Riverfront rumble

Now that Grand Junction City Clerk Stephanie Tuin has certified just enough signatures on citizens’ petitions regarding the rezoning of Brady Trucking land along the Colorado River, the stage is set for a massive community brawl over the project and the future of the riverfront.

On one side are the community members, aided by Western Colorado Congress, who don’t want industrial zoning along the river or a trucking facility such as Brady’s.

Then there are the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and others who support Brady, pointing to the money it has already spent to clean up the old rendering plant and improve its property.

Count us among the opponents of industrial zoning, not because we believe Brady is a bad company — we don’t — but because of our concerns for the river.

Those concerns include preserving the efforts of this community over the past two decades to restore the riverfront from the ravages of earlier, more environmentally destructive industrial operations. People also worked to protect the riverfront as a natural sanctuary running through the heart of the city.

But our concerns go beyond the aesthetics and community efforts. There is the flow of the river itself to be considered.

Along river corridors from the Mississippi to the Sacramento, industrial and commercial operations and the dikes to protect them are causing increasing public safety hazards. During periods of high water, the dikes may actually exacerbate flooding downstream, or they may fail and cause more serious damage than if there had been no dike at all. And, even though there may be no people living in the industrial and commercial areas along the rivers, those areas often present serious safety problems and health issues when flooding occurs.

One mid-sized operation such as Brady’s won’t create all of these problems in Grand Junction. But a portion of the Brady property is within the 100-year floodplain and will require special protections for any development. And a multitude of industrial facilities built on or near the floodplain, with dikes or other barriers to protect the property, will increase the threat significantly.

Recall that a few years ago, the city’s own plans for the Jarvis Property included a mixed-use development that would have required extensive dike work.

Brady Trucking will be a precedent for how the Colorado River is to be protected or developed through Grand Junction. However, because the Grand Junction City Council is deeply divided over the issue, the council is unlikely to make the final decision, according to Mayor Gregg Palmer.

That means it probably will be up to the city voters in April to determine whether the short-term economic benefits of industrial activities along the river outweigh the long-term advantages of protecting the river.


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