Local natural gas reaches record high

The value of Colorado's fuel and mineral wealth rose dramatically in 2003, and natural gas extraction in La Plata County played a significant part. According to a report by the Colorado Geological Survey, Colorado's fuel and mining industries produced $6.05 billion in raw materials last year. That number is up 49 percent over 2002, and increased prices and higher production are responsible.

Jim Cappa, chief of the Mineral and Mineral Fuels Section of the Colorado Geological Survey, explained what was measured in the recent study. "The report measures the total value of the 2003 production of base and precious metals, construction materials, industrial minerals, coal, oil, natural gas, and carbon dioxide in Colorado."

Cappa said higher prices for oil, gas, gold and molybdenum were the biggest factors in the increase. However, Vince Matthews, Colorado Geological Survey director, added that 2003 was also a record production year for natural gas. With La Plata County supplying approximately 80 percent of the state's natural gas, it is clear that local wells were working overtime.

Putting a spin on the figures, Matthews said that the high production shows high demand for cleaner burning fuels.

"The year 2003 was a record production year for coal and natural gas," he said. "This demonstrates the increasing demand for Colorado's abundant clean-fuel resources of natural gas and coal that is low in sulfur, mercury and ash."

Cappa noted that the graph for natural gas peaked sharply last year. "The total amount of gas produced was incredible. We saw over a trillion cubic feet, and half of that is coalbed methane."

Cappa said the expects the numbers to continue to rise.

"It's really on a steep curve going up, and that will undoubtedly continue," he said. "As you know, more and more wells are being drilled all the time."

Hardrock Hundred lives up to name

Helped by perfect weather, the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run turned in one of its most successful seasons ever. On July 9-11, a total of 80 runners successfully covered the 100 miles and 33,000 feet of vertical surrounding Silverton to kiss the Hardrock before the 48-hour cut-off. Forty-five entries either dropped out or failed to make the cut.

From the get-go, a quick pace was set and several of the early leaders were forced to drop out because of fatigue. However, the race came down to the final leg, where Paul Sweeny, of California, beat the average leader's split by nearly an hour and overtook leader Giselher Schneider to win the race in 30 hours and 39 minutes. Betsy Kalmeyer was the first woman finisher, posting a time of 32 hours and 48 minutes. In addition, Kirk Apt, who finished fourth, and Ulli Kamm were honored for being the first two to achieve 10 Hardrock finishes.

Apt, of Crested Butte, was typically stoic about the achievement, saying, "The course fits my strengths. It's a climber's course. Unless you're a really good climber, it crushes you."

Durangoans Keith Baker, Chris Nute and Odin Christensen finished the race in 25th, 27th and 54th places.

New HD Mountains meetings added

More than 200 people packed into the Bayfield High School cafetorium on July 14 and most of them spoke out against drilling in the HD Mountains. The meeting was slated as the only opportunity for the public to have oral comments introduced into the record. However, three new meetings have been added which will allow members of the public to have oral comments introduced into the public record.

The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are currently studying a preferred alternative for 273 new natural gas wells in the region. Twenty-five directional wells would be placed inside the HD Mountains Roadless Area. Conservationists and residents charge that these gas wells would threaten stands of old-growth ponderosa pine, abundant wildlife and the very health and safety of their homes and families. The proposal would also put 60 miles of new roads into a designated roadless area.

In the interest of gauging as much public input as possible, three new public hearings have been added to the slate. Concerned citizens will now be able to submit oral or written comments into the public record at the following meetings:

•Wednesday, Aug. 11, from 6-9 p.m. at the Bayfield High School Cafetorium

•Tuesday, Aug. 17, from 6-9 p.m. at the Archuleta County Fairgrounds in Pagosa Springs

•Thursday, Aug., 19 from 6-9 p.m. at the San Juan Public Lands Center in Durango

People are also encouraged to submit written comments through Sept. 13. For more information, call 247-4874 or log onto www.nsjb-eis.org.

Local cat tests positive for plague

Add bubonic plague to the list of diseases that Durango residents face. A domestic cat found last Sunday near the Junction Creek Campground on the Colorado Trail has tested positive for bubonic plague.It was trapped and brought to a local veterinary clinic for testing, and no humans have been infected.

The San Juan Basin Health Department said that people should not be alarmed. Plague has historically been reported throughout the western United States and most human cases have been isolated or in small clusters. Additionally, human plague is usually associated with infections in ground squirrels, prairie dogs and other wild rodents and isusually transmitted by bites of infected rodent fleas.

However, people should exercise caution. To prevent human plague infection, do not feed or entice any rodent, rabbit or squirrel.Avoid contact with sick and dead rodents, prairie dogs, squirrels, rabbits and feral cats. And try to protect yourself and your pets from exposure to fleas.

Typical symptoms of human plague include swollen lymph nodes, fever or chills, headache, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting.Human plague can be treated successfully if diagnosed early.For more information, visit San Juan Basin Health Department's website, www.sjbhd.org.

Campbell focuses on post office

Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., has introduced a bill that would designate the post office in Ignacio as the "Leonard Burch Post Office Building," in honor of the late Southern Ute tribal elder.

Leonard Burch was chairman of the Tribal Council of the Southern Utes for more than 32 years and credited with helping bring his tribe out of poverty.

Campbell commented, "Leonard had the rare ability to make other people believe in his vision and work to achieve it.Leonard Burch's leadership went beyond the tribe.He set an example for young people. It is a fitting tribute that the postal facility in Ignacio be named after a true warrior."

compiled by Will Sands





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