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Citizens Raise Concerns About Gravel Project near Colfax

COLFAX -- Concerned citizens are speaking out about the changing nature of Greenhorn Creek, which empties into Rollins Reservoir near Colfax.

They also want recreational access to the area restored.

"Everything's getting changed year by year, how worse it's getting," said high school senior Megan Barber, who grew up enjoying the creek near her grandparents' home. "It was more open to everybody and everyone could ride their dirt bikes and have a good time. It was a great family environment."

"Just nature and our trails that we made," is how Megan's uncle, Bryan McKee, described the way the area used to be. "That was it."

Public vehicle access to the creek is now restricted by the US Forest Service but machinery associated with a gravel harvesting project is allowed to operate there.

"And when they closed it I was shocked. And so I decided to speak up on it and get the community together and try my hardest see what we can do to open it back up or even just save the frogs," said Barber, who is active on a Facebook page called Save Greenhorn Creek Outdoor Area.

Participants on the Facebook page are concerned because Hansen Brothers Enterprises, the construction company harvesting the gravel, has been moving earth along the creek bed, altering the flow of water.

"Double standard by big industry," McKay said, describing the situation. "You know, trying to take over our area. They can do what they want. But we don't have the rights to do anything."

"There's a large misunderstanding that that is public property down there and it is not public property," said Jeff Hansen of Hansen Brothers Enterprises. "And the vast majority of that property is owned outright by the company and has been for decades."

Hansen points out the project has gone through several environmental impact reports, which are searchable online. He says it has received extensive permitting through state and regional water boards, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Nevada County and the Office of Mine Reclamation. It has also been the subject of cultural studies through Native American tribes in the area.

"And we worked very closely with a biologist that spends countless numbers of hours and days and weeks on-site working in conjunction with our people," Hansen said.

Hansen also told FOX40 his company is helping to bring the creek back to a more natural, pre-hydraulic mining state with the support of the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"All the sand and gravel that's down there, the vast majority of that sand and gravel is not natural and was deposited through historical hydraulic mining that was done upstream," Hansen explained.

From the perspective of Barber, McKee and many concerned citizens who have posted on the Facebook page, the area has lost the beauty it once had. They feel it should have been left as it was before the gravel project.

They say they don't see as much wildlife there as in the past and they're concerned about the yellowtail frog that is native to the area.

The citizens want to have a say in how the land, which they love so much, is managed.

"We live here," McKee said. "This is our backyard."

Barber contacted FOX40 to raise awareness and get answers about what is happening at the creek. FOX40 directed her to one of the environmental impact reports online, which had contact information for Jeff Hansen, so she could have a direct dialog.