Natrona County Sympathetic With Locals Opposed To Casper Mountain Gravel Pit

Locals opposed to a proposed gravel pit at the base of Casper Mountain again packed the Natrona County Commission’s meeting room Tuesday as officials said they’re sympathetic to their concerns.

Dale Killingbeck

March 20, 20246 min read

Coates Road residents are concerned about the paved and gravel portion of their roads and the impact heavy haul gravel trucks would have on them if a proposed gravel pit is approved.
Coates Road residents are concerned about the paved and gravel portion of their roads and the impact heavy haul gravel trucks would have on them if a proposed gravel pit is approved. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)

CASPER — A proposed gravel pit on state-owned land at the base of Casper Mountain continues to stir vocal opposition from residents who again filled the Natrona County Board of Commission chambers Tuesday to say it could damage roads, degrade water quality and destroy recreational opportunities.

Despite Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon’s Monday veto of legislation that would have allowed more local control over state lands for proposed mining projects, Commission Board Chair Peter Nicolaysen told the crowd a land use permit will still be required for the gravel pit mining.

“I was disappointed with the governor’s veto. I was surprised,” Nicolaysen said. “We believe that the county does have authority to regulate this proposed application if and when it comes in, whether it is state land or private land.

“I want you people to know that is how we are looking at this.”

Gordon’s Veto

Gordon mentioned an amendment to Senate File 44 by Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, that would have given counties local control of state mining and primacy over state lands as his reason to veto Senate Enrolled Act 62.

Meanwhile, Nicolaysen assured residents that the county will provide broad notice of public hearings if the county does receive a request from Prism Logistics Manager Kyle True regarding gravel mining in sections of state land at the base of the mountain.

Last month, Prism Logistics sent a backhoe under a exploratory permit from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality to test sections of state land, including Section 36, the non-motorized School Section. Much of the property proposed for mining borders Coates Road.

In a news release sent to Cowboy State Daily on March 14, True stated that opposition to his project is premature and that any plans for a pit would need to involve DEQ approval.

“We believe the DEQ is a solid partner in helping Wyoming companies to access the resources we need while protecting the assets we cherish,” he said. “This is a monthslong process. When we get to the point that we have a proposed mine operation, then we will approach the county commissioners about a conditional use plan.”

People at Tuesday’s meeting said if or when his request arrives, they want commissioners to vote “no.”

Water Issues

Coates Road resident Roberto Flores told commissioners that water issues are crucial in the proposed mining area.

“It’s so fragile, that one time I have this little creek behind my house that every three or four years goes there and then disappears,” he said. “I tripped on a big rock and I almost broke my head. I said, ‘I have to remove this rock.’ I moved the rock and all the water went into the hole. That’s how fragile the water situation is up there.”

Casper resident Jason Knopp, an engineer who deals with groundwater issues and who married into the Coates family that operates Field Creek Ranch off Coates Road, gave commissioners documents that showed water well depths and water rights in the area that True hopes to mine.

He said groundwater flow in the area feeds many shallow wells and his own family has wells that are 6, 9 and 7 feet deep as an example.

“There are 255 water wells and water rights,” Knopp said. “They are all shallow and within the alluvial deposit. This is a very complicated water system that we are talking about up there.”

Robert Strohman, also a Coates Road resident, told commissioners he had a petition from locals against the project and expressed concerns about trucks, destruction of the road and traffic at Coates Road and Wyoming Highway 220 that would be impacted by gravel operations.

“If you have a haul truck, everybody knows they use Jake brakes. Jake brakes are against the law in the city limits,” he said. “You got to wake up people. This is not for 30 days or 30 years, it’s 30 to 100 years once they start opening this gravel pit. It is never going to close.”

Livestock Concerns

Coates Road resident Travis Garska told the commission that the gravel mining would impact his horses and livestock.

“My main concerns are the water and the dust,” he said. “My front pasture is right along Coates Road, probably within 20 feet. My horses and livestock hang out in that front pasture the majority of the time because it’s the greenest grass I have on the property. When I work my horses, studies have shown that they consume about 600 gallons of air every hour. They get lung disease just like we do.

“What if I lose my livestock. I can’t get it back. What if I lose my water?”

Other concerns voiced by residents during the public comment period of the meeting involved recreational opportunities that would be taken away if the School Section is mined, the impact to roads and traffic issues along Highway 220.

Nicolaysen told the crowd that he hoped they would come to any public hearing should Prism Logistics seek a permit to share their concerns then, because it would become evidence for the commissioners to weigh in their decision.

Commissioner Suggestions

Commissioner Steven Freel encouraged residents to continue to reach out to state officials with their concerns and agreed with fears about Highway 220.

“A follow-up conversation should happen with WYDOT,” he said. “You wouldn’t think that they are going to allow a tractor-trailer pulling another dump behind it to go across Highway 220. I can guarantee you the city is not going to let you turn and head into the city and tear up the roads with that kind of weight on the road.”

Commissioner Dave North said he appreciated the crowd’s decorum and emails.

“If it comes down to a conditional use permit before us what we have to work on is facts,” he said. “There have been a lot of things brought up that are very factual. But we have to have that information solidified.”

He encouraged the group to gather traffic studies that would show the damage semis would cause to asphalt on a portion of Coates Road as well as the dust from the proposed project.

“A lot of that information is out there and readily available,” he said. “Keep digging. Your testimony has helped us understand the hydrology.”

In light of the gravel pit controversy, Cowboy State Daily has received a statement from Ashley T. VanDeest of the True family companies that makes it clear that Prism Logistics is not part of their business ventures.

“True companies want to make clear that it is not involved and has no economic interest in the potential project,” VanDeest said. “Some members of the True family left True companies nearly 20 years ago to establish their operations and ventures.”

Dale Killingbeck can be reached at

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Dale Killingbeck