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 include blasting.”

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 run-off.

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 water.”

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 7,000 ballots.

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 Second Ave.

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.






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