blasts Farmington drilling plan
Bureau of Land Management heard impassioned feedback last Thursday
on the draft Farmington Resource Management Plan, which calls
for 12,500 new gas wells to be drilled nearby the New Mexico
city before 2022. The San Juan Citizens’ Alliance has
widely publicized that its biggest complaint is its failure
to address future air quality impacts.
Steve Hinkey, BLM Field Manager,
opened the meeting at the Double Tree Hotel by saying that the
public should not discuss whether or not to develop the oil
and gas, but "how to develop the nationally significant
oil and gas resource in an environmentally responsible manner."
However, numerous Durango
residents spoke to alternatives. Heather Snow of the Air Quality
Advisory Council of Durango remarked, “The fact is we
need alternative energies besides oil and gas.” She then
added, “We know you're just going to go ahead and drill
anyway. Our comments are basically useless.”
Jennie Dear, Fort Lewis College
professor, shared this sentiment, saying, “There is a
feeling of desperation here.”
Additional comments pointed
to the inadequacy of the draft plan.
“I've pulled a lot of
all-nighters,” said Janine Fitzgerald. “This EIS
to me looks like an all-nighter.”
Brian O’Donnell commented,
“This EIS (draft plan) is vulnerable to lawsuits. This
is the kind of things that earns the BLM the nickname ‘Bureau
of Large Mistakes.’”
In total, 31 people spoke
and their comments were overwhelmingly against the Farmington
Resource Management Plan. The BLM will take these comments into
consideration when selecting one of the draft plan’s alternatives,
alternatives Mark Pearson, director of San Juan Citizens’
Alliance, said doing nothing to mitigate future impacts to air
quality. “All of their proposed alternatives are essentially
the same in terms of air quality,” he said.
Unofficial biker rally
As Labor Day Weekend drew to a close, bikers
and business people praised a successful and safe unofficial
Iron Horse rally, while police officers were grateful that their
busy weekend was not marred by more severe crimes.
Durango was packed with chrome on Saturday
and Sunday and bikers enjoyed a good reception and business
people enjoyed the business after a slow summer. Estimates at
the numbers of visiting bikers ranged wildly between 5,000 and
“The Ride Durango Rally was a success,”
commented Joe Wilson, owner of the Econolodge and the Adobe
Inn. “My hotels did better than during the previous rally.”
Tony Milen, the owner of Scoot n’ Blues, shared in the
boon, saying, “It was a great weekend. Our numbers were
actually better than last year’s.”
While they had their hands full with calls
on fights, traffic disturbances, DUIs and one hoax bomb threat,
Durango police officers were grateful that no major incidents
occurred over the weekend.
“We didn’t have any major incidents
occur, but we were extremely busy handling a number of other
incidents,” said Captain Dale Smith.
In terms of quantity of incidents, Smith
added, “I think it was probably on par year’s past.”
Wilson noted that he attributes the business
success of the weekend to the deliberate community and business
effort to host an event and not just to bikers showing up. He
added that bikers were overwhelmed by the hospitality of local
residents and businesses.
“Had we not done anything it would
have been a disaster,” he said, noting that Cortez and
Telluride were “ghost towns” over the three-day
La Posta Road construction
While resurfacing of a portion of the road
is proceeding, plans to reroute La Posta Road, County Road 213,
are currently stalled and the ownership of the road is in question.
The road which begins south of Bodo Park
and extends to Bondad near the New Mexico state line is currently
undergoing widening, paving and installation of guardrail at
its northern end.
La Plata County Engineer Rick Routh noted,
“The project’s that’s going on now is one
that’s been scheduled for a long time, and that’s
to bring the section from Allen Small’s (Top Soil) to
the Animas Air Park up to county standards.”
An Animas River bridge was also planned
to offer motorists the opportunity of bypassing the dangerous
Purple Cliffs section of the road, immediately south of Durango.
The bridge would have provided a shortcut to Hwy. 550 in the
vicinity of Walmart.
“By having this project in place
it helps to lay the groundwork for the Animas River bridge,”
said Routh. “All the other things that are needed for
the bridge are falling into place.”
However, La Plata County has yet to set
a date for bridge construction and recently received a legal
opinion for the Southern Ute Agency claiming that it owns the
majority of La Posta Road.
“From the cattle guard on down south
there has been some question of who owns the right-of-way,”
said Joe Craine, county planning director. “It’s
been pretty historic in terms of no one knows what they (the
Southern Utes) have in terms of ownership on county roads.”
Craine noted that the financial strain
of this summer’s fires were mostly responsible for the
stall in bridge construction. “The only reason the bridge
hasn’t gone forward has been the money factor,”
he said. “It’s been a draining summer in terms of
As for the ownership of La Posta Road,
the issue has yet to be decided, and until that time and finances
become available for bridge construction, crews will continue
widening the notrthen section of the road. This construction
and the average 20 minute delays should be completed by October
Burns to be reseeded
In coming weeks, the San Juan National
Forest will be rehabilitating earth scorched during this summer’s
wildfires. Seeds will be dropped from the air, log erosion barriers
will be erected, ground cover will be spread and larger culverts
will be installed, all in an attempt to slow local erosion.
The program is known as “Burned Area
Emergency Rehabilitation” and will target the areas of
Missionary Ridge and the Animas Valley impacted by this summer’s
The most ambitious part of the plan will
be the reseeding by air of close to 18,000 acres with native
and established grasses, according to San Juan National Forest
hydrologist Kay Zillich, “The areas of the fire that burned
at a high severity will be reseeded,” she said. “We’re
anticipating that some of it might sprout this fall. What does
not sprout this fall should sprout in the spring.”
Zillich said that the reseeding from the
air should begin on Sept. 16 and last between four and six weeks.
On the ground, the Forest Service will be creating log erosion
barriers on roughly 3,000 acres beginning on Sept. 9. The barriers
will be constructed by dropping burned trees and covering them
with earth in order to create a water bar and send water beneath
the surface. Similarly, straw mulch will be spread in the areas
of the Valley Fire in order to help the ground retain moisture.
The Forest Service will also be installing larger culverts in
problem areas to facilitate water flow, according to Zillich.
While the “Burned Area Emergency
Rehabilitation” will cover public land damaged by the
fires, Zillich said that the Forest Service is also trying to
coordinate rehabilitation of private land with the National
Resource Conservation Service. However, funding could be problematic.
“We’re going to wait for the
NRCS money, and if their money does not arrive in time to add
onto this contract, they’ll have to do their own contract,”
In closing, Zillich noted that there will be a separate effort
to removed damaged trees and plant new trees in the next year.
City Manager gains emergency
The Durango City Council formalized a late
August emergency ordinance which will give City Manager Bob
Ledger the authority to impose mandatory water restrictions.
If restrictions are in place, violators would receive one warning
prior to a $300 fine. Currently, residents are being asked to
observe voluntary water restrictions, which include alternate-day
watering and no midday watering. However, the city manager can
now impose strict restrictions at any time. The last time mandatory
water restrictions were implemented was 1997
Ledger was on vacation this week and could not be reached for