Mag chloride creates more concerns

TELLURIDE Transportation always comes down to lesser-of-evils arguments. In winter, and also in summer, the current debate is where magnesium chloride falls.

Mag chloride has been getting a lot of attention lately for its use on I-70 and other highways in Colorado, and also other states. But it was used originally, and more broadly, as a way to quell dust on gravel roads. It does this by holding moisture, so as to keep the road bonded, thus making dust less likely to break away.

But in San Miguel County, there are second thoughts about mag chloride. By withholding moisture that would go to adjacent trees, the trees are dying along the 38 miles of roads where the chemical is spread. Instead, the 150,000 gallons already stocked for use this summer will be diluted by 20 percent with a solution called lignosulfonate. The chemical is used to produce wood pulp, and it costs roughly 30 percent more than straight mag chloride. It will be used during summer on those roads close to streams.

The ultimate solution to dusty roads is asphalt or pavement, which is what the county road department is now thinking about. However, the county's road boss, Mike Horner, also reported to be working with suppliers of a dust-control product proclaimed to be 100 percent environmentally safe. The firm's website is

New pollution found in high Rockies

ESTES PARK The word "pristine" gets used with monotonous regularity when describing Rocky Mountain National Park. But new evidence suggests it's a relative word.

New studies, reports The Denver Post , reveal air currents swirling around the peaks are delivering a rain of mercury, pesticides, insecticides and other long-lasting chemicals that slowly build up in the park's forests, lakes, soils and fish.

One study shows mercury accumulating in the trout of high lakes and streams. A small sampling showed mercury concentrations at about half the level required to trigger federal health advisories. Scientists speculate that the mercury is coming from the pollution of coal-fired power plants to both the east and west in Colorado. Another potentially serious threat to the park comes from deposition of nitrogen oxides from cars and other sources in the nearby heavily populated Front Range.

Another study suggests pollutants coming from even other continents. Some of the chemicals found in the park's snow and lake sediments show pesticides and herbicides. Among the chemicals found were PCBs, which have been banned for decades in the United States. That suggests that the chemicals are coming from Asia.

"The reason we're looking at parks is basically they are indicators of what might be occurring in other places," said Donald Campbell, a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver. Similar pollution studies are also being conducted at Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks in Washington State, Glacier in Montana, and Sequoia in California.

Lack of snow hinders extreme race

CRESTED BUTTE-ASPEN The annual late-March race from Crested Butte to Aspen was less of a ski race than an adventure race this year.

Leaving Crested Butte at midnight, racers found that mud prevailed on the Elk Mountains Grand Traverse. They also had to dodge cow patties and gushing creeks. By one estimate, about 30 percent of the race occurred off-piste.

This required some inventiveness on the part of racers, explains the Crested Butte News . Jimmy Faust, of the winning team from Crested Butte, drilled holes in his boots, so that they would drain after crossing creeks. (It wasn't enough). His partner, Pat O'Neill, carried a tent stake to clear their boots and bindings of mud. The second-place team, Mike Kloser and Dan Weiland, out of Vail, used ski poles to fight the mud, (It wasn't enough).

The winning team finished the 40-mile course in not quite eight hours. "It was tougher than a $2 steak," co-winner O'Neill told the Crested Butte News . The winning coed team came in about an hour and 50 minutes later, and the winning women's team came in about 2`BD hours later. Not least among the 111 teams entered was a team of 61-year-old men, the first over-60 competitors.

A major consideration was the 50 mph winds that buffeted the crest of the Elk Range, where the race course tops out at about 12,300 feet. The winds later that day were strong enough to cause a chairlift at Aspen to be closed.

Adaptive instructor loses life in Iraq

WINTER PARK The continuing war in Iraq is getting closer to the idyllic ski valleys of the West. Quietly, in the small mountain towns, people are wondering about the fate of their former high-school classmates who somehow are now in Iraq.

There's good reason for fear, as was revealed in the death of Mike Bloss, a ski instructor for the disabled at Winter Park. Bloss had been in Iraq working for a firm that was providing security. Hours before his death he had e-mailed friends, alerting them to the danger he was in.

"We are expecting to be overrun tonight, and we may have to fight our way to a safe haven," he wrote. "Unfortunately, all the safe havens are already under attack," he added.

Bloss, 38, had been in the Welsh special forces and had once served in battle-torn Northern Ireland, notes The Denver Post . Having suffered a debilitating foot injury while in the military, he showed great understanding of the needs of disabled skiers. Sources at Winter Park suggested that Bloss took the job to help subsidize his skiing lifestyle.

Cat survives pole plunge in Leadvile

LEADVILLE The top news in Leadville seemed to be the odyssey of a cat that spent four days atop a power pole while the owner tried to get firefighters, police and others to retrieve the cat from among the thicket of electrical lines.

The cat, a 6-month-old Siamese mix, ran up the pole after being chased by a dog. Offers of tuna fish and other delights failed to draw the frightened feline back down, as did hurled potatoes and fired paint balls. Offers from local hunters to bring the cat down in a different way were, as you might expect, spurned.

Finally, the county road and bridge superintendent, assisted by a county commissioner, ran a ladder up the pole and dislodged the cat. The cat survived a 35-foot plunge to the ground with nothing more than bruises. It got tuna and milk and front-page treatment in the Leadville Chronicle . No word on whether the kitten will be psychologically scarred for life.

Telluride struggles with dog laws

TELLURIDE San Miguel County has some of the best regulations around for controlling dogs. They are banned from within a half-mile of elk-calving areas, migration corridors and severe winter range.

But the laws aren't enforced, and The Telluride Watch says there's growing sentiment to revisit the laws. County Commissioner Art Goodtimes, who helped introduce the regulations, says outlawing dogs in down-valley communities is unrealistic. Sheriff Bill Masters says the regulations are overly broad and unenforceable. A libertarian, he urges more attention to education. And, he points out, a Colorado state law already allows dogs that are harassing wildlife to be shot.

But in the past, environmentalists and wildlife officials have opposed weakening the regulations, and there seems to be some sentiment that the county should up the enforcement rather than weaken the law.

Mining claim sale stirs up emotions

CRESTED BUTTE A long-simmering case from Crested Butte has public lands watchdogs urging other mountain towns in the American West to watch out.

In the Crested Butte case, a mining company beginning in 1977 tried to get rights to mine molybdenum on nearby Mount Emmons, known locally as the Red Lady for the alpenglow shades at dawn and dusk. The market for molybdenum plummeted within a few years, but not until after the company, which has since been swallowed by multinational mining corporation Phelps Dodge Inc., had poured several million dollars into the project.

And so, using the 1872 mining law, the U.S. Department of the Interior has sold the 155 claimed lands to the mining company for $5 an acre, or $875 total. Although the mining company has no current plans to mine there, local officials as well as environmental groups are outraged. The Town of Crested Butte and Gunnison County have joined the High Country Citizens' Alliance in protesting the decision.

"The Bush administration just gave away hundreds of millions of dollars in public land," says Roger Flynn, managing attorney of the Western Mining Action Project. By one estimate, the land might be worth $15.5 million for development of housing something not ignored by the local officials.

compiled by Allen Best





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