Swap Shop: Mike Posy and Karina Madden survey the boats for sale during the annual gear swap at Four Corners Riversports on Saturday afternoon./Photo by
Todd Newcomer.

Write-ins elected to mosquito district

Voters turned out in unprecedented numbers for last Tuesday's Animas Mosquito Control District election. When the count was done, two write-in candidates, Paul Sugnet and Tony Whittle, were victorious.

Sterling Schaaf, manager of the Animas Mosquito Control District and the election judge, said that in past years, there were not even enough candidates to merit a vote. "I've never had a vote in the past," he said. "It was an excellent election. There were over 725 voters."

Write-in candidate Tony Whittle took in the most votes at 434, closely trailed by fellow write-in Paul Sugnet. Travis Stills and Dean Mullen earned 305 and 290 votes respectively. Glenn Hieronymous trailed with 25 votes. Stills and Mullen both ran on a platform of integrated mosquito control and minimized spraying of pesticides. Hieronymous called for an immediate end to spraying.

Following the election, Sugnet commented that he had not run with a specific agenda in mind. "I wasn't really running on any particular platform," he said. "I think there's been way too much made about spraying vs. no spraying as opposed to an integrated approach to mosquito control. I'm interested in the best control we can get."

He added, "I think everyone on the board is of the same mindset."

Sugnet said his interest in being on the board stemmed from his ownership of the 123-acre Animas Meanders Ranch north of Durango and his efforts at mosquito control on the property. He stressed that this control has not been limited to spraying.

"For me, I'll be starting from ground zero," Sugnet said. "I know quite a bit about wetlands. I don't know much about the mosquito district and how they operate. I do know that they've done a good job."

Stills, who finished the race in third place, said he campaigned with Mullen not to end spraying but to open the district to public oversight. With this in mind, he considered the election a success.

"I think the election was a very big deal," he said. "The folks who are concerned about reining in the mosquito control manager Sterling Schaaf and reining in the board that oversees the district made some great headway."

Stills did say that two write-ins receiving the most votes did seem suspicious. "To have that many people turn out and vote for a write-in shows an incredible mobilization effort," he said. "One could and should learn from their tactics."

Stills encouraged residents to continue to call in "no spray" requests and document abuses. He said that efforts to open the Animas Mosquito Control District and the Florida Mosquito Control District will continue.

"We basically had the political machinery of Durango working against us," Stills said. "But I think it was a very successful run and a very good start. There's still a lot of work to do on this and it's moving forward."

Plant charged with new violations

An area power plant is facing a new lawsuit based on alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. Charging that the San Juan Generating Station near Farmington has made consistent violations, the Grand Canyon Trust and the Sierra Club filed notice last week that they intend to sue the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM).

In the spring of 2002, the groups filed an earlier suit against PNM for violations at the plant. In spite of the challenge, violations have continued at the plant, according to Rick Moore, Associate Director of the Grand Canyon Trust.

"Since we filed our original case in 2002, PNM has continued toexceed its pollution limits at the San Juan power plant," he said. "This notice letter will allow us to pursue PNM's violations between May 2002 and the present to protect not only the people living in the region but the skies above them."

The notice alleges that PNM has continued to violate the limits set forth in the plant's permit since the filing of the 2002 complaint. It charges that PNM knowingly purchases and burns coal in the plant's boilers with an ash content exceeding the design specifications of the facility.

"We have recently learned in our current litigation that PNM has not operated the plant in a manner to minimize air pollution," Moore added. "The decision to burn high ash content coal combined with frequent increases and decreases in load causes excessive amounts of unhealthy pollutants to be discharged and is simply unacceptable."

Prescribed burning gets under way

Prescribed burning has begun in the region, and residents from Dolores to Pagosa may see smoke throughout theweek.

The Pagosa Ranger District began hand igniting the Fawn Gulch Burn, 5 miles northeast of Pagosa Springs Tuesday. Plans are to burn a little more than 100 acres a day for the next three days.

The Columbine Ranger District completed a control line around the 2,000-acre Bull Canyon Burn area early this week and began aerial ignitions. The Ute Mountain Tribe began aerially igniting of the North Thomas Burn, south of Mesa Verde National Park.The Dolores Ranger District also completed 255 acres of burning at Beaver Railroad on Monday.

"We realize that after some of the big fires in the last couple years that it is very frightening to see smoke in the air, but we hope it will reduce the chances of having to endure three to four weeks of continuous smoke from a wildfire," said Pam Wilson, Fire Information Officer for the San Juan Public Lands.

Candidate calls for audit of A-LP

A Democratic contender for the U.S. Senate has called for an investigation into cost overruns associated with the Animas-La Plata project. On April 29, candidate Mike Miles announced that he would support a General Accounting Office audit of A-LP.

For the last two years, construction has been under way on the water project immediately south of downtown Durango. Last fall, it was revealed that the Bureau of Reclamation's original cost estimates for the ambitious project were 50 percent short of the reality and that costs would increase by $162 million.

Miles explained his support for an audit, saying, "Government policy requires more transparency, not less. The lack of transparency in this case plus the apparent fiscal mismanagement suggests a government audit would be appropriate."

Miles is currently the underdog for the democratic nomination for Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell's seat. He is going head to head with Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar for the nomination and gaining ground.

compiled by Will Sands





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