Council opposes the Patriot Act

Last Tuesday, the Durango City Council unanimously passed a resolution making Durango a Patriot-Act free zone. People packed into council chambers and largely spoke in favor of the resolution.

The resolution was brought before council by the Southwest Colorado Peace and Justice Coalition. The Patriot Act was adopted shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as a sweeping attempt to combat terrorism.

However, critics say many of the provisions of the legislation violate civil liberties in the name of the war on terror. For instance, the Patriot Act allows police to arrest and detain indefinitely any American suspected of terrorism. Immigrants can be detained without disclosure of their names. Suspects' homes can be searched without prior notification, and personal information like Internet habits can be obtained without consent. Librarians, booksellers and video shop owners also are required to turn over patron records to federal investigators when asked.

"The whole act is a significant undermining and assault on civil liberties and the basic rights that are fundamental to democracy," said the Kalin Grigg, of the Peace and Justice Coalition. "The act is problematic in many ways, and what a resolution would do is try to reveal the problems and encourage local officials to protect their citizenry from the act's provisions."

Durango Mayor Virginia Castro concurred with this sentiment, saying: "Basically, the resolution requires that we continue to respect people's constitutional rights. It also sends a message that we at the local level do not agree with the legislation that was passed."

The resolution directs city employees, including the Durango Police Department, to not step on locals' constitutional rights and civil liberties. City Manager Bob Ledger would also be required to report any requests by federal officials that would cause the city to violate city ordinance. The resolution further states that the council supports the immediate repeal of unconstitutional provisions of the Patriot Act and opposes its proposed expansion.

Castro said that her read was that people were overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution. "I think we counted maybe four people who came and said we shouldn't be doing a resolution," she said. "Some of them even said that they weren't opposed to resolution, but thought it should go to a public vote."

The resolution took effect Tuesday.

Grassroots air study underway

In cooperation with the University of New Mexico, the San Juan Citizens' Alliance will be monitoring ozone concentrations in the San Juan Basin this summer. Ozone is formed by a chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. The pollutants that form ozone are emitted by cars, gas heaters, paints, oils, coal-fired power plants, natural gas power plants, gas compressors, pits and tanks, processing plants, and other sources. High concentrations of ozone can lead to respiratory distress.

Alan Rolston, San Juan Citizens' Alliance oil and gas coordinator, said that ozone is a significant concern in the Four Corners area. He noted that Farmington regularly exceeds the federal limit of 84 parts per billion and that at levels of 50 to 60 ppb, ozone can retard lung function in young children and infants.

"Farmington is crowding the limit, and at those levels and much lower levels, ozone starts affecting lung tissue," Rolston said.

Four of the monitors will be located around Farmington and Shiprock. Another two will be located in La Plata County, near Bondad and Farmington Hill. Roughly a dozen citizen volunteers will collect samples on a weekly basis.

"We felt like the air-quality impacts are basinwide. not just in Farmington," Rolston said. "Those power plants affect our air as well."

Monitoring has been ongoing for the last three weeks and will take place through the summer. At that time, the results will be examined and possible mitigation will be addressed.

Possible debris flows close campsites

The repercussions of the Missionary Ridge Fire are still being felt locally. Last week, San Juan National Forest officials decided to close five of the 80 sites in the Vallecito Campground, north of Vallecito Reservoir, because of potential debris flow hazards.

According to Kay Zillich, hydrologist at the San Juan Public Lands Center , if the area were to receive 1-1/3 inches or more of rain in an hour, there is a very high probability that a massive debris flow would occur.

The effect of such a storm would release a debris flow up to 320 cubic meters per second, which is equivalent to about 45 cement truckloads per second. These debris flows are typically 80 percent rock and sand, and 20 percent water.

Officials are concerned that a debris flow in Fall Creek could divert the stream from its normal channel and send it down an alternate channel through the upper part of the campground. A thunderstorm of this size might happen once every 25 years.

"We felt that closing these sites was better then closing the entire campground," said Dave Baker, long-term rehabilitation team leader.

In addition to the sites at the Vallecito Campground, five campsites in the Middle Mountain Campground will be changed from overnight camping to day use only, and the campground host must grant permission for the day use. Recreationists using the site must be willing to evacuate these sites when heavy rains hit the area.

Native cutthroats to receive help

Native populations of cutthroat trout got a boost this week when a $60,000 grant was awarded to the Colorado Water Trust to help protect the fish in the Colorado and Rio Grande River basins.

The grant was awarded by the Colorado Conservation Trust, a foundation focused on funding new land and water conservation initiatives across Colorado, and there is hope that the money can be leveraged into $180,000. The Denver-based Colorado Water Trust, which was created in 2002, is a nonprofit with a board composed of experts in water law, conservation and agriculture. The Colorado Water Trust's goal is to buy water rights on the open market for conservation benefits including fisheries, wetlands and wildlife habitat.

"Colorado Conservation Trust's funds are the first significant grant the Colorado Water Trust has received for transactions and will allow it to begin using a variety of market-based transactions to ensure adequate stream flows for native fish," said Will Shafroth, executive director of the Colorado Conservation Trust.

Shafroth continued: " Colorado Water Trust will negotiate deals with water users on the open market that will leave more water in streams thereby ensuring a healthy river ecosystem. Ultimately what we're trying do is keep water in the streams for fish and overall stream health."

John Carney, executive director of Colorado Water Trust, said the grant funding should have a major impact on fisheries throughout the state.

"This is important seed money for us," Carney said.

County seeks moratorium feedback

La Plata County commissioners will be soliciting public comment on issues related to the development of the Grandview area early next week. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has proposed 2,400 new units in a dense new urbanism configuration on the property immediately east of Durango. The proposal prompted the commissioners to enact a six-month moratorium on development in the area late last year.

Now the county is considering extending that moratorium for a maximum of three months so its planning and engineering departments can evaluate existing plans and propose appropriate regulations for new development in the area. In addition to comment on the moratorium, the county would like the public to weigh in on a proposed intergovernmental agreement with the city of Durango. The agreement would revise existing regulations with respect to county development in close proximity to the city.

The meeting will take place in the County Courthouse, Anasazi Room, on July 7 at 9 p.m.

-compiled by Will Sands





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