|A retired boxcar has found
new life as
housing along Animas View Drive. /Photo by Todd Newcomer
Hut to hut negotiations get hot
Negotiations between the San Juan Hut Systems and the local
Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management got tense last
Friday. The San Juan Hut Systems is looking into expanding and
would like to create a mountain bike route between Durango and
Moab linked with backcountry huts. The route would begin near
Purgatory, cross south of Lizard Head Pass near Telluride and
eventually drop into Moab near the La Sal Mountains.
However, San Juan Hut Systems owner Joe Ryan has accused the
San Juan National Forest and area BLM of dragging their feet
on his proposal. During a meeting last Friday, he said he felt
that the two agencies effectively rejected his proposal.
“We’ve come to them with a proposal for a special
use permit,” Ryan said. “What they’ve done
is say even though you’ve got a proposal before us, we’ve
got to offer this up to everyone and do a prospectus.”
Ryan said he agreed to a prospectus but then was told that
the agencies may not do one and needed 30 days to decide. He
added that his proposal for a special use permit was then given
a written rejection based on the absence of a prospectus.
“They’re not following due process,” a frustrated
Ryan said. “There’s no question about it.”
However, the San Juan Public Lands Center has a different read
on due process. Ann Bond, public information officer, attended
the meeting and said she was surprised by Ryan’s reaction.
“If the agency has competitive interests, we must use
a competitive process,” she said. “The proposal
he submitted was returned to him on this basis.”
Bond noted that currently 183 commercial outfitters of all
kinds operate on local Forest Service and BLM lands. “Recreation
is big business in Southwest Colorado and there are many entrepreneurs,”
she said. “By law, we need to make that fair and competitive.
Within a month, we’ll decide whether we’ll offer
a competitive bidding process.”
Bond cited Ryan’s history and existing hut systems hooking
Telluride with Ouray for winter touring and Telluride with Moab
for summer biking. “I’m sure that Mr. Ryan would
be a qualified and capable competitor based on his past experience,”
However, Ryan said he feels that his proposed hut system might
be treated unfairly and that a prospectus would focus on general
recreation in that area. “If they have a prospectus in
30-days, we don’t feel they’re going to review a
Purgatory to Moab route,” he said.
With this in mind, he had a meeting with Senator Wayne Allard’s
office early this week. “We’re staying on it, and
I guess we’re making enemies,” he said.
Grandview moratorium extended
La Plata County voted to extend its six month moratorium on
development in the Grandview area last Monday. Consequently,
review of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s proposal for
up to 2,500 new units in a new urbanism configuration and other
Grandview development proposals will be tabled for at least
another three months.
The City of Durango has requested that the county consider
extending the moratorium because the city’s Grandview-South
Fork Area Plan has yet to be completed. The county’s investigation
into transferable development rights as an antidote to sprawl
also needs more time.
Of the vote, County Commissioner Josh Joswick said, “What
we set out to do hasn’t been done. We need more time.”
Joswick added that a crucial aspect of a TDR program will be
getting the city on board since Durango will be asked to accept
density so that county agricultural land can stay open. To that
end, a joint work-session has been scheduled for next week.
“I think it’s going to be important for the city
to buy off on it,” Joswick said. Joswick also said that
the moratorium extension did not elicit a response from the
Tierra Group, the tribe’s real estate development arm,
even though some of its members were in attendance last Monday.
New coal power plant proposed
Steag Power, a German power company, is proposing to get in
on the Four Corners electricity scene. Through a Houston-based
subsidiary, the company has proposed building a giant coal-fired
electricity plant near Farmington and a 470-mile transmission
line from Shiprock to a substation south of Las Vegas. Though
it has yet to obtain permits, the company has said the move
was prompted by rising natural gas prices.
Mark Pearson, executive director of San Juan Citizens’
Alliance, said another power plant in the region doesn’t
fit with an already dismal air quality situation.
“Farmington is almost over the limit for ozone pollution
largely because of the existence of the two coal-fired power
plants,” he said. “Building another coal-fired plant
just doesn’t make sense.”
Pearson said that current ozone pollution measurements in Farmington
have approached Los Angeles levels reaching 76 parts per billion.
The ozone standard is 80 parts per billion.
Pearson added that contrary to statements that the plant would
be clean burning and set high emissions standards, the 1,500
megawatt plant would be off the charts in terms of size.
“It’s a gigantic power plant,” he said. “It’s
as big as they come.”
State gives Durango a hot-shot crew
Courtesy of a proclamation by Governor Bill Owens, a 20-person
hot shot crew, a slurry bomber and a helicopter will be stationed
in Durango for the upcoming fire season.
Owens announced the state’s new firefighting efforts
on Thursday, signing a declaration which transfers $1.6 million
in emergency disaster funding to fighting wildfires this summer.
Authorizing the emergency funds will allow the Colorado State
Forest Service to contract for and pre-position three single
engine air tankers throughout the state for early strikes against
fires. The funds also will support the operation for ten new
fire engines obtained by the state earlier this year. The new
fire trucks, costing a total of $10 million, were purchased
by the state with emergency funds previously authorized by the
“Despite the March blizzard, some three-fourths of the
state is still in extreme drought condition,” Owens said.
“While the start of this year’s fire season may
be delayed, the fact is that we again have to be prepared to
respond quickly and decisively when fires start. The steps we
are taking today will help us control and contain the majority
of fires before they can spread to more devastating proportions.”
As part of Owens’ declaration, the Durango area will
get the hot-shot crew, a P2V slurry bomber and a Bell 205 helicopter,
each with a three- to four-person full-time crew.
The basis of Owens’ decision is that fire risk remains
high across much of Colorado in spite of last summer’s
tragic wildfire season.