Nothing up his sleeve: Regan Patno hams it for the kids during the Tweaksters theatrical variety show at the Fort Lewis College Community Concert Hall on Sunday afternoon./Photo by Todd Newcomer.

Navajo pipeline suffers setbacks

A massive new water project proposed just across state lines in northwest New Mexico is facing difficulties. The Navajo Nation and New Mexico State Engineer's Office have been working to fast track a settlement that would enable the tribe to build a nearly $900 million pipeline to siphon 322,000 acre-feet of water out of the San Juan River each year.

The pair had wanted to have the settlement before the U.S. Congress on March 1 for a vote. However, that deadline has come and gone. As the group looks to an April 1 date, word has come down that funding for the project this year is highly unlikely.

Steve Cone, of the watchdog group Citizens' Progressive Alliance, said that Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., has indicated that Congress is likely to approve the project's $871 million budget in the current fiscal climate.

"It sounds like, from what Domenici is saying, that he cannot muster the kind of Congressional support to drive a bill through given the state of the national economy," he said.

Cone said that this and the missed March 1 deadline make for good news for the American public. "They've already let one deadline come and go," he said. "If the April 1 deadline comes and goes, it's a safe bet that they won't be able to get Congressional support until next year at the earliest."

The CPA hopes that the delay will allow the process to open, according to Cone. To this point, he said that the taxpayer is being asked to nearly fully fund a project whose settlement was negotiated in secret.

"The Navajo Nation and the Interstate Stream Commission have yet to take any action on the settlement agreement," Cone said. "But there are ongoing negotiations being held by a federal negotiating team. They continue to meet behind closed doors, and we cannot get any information at all about the negotiations."

The combination of the secret meetings and the fast-track are both highly suspect, Cone said. "This federal team has not in fact followed federal policy," he said. "They're winging it and making up the rules as they go along to satisfy who knows what special interests."

Wolf Creek development pitched

A development that opponents are calling a Vail-sized city has been proposed at the base of Wolf Creek Ski Area. A Texas development company has proposed the "Village at Wolf Creek" on 287.5 acres at the base of the Alberta quad. The "village" would include 2,172 units on 162 lots, 5,176 bedrooms and 222,100 square feet of commercial space including 12 restaurants, multiple hotels and a convention center. The Rio Grande National Forest is currently soliciting public input on the proposal.

Already the "Village at Wolf Creek" is drawing serious opposition. A group called Friends of Wolf Creek has formed and includes representation from Colorado Wild, San Juan Citizens' Alliance, the American Lands Alliance and the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council.

Jeff Berman, executive director of Colorado Wild, said that the proposal is particularly damaging given Wolf Creek's location. "This new city proposed at the backside of Wolf Creek Ski Area is a terrible location ecologically," he said. "It sits between the wildest wilderness area, the South San Juans, and the largest, the Weminuche."

Berman argued that this wilderness value should be preserved. "Everyone that lives here should be proud of the fact that this is the wildest terrain left in the Rockies. We should preserve its wildness rather than letting it turn into another Vail."

Berman said that the development will have far-reaching impacts, citing potential damage to wetlands, sensitive species, water quality, traffic levels and more. "Unfortunately, we're going to see a whole host of environmental and social impacts from this type of development," he said.

Berman also said the proposal is a direct result of a "sketchy" land exchange in 1989. At that time, the Rio Grande National Forest denied a proposal by Texas billionaire and Minnesota Vikings owner Red McCombs to privatize the 287 acres of public land. It was determined that creating private property surrounded by public lands was not in the public interest.However, two weeks later an order from Washington, D.C. reversed decision.

The Rio Grande National Forest is currently undertaking an Environmental Impact Study of the proposed development. Field tours of the area will be conducted by the Wolf Creek Ski Patrol on March 24-28 and written comments are due by April 5. For more information, call Stephen Brigham, NEPA Coordinator, at (719) 657-6035 or log onto

Phelps announces commissioner bid

Republican Roger Phelps has announced his candidacy for Josh Joswick's La Plata County commissioner seat. Phelps joins Democrats Wally White and David Black, and fellow Republican William Holmes in the race for the seat.

Phelps is a 44-year-old lifelong resident of La Plata County and is employed as the guest services director and facilities manager at Sky Ute Lodge and Casino and operates his own cow and calf operation. Phelps is also a member of the La Plata County Budget Advisory Committee, Colorado Cattlemen's Association and the president of the Colorado State Grange.

Phelps said that managing growth, maintaining the rural feel of the area and dealing with water issues will be the key issues of his campaign. "As a lifelong resident of La Plata County and a father of three children I feel a responsibility to ensuring that our quality of life in La Plata County is preserved," he said.

Task force nets two drug ring busts

In recent weeks, the Southwest Drug Task Force has dismantled two area local drug distribution/trafficking organizations and taken five defendants into custody.

On Feb. 13, investigators searched the Ignacio home of Connie Silva-Servin and Cruz Soledad Morales. The search revealed methamphetamine, cocaine and several weapons. Servin was booked into La Plata County Jail on charges of distribution of methamphetamine and cocaine. Pagosa Springs resident and Mexican national Hector Garcia also was implicated and is being held on charges of distributing cocaine. Morales, also a Mexican national, is still at large.

On March 3, members of the task force netted another large bust accompanied by Durango Police officers. They searched the home of Durango resident Kimberly Hill, where they recovered methamphetamine packaged for sale. Hill was booked into La Plata County Jail on charges of possession of methamphetamine.

In addition, Delta residents Eugene Salazar and Rose Salazar were implicated in the network and arrested on charges of possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

The Southwest Drug Task Force is comprised of Investigators from the La Plata County Sheriffs Department, Colorado Bureau of Investigations and the Ignacio Police Department.

compiled by Will Sands





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