Corps reopens Long Hollow process

Efforts to build Long Hollow Reservoir in western La Plata County hit another bump last week. In addition to opposition that includes the project's supposed beneficiary, the Army Corps of Engineers has decided to reopen the public comment period.

The Long Hollow Reservoir is an attempt by the La Plata Water Conservancy District to satisfy the La Plata River Compact drawn up between Colorado and New Mexico. The compact mandates that half the flow of the La Plata must cross into New Mexico. During summer months, the compact is frequently not met. The LPWCD claims that a new reservoir that would inundate 160 acres 4 miles north of the border would get Colorado closer to holding up its end of the bargain. Opponents counter that the reservoir will negatively impact La Plata River water quality and cheat Colorado taxpayers out of millions of dollars. New Mexico is also skeptical about the value of Long Hollow Reservoir and has expressed its concerns that there is not adequate supply to fill it.

Kara Hellige, chief of the Corps' Durango office, said that the Army Corps needs to get buy-in from the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission. She said that currently Long Hollow appears to be creating a situation that causes continual disagreement between the two states. Hellige also said that she recently heard from numerous downstream residents who were not aware of the proposal. Consequently, the comment period has been extended until Jan. 30.

"I received several phone calls from downstream residents who had not heard about the project being out on public notice," she said. "I wanted to make sure they had an opportunity to comment."

Hellige added that the comments are open to the public at large and that until the LPWCD can satisfy a number of concerns, Long Hollow Reservoir will not move through the process.

Grandview surmounts two hurdles

On the other side of La Plata County, a project of a different flavor is proceeding through the planning process. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe's proposed Grandview development received two OKs in the last week from the Durango Planning Commission. The tribe has applied to develop 2,211 units around an expanded Mercy Medical Center on 682 acres east of Durango.

On Jan. 8, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the annexation of the 682 acres inside city limits and approved a conceptual development plan for the project. Earlier that week, the Durango City Council adopted the Grandview Area Plan, which details land use for the entire Grandview area. On Monday, the Planning Commission also approved the conceptual plan for the new and expanded Mercy Medical Center. The $76 million facility will be a centerpiece of the tribe's development but is proceeding on a separate planning track.

"The Durango Planning Commission and the Durango City Council have approved the Grandview Area Plan that allows for the review of projects within it," City Planner Greg Hoch said.

Hoch said that the Planning Commission's approval of the two conceptual plans sends them to the Durango City Council for consideration Jan. 20. A preliminary plan for Mercy is expected in the near term, and the 2,211 units will proceed on a slower track. "We don't expect to see any preliminary plan on them until late in the spring," Hoch said.

County considers Ridges Basin closure

La Plata County is currently considering whether to close County Road 211, the road crossing Ridges Basin, on a more permanent basis. The road has been temporarily closed to facilitate construction of the Animas-La Plata project and the original closure has expired.

County Engineer Rick Routh noted that the road was supposed to be reopened for the winter, but the contractor has continued to work through the winter months. The road links Bodo Park and Wildcat Canyon, and Routh said the primary reason for the closure is public safety.

"There are the kind of trucks working up there that would crush a small vehicle and not even know it," he said.

Routh said that the road has been closed since early last summer, and the county has gotten no negative public feedback. "We haven't heard one peep from anybody who wants to use the road," he said. "But before we go and close the road we want to make sure everyone has a chance to comment."

In this spirit, the county will hold an open house on the issue on Jan. 20 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. in the Florida Room at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. Should the county take the expected step, the road would be closed for the life of the project, estimated at six more years, before being reopened.

DMR opens Paradise terrain park

The new Paradise Freestyle Arena at Durango Mountain Resort survived the controversy and officially opened last Friday, Jan. 9. The new terrain park starts adjacent to the Paradise Race Arena, just below the top of Lift 1, and runs more than half a mile and 600 vertical feet down rider's right on Paradise and features 10 consecutive hits.

"We've been working on putting together a world-class terrain park here at DMR for several years," said designer Eric Mischker. "The terrain on Paradise has allowed us to do just that, and the hit-to-hit transitions running top to bottom should put even the best riders to the test."

Unique to the park is the inclusion of the locally built S-Rail. Silas Hatch and his classmates at Durango High School designed and built the rail in their fabrication class, with their teacher certifying the welds. DMR provided the funds for the materials.

The decision to site the park on Paradise had been somewhat controversial with several skiers bemoaning the loss of the front-side cruiser.

City extends parking meter time

Bowing to a request from downtown merchants, city officials have made all parking meters in the Central Business District into three-hour meters. The cost of parking has not changed, but cars will now be able to pay for three hours rather than two.

"Our goal in extending the parking time is to allow people the opportunity to spend more time in the downtown area without having to worry about the meter expiring," said Mayor Virginia Castro. "Several merchants have expressed their dismay at hearing shoppers say that they can't browse any longer because they're concerned about the parking meters. We hope this change will positively affect visitors to the Central Business District."

Recent research on downtown parking confirms that many factors contribute to a less-than-efficient parking situation, according to the city. Bob Kunkel, Central Business District coordinator, commented, "Over the next few months, we plan to announce several new programs that will provide incentives to make parking downtown more customer friendly and increase the economic value of parking to our downtown merchants. At the same time, we will also increase the disincentives that currently are working against those goals."

compiled by Will Sands





News Index Second Index Opinion Index Classifieds Index Contact Index