvements to the overall site hydrology would be incorporated into the restoration plan to improve conditions and functions of the entire system. Mitigation site 2, or the Benchmark Site, is located off Benchmark Drive in south Mountain Village.  Mitigation site 2 also currently supports slope scrub/shrub wetlands but has potential for wetland creation and/or expansion.  See Attachment 7 for more details on the proposed compensatory mitigation.


Claffey Ecological Consulting, Inc., has conducted wetland assessments at the impact site and assessments of existing conditions and post-wetland creation conditions at potential mitigation site locations using the Function Assessment of Colorado wetlands (FACWet) methodology. The Composite Functional Capacity Indices (FCI) score for the impact site preconstruction is 0.73 (functioning).  The FCI score for mitigation site 1 pre-project is 0.65 (functioning impaired) and post-project is 0.85 (highly functioning).  The FCI score for mitigation site 2 pre-project is 0.71 (functioning) and post-project is 0.86 (highly functioning).


The Applicant would place a legal deed restriction on the two mitigation sites.  The deed restriction would prohibit any changes in the subject property from dedicated open space.  The deed restrictions would be recorded and held by the Town, and submitted to the Corps for approval prior to project construction activities.

Through a separate agreement between the Town and the applicant, the Town is providing the lands for wetland mitigation, water rights, and the long term maintenance.  The agreement between the Town and the Telluride Medical Center also specifies the Town would be responsible for the financial assurances required for the mitigation plan.


The Town of Mountain Village would be the responsible entity implementing long-term management of the mitigation site wetlands. As the proposed compensatory wetlands would be created on public lands owned by the Town, the wetlands would be maintained by Town staff or Town appointed consultants/staff if required. Currently, the Town employs staff who performs general maintenance of public lands and landscaped areas; therefore, adequate budget is in place to support staff for long-term management of the compensatory wetlands. Should additional staff be required to perform the required work, the Town would allocate additional funding to that effect.

OTHER GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORIZATIONS:  Water quality certification or a waiver, as required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, is required for this project.  The applicant has not indicated they have applied for certification.


HISTORIC PROPERTIES:  Based on the available information, no cultural resources were identified within the project's area of potential effect.


ENDANGERED SPECIES:  The project would not affect any Federally-listed threatened or endangered species or their critical habitat that are protected by the Endangered Species Act.


The above determinations are based on information provided by the applicant and our preliminary review.


EVALUATION FACTORS:  The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impacts, including cumulative impacts, of the described activity on the public interest.  That decision will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources.  The benefit, which reasonably may be expected to accrue from the described activity, must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments.  All factors which may be relevant to the described activity will be considered, including the cumulative effects thereof; among those are conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, historic properties, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, navigation, shoreline erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food and fiber production, mineral needs, consideration of property ownership and, in general, the needs and welfare of the people.  The activity's impact on the public interest will include application of the Section 404(b)(1) guidelines promulgated by the Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency (40 CFR Part 230).


The Corps is soliciting comments from the public, Federal, State, and local agencies and officials, Indian tribes, and other interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the impacts of this proposed activity.  Any comments received will be considered by the Corps to determine whether to issue, modify, condition, or deny a permit for this proposal.  To make this decision, comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and other public interest factors listed above.  Comments are used in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment and/or an Environmental Impact Statement pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act.  Comments are also used to determine the need for a public hearing and to determine the overall public interest of the proposed activity.


SUBMITTING COMMENTS:  Written comments, referencing Public Notice SPK-2014-01067 must be submitted to the office listed below on or before March 25, 2015.


Carrie Sheata, Project Manager

US Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District

Colorado West Regulatory Branch

400 Rood Avenue, Room 224

Grand Junction, Colorado  81501           

(970) 243-1199, extension 14



The Corps is particularly interested in receiving comments related to the proposal's probable impacts on the affected aquatic environment and the secondary and cumulative effects.  Anyone may request, in writing, that a public hearing be held to consider this application.  Requests shall specifically state, with particularity, the reason(s) for holding a public hearing.  If the Corps determines that the information received in response to this notice is inadequate for thorough evaluation, a public hearing may be warranted.  If a public hearing is warranted, interested parties will be notified of the time, date, and location.  Please note that all comment letters received are subject to release to the public through the Freedom of Information Act.  If you have questions or need additional information please contact the applicant or the Corps' project manager Carrie Sheata at the contact information listed above.


Attachments:  7 drawings