A-LP to start
construction at Smelter
Though construction has been ongoing in the nearby Ridges Basin
for some time, Durango residents are going to get a strong taste
of the Animas-La Plata project in coming weeks. Construction
on a large pumping plant across from Santa Rita Park is set
to kick off mid-April, and local residents can expect blasting
nearly every morning for the entire summer.
As planned, A-LP will take water out of the Animas River and
pump it up to a reservoir 2.5 miles south of Durango in Ridges
Basin. Construction on the project got under way early last
summer in the expansive natural bowl of Ridges Basin. This summer,
construction will take place a little closer to home at the
base of Smelter Mountain.
“We’re hoping to award the Stage 1 of the Durango
pumping plant contract toward the end of this month with the
expectation that the contractor will move in and begin work
almost immediately,” said Pat Schumacher, the Bureau of
Reclamation’s projects manager for A-LP. “As early
as mid- to late-April, the real work could begin, which will
Across from Santa Rita Park, the contractor awarded the bid
will work to excavate a hole that will eventually be 60 feet
deep, 200 feet long and 40 feet wide. Much of this excavation
will be accomplished with explosives, and Schumacher said that
Durango should expect blasting nearly every morning throughout
the summer. Plans are for blasting between 5 and 6 a.m. in the
morning with detours on Highway 3 around the intersection of
Santa Rita Park and U.S. Hwy. 550.
“Blasting activities will be carefully conducted using
safety monitors, warning signs and blasting mats,” Schumacher
said. “The safety of the Durango public and site workers
is the Bureau of Reclamation’s highest priority. The impacts
to the community from the blasting operations – such as
noise or vibration – are anticipated to be minimal.”
The base of Smelter Mountain also happens to be a super-fund
site where uranium mill tailings once existed. Schumacher said
that the location of the pumping plant formerly held the mill’s
settling ponds and that it has been cleaned up and there will
be no problems.
Construction of the pumping plant is expected to take five
years. When completed, the pumping plant will lift water from
the river up through an inlet pipeline into Ridges Basin.
City gets serious about storm water
Bowing to a Clean Water Act requirement, the city of Durango
will begin taking steps this spring to reduce watershed pollution
that is a result of storm run-off. Durango’s public works
department has kicked off a widespread public education and
outreach effort and will begin policing sources of contamination
to run-off and, consequently, river water.
Jack Roger, Durango public works director, said that his department
will be undertaking a “broad-based” effort to limit
impacts on the watershed. This will include addressing pollution
problems at municipal facilities; forcing new development to
abide by heightened storm-water restrictions; reducing debris
and dirt contamination all over town, particularly at construction
sites; detecting and stopping illicit discharges; and generally
enhancing public education on the damages that result from polluted
To this end, the city is offering a storm-water management
class March 20 and 21 in hopes of attracting contractors, engineers,
consultants and others. In particular, the class will highlight
erosion and sediment control at the job site.
Rogers commented that even though an employee has been added,
the Public Works Department will have its hands full with storm-water
regulation. “There’s a lot to do,” he said.
“We have one person who is assigned exclusively to storm
Search and Rescue vehicle vandalized
Late last Saturday night, vandals slashed tires on at least
three vehicles at locations between the 1500 block of Florida
Road and on 32nd Street in Durango. In one case, all four tires
were slashed on a four-wheel drive Suburban belonging to La
Plata County Search and Rescue, which was parked on 32nd Street
near County Road 250.
The vehicle is used in emergencies to transport equipment and
personnel as well as serve as a communications relay during
rescue operations. The vehicle had just been used the previous
day during the rescue of a Durango High School student who had
fallen off a cliff while hiking in the Falls Creek Area.
“Had this act of vandalism happened just a day or two
earlier, it could have hampered the rescue of that girl,”
said Lt. Dan Bender, of the La Plata County Sheriff’s
Office. “The vehicle is clearly marked as an emergency
rescue vehicle. I hope, if the people who did this know the
girl who was injured, they understand that they could have very
well delayed the prompt rescue of this injured person had they
done this senseless act just a little sooner.”
Four new tires had to be bought for the vehicle at a cost of
several hundred dollars. The emergency vehicle was out of service
and unavailable for rescue missions until late Monday.
City tightens up mail-ballot election
As the April 1 deadline for mail-in ballots approaches, the
city of Durango is taking precautions to avoid losing anyone
through the cracks. So far the city has mailed out more than
The Durango City Council voted to host the election by mail-in
ballot largely because of poor voter turn-out in 2001. A mere
19 percent of Durango’s 11,425 registered voters went
to the polls at that time “and that was electing the majority
of City Council,” said City Clerk Linda Yeager.
In 1992, the city conducted its only other mail-in election
with a candidate-free, issues based ballot. That year, 49.8
percent of registered voters responded.
“This is the first time candidates have ever appeared
on a governmental mail ballot in this area,” Yeager said.
“Depending on voter turn-out, we’ll see how we’ll
handle future elections.”
Voters who live inside the city limits and know they are registered
to vote yet didn’t get a ballot can go to the County Clerk’s
office. People who may have moved need to first change their
address with the County Clerk’s office and bring proof
of address change to the City Clerk’s office. Voters who
tore their ballots upon opening the envelope also must get new
ballots at the City Clerk’s office.
For more information, call the City Clerk’s office at
385-2811 or stop by the office, located in City Hall, 949 East
Local veterans form new group
The various veterans groups in Durango and the vicinity have
recently joined forces and formed the United Veterans Council.
The new group includes leaders from the Marine Corps League,
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV),
American Legion, Military Officers Association of America (MOAA),
and the Elks (BPOE).
The organization’s charter reads as follows: “To
establish an association through which the various veterans
groups located within La Plata County, Colorado, may plan, coordinate,
and develop activities within the county and surrounding areas
that promote patriotism, mutually support each other’s
activities, and recognize veterans’A0sacrifices to the
United States of America, and especially to those who have given
their lives in defense of freedom and the United States.”
According to a release, the United Veterans Council is a logical
outgrowth of long-standing cooperative activities amongst the
organizations represented on the council. These include: The
Veterans Day Parade, Flag Day ceremonies, Memorial Day activities,
The Vietnam “Moving Wall” Exhibition scheduled to
visit Durango this upcoming Labor Day Weekend, and numerous
and ever-growing funeral details to honor deceased local veterans.
The council hopes to provide a unified voice on issues and topics
of interest to veterans of La Plata and surrounding counties.
The first formal meeting was held at the VFW Post on Jan. 27.
Subsequent meetings have been held monthly at the VFW at 6:30
p.m. on the first Friday of each month. The meetings are open
to interested parties and prospective members.