Lake Nighthorse in the
As construction continues on the
controversial Animas-La Plata project just south of downtown
Durango, an interesting twist is developing in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M. introduced legislation on Tuesday
to name the reservoir that would be constructed as part of the
project after friend and fellow Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell,
R-Colo., of Ignacio.
The legislation would
authorize renaming the Ridges Basin Reservoir, which is currently
being bulldozed into existence above Bodo Park, as Lake Nighthorse.
Domenici is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Committee and said he offered the bill as a tribute to
"It is fitting that the
Ridges Basin Reservoir, which was created pursuant to legislation
introduced and shepherded through Congress by Senator Campbell,
bears his name," Domenici commented.
Campbell announced his
retirement from the Senate earlier this year and is currently being
investigated by the Department of Justice for alleged kickbacks and
improprieties. However, Domenici looks beyond the allegations and
said, "A veteran, Olympian and public servant, Senator Campbell has
selflessly devoted himself to serving his state and country for
more than half a century. During his 17 years in the House and then
the Senate, he has earned respect on both sides of the aisle as a
consummate statesman and staunch advocate for the state of
Domenici also neglected
to mention that not only does "Lake Nighthorse" not currently
exist, but the Bureau of Reclamation has not obtained a decreed
water right to divert Animas River water, pump it upstream and fill
Ridges Basin Reservoir.
Instead, a statement
reads, "The lake near Durango was created under the Colorado Ute
Indian Water Settlement Act of 1988."
Hantavirus on the rise locally
Hantavirus is on the rise in the local
region. Recent results from an ongoing study by Colorado State
University indicate a local increase in the population of deer mice
infected with the deadly disease. In previous years, similar
increases have led to human cases of Hantavirus in the Durango
"Pretty much every other
time we've seen these kinds of numbers, there has been a human case
of Hantavirus in the Durango area," said Joe Fowler, epidemiologist
for San Juan Basin Health Department.
syndrome (HPS) was first recognized in the Southwest in 1993.
The virus is passed to humans through contact with urine, feces or
saliva from an infected rodent.Breathing contaminated dust is
the most common form of transmission. The virus cannot be passed
from person to person and is not transmitted by dogs or cats that
catch and eat rodents.
A 35.7 percent rate of
infection which is considered high was detected among deer mice at
the CSU Hesperus monitoring station recently.
"We haven't seen
infection rates this high since 1999," Fowler said. "This is a
definite spike. We've seen these mouse numbers recently, but not
this level of infection."
Fowler encouraged local
residents to exercise precaution, particularly when dealing with
rodents and rodent-infested areas.
"We're all thinking
about West Nile Virus right now, but we don't want to forget about
Hantavirus either," he said.
Smart growth push clears hurdle
A local grass-roots organization is
mounting a campaign to get a responsible growth initiative on
November's ballot. This week, the group will begin to petition
Durango voters. If 553 registered voters sign the petition before
July 12, the initiative will have a spot on the ballot during this
year's general election.
initiative would ask city residents to vote in favor of requiring
the city government to get voter approval before annexing property
into city limits. The provision would apply only to development
greater than 10 residential units or commercial developments
greater than 40,000 square feet. The initiative would also require
developers to provide for the extension of city infrastructure.
Renee Parsons, president of Friends of the Animas Valley, which is
spearheading the effort, said concerns about unbridled growth
prompted the initiative.
the petition language is the first step to getting the Responsible
Growth Initiative on the city's November ballot," Parsons said.
"The initiative proposes to give city voters a voice in the city's
plan to urbanize Durango to a population of 40,000."
City Clerk Linda Yeager
said that she would be releasing petitions Thursday, June 10, and
that the 37 individuals on the petitioners' committee will have
until July 12 to collect the signatures. Assuming the signatures
are collected and verified, the issue will go before the Durango
"Once they reach 553
registered voters, they have a certified petition," Yeager said.
"At that time, I submit the initiative to the City Council and they
have to decide whether to adopt it as legislation or submit it to a
vote of the people."
City ponders recreation water rights
Commercial operators and recreational
interest are encouraging the City of Durango to secure future flows
on the Animas River. Last Monday, Public Works Director Jack Rogers
addressed the Durango Water Commission on the possibility of
securing water rights today to safeguard the river against future
growth and development.
Rogers explained that if
the city decides to go forward, it would file for water rights
called recreational in-channel diversions. He said that they are
similar to in-stream flow rights with a major
"It's a technical
difference," he said. "They are specifically for recreational
purposes and in-stream flow rights are generally for environmental
Such water rights would
have a 2004-05 priority and take precedence only over filings after
that time. There's some question about whether such water rights
would even significantly protect flows.
"I still don't know if
it's going to make a difference in how the river is administered,"
Rogers said. "We need to look into that. The idea would be that
none of the existing water rights would be damaged by this filing.
This would safeguard flows on the Animas mainly against future
growth and development."
The city plans on
hosting a workshop with local water rights and property owners
sometime in July. Rogers said that the city will decide whether or
not to proceed at that point.
Campfires posing wildfire threat
With wildfire season nearly upon us,
the San Juan Public Lands Center is encouraging people to fully
extinguish their campfires. In the last week, firefighters have
found half a dozen abandoned campfires on public lands in Southwest
Colorado. Two of them escaped this past week and became small brush
"Campers should always
be sure their campfires are completely out before leaving their
campsite," said Allen Farnsworth, fire mitigation and prevention
specialist. "It's especially important right now with higher
temperatures, high winds and grasses that are starting to dry
out."While no burning restrictions are in place at this time, fire
danger is increasing. Public land managers review various criteria
every week to decide if it is time to enact fire restrictions. At
this time, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management
anticipate putting restrictions on in another two to three weeks if
the area does not receive any moisture. This could come sooner if
the number of human-caused fire increases.
"Without moisture, the
fire danger will continue to increase over the next several weeks
as the plentiful grasses from the spring begin to dry out," said
compiled by Will