Missionary Ridge logging withdrawn

The proposed Missionary Ridge Timber Sale went away last Friday. San Juan National Forest Supervisor Mark Stiles withdrew approval of the sale which would have allowed salvage logging of 13.4 million board feet of dead and dying timber on approximately 3,388 acres northwest of Durango. The decision followed a successful legal challenge of the sale by Colorado Wild.

On Jan. 30, a federal judge agreed with the suit that the Forest Service had not adequately mitigated impacts to wildlife.

Colorado Wild's suit also sought to prevent additional water quality impacts in the watershed of three communities.

Jeff Berman, executive director of Colorado Wild, commented, "The overwhelming scientific consensus is that post-fire logging only worsens the risk of landslides, flooding and erosion, bringing even more water quality impacts. If the Missionary Ridge timber sale had gone forward, we could have been saddled with more years of erosion like we had in 2002, but now it appears to have stabilized."

According to Geoff Hickcox, attorney for Colorado Wild, the Forest Service also failed to adequately study impacts from new roads and logging on steep slopes. "The Forest Service's proposed road construction and reconstruction, as well as the proposed logging in high-erosion areas, was irresponsible and ultimately contributed to the demise of this proposed action."Berman concluded that he hoped the withdrawal will send a message that old-style logging is no longer appropriate. "This high-altitude logging won't do anything to protect communities from forest fire all the while harming water quality, recreation opportunities and wildlife habitat, usually at taxpayer expense."

The San Juan National Forest was unavailable for comment.

LPEA opposes green power initiative

The La Plata Electric Association's board of directors voted to oppose a statewide renewable energy initiative Monday. In addition to going on the record against Amendment 37, the electrical co-op appropriated $3,000 to fund advertising against the measure.

If Amendment 37 passes this November, utility suppliers, who serve 40,000 customers or more, would be required to provide at least 10 percent of power from renewable sources. These sources include solar, wind, geothermal, biomass-based power and small hydroelectric plants. The companies would have until 2015 to come into compliance. Currently, only about 2 percent of Colorado's power comes from renewable sources.

On Monday, the LPEA board voted to oppose the amendment saying that it was poorly crafted and that consumers could face increased costs because of it.

David Waller, LPEA spokesman, commented, "The amendment leaves too many unanswered questions. It creates an extra layer of regulation and bureaucracy. We don't feel we need it because we have our own green power program that is growing. We have goals to grow it significantly more than it is now. It will cause rates to go up for our members, despite what it says."

Waller added that Monday's decision was not a vote against renewable energy. "We want to stress that this does not in any way mean that we're opposed to renewable energy," he said. "We've had our own program for four years, and we've worked with local environmental groups to improve it. This initiative is just not the way to grow our renewable program."

Prior to Monday's vote, Mark Stetz, vice-chair of the Southwest Colorado Renewable Energy Society, gave a presentation to the board on why it should support Amendment 37. Stetz noted that in the worst-case scenario, consumers rates would go up by 25 cents per month. He added that with fossil fuels continuing to diminish, the measure would more likely be a cost savings.

"It's rather frustrating that they're worried about a worst-case scenario increase of less than 1 percent and arguing for fiscal responsibility when Tri-State (LPEA's major energy supplier) raised rates 40 percent between 2000 and 2005," Stetz said.

LPEA's contribution of $3,000 went to the Colorado Rural Electric Association, which is trying raise $50,000 for advertising opposing Amendment 37.

City considers partnering in A-LP

Durango City Council members sat down Monday and considered the future in which the Animas-La Plata project could supply some of Durango's drinking water. As the city searched for additional water storage to meet current and future needs, two options arose acquiring storage rights in A-LP or building a new reservoir in Horse Gulch, the popular recreation area east of town.

"We really don't have adequate storage now for our present population," said Jack Rogers, public works director. "We need additional storage to maintain good water service to our existing population. The Animas-La Plata project is one potential place where we could store some water and a new reservoir in Horse Gulch is another option."

On Monday, the council reviewed a model prepared by the city's consultants that details future need. The council sent the consultants back to the drawing board, asking them to prepare a new model based on a smaller future population that practiced widespread conservation. The council will consider the revised model before settling on any direction.

In the meantime, the City has been offered the option of being the operator of the A-LP project when it comes on line, likely in exchange for storage. Rogers noted that the option remains but no decisions have been made.

Containment expected on Well Fire

Firefighters continue to get the upper hand on the Well Fire, which started burning in southwestern La Plata County last Sunday. The fire, located near Red Mesa, was expected to be fully contained as of Thursday, Sept. 2.

The containment came largely thanks to the existence of a fuel break, a treatment designed to stop or slow down future fires. The Forest Service reported that the Well Fire could have grown much larger than 1,200 acres if the Bureau of Indian Affairs hadn't recognized they had a problem with dense, overgrown forests in the area and built the fuel break in 2002.

"We have a lot of lightning strikes in this area," said Forest Service prescribed fire/fuels specialist Gerry George, "and we knew it was a matter of when, not if."

Incident Commander Ron Klatt said that when the fire hit the fuel break, it ran out of flammable material and lost its energy. The fuel break combined with clouds, cooler weather and a full workforce allowed firefighters to reach 80 percent containment on the morning of Sept. 1. Total control of the fire was expected by the evening of Sept. 3.

Local West Nile cases now up to five

A total of five human cases of West Nile Virus have now been diagnosed in La Plata County. In the last week, a Durango woman in her early 40s, a woman in her early 60s from southeast La Plata County, a Durango woman in her 70s and a man in his 50s that was working in the area all tested positive. This brings the total number of human West Nile infections diagnosed in La Plata County this summer to five.

Danni Lorrigan, spokeswoman for the San Juan Basin Health Department, commented, "We're not sure what remains to be seen for the rest of the season, but we know West Nile virus is present in mosquitoes and that people are being infected. We encourage people protect themselves against mosquito bites."

The San Juan Basin Health Department continues to encourage people to limit exposure to mosquito bites to avoid infection. Their recommendations include limiting outdoor activities during dawn and dusk hours, using insect repellent containing the chemical DEET and wearing long sleeves and long pants when outdoors.

Last year, La Plata County reported 13 West Nile cases.

Woman arrested in park stand-off

Crazy crime struck at Mesa Verde National Park last Thursday when a domestic dispute went bad at the Morefield Campground. Law enforcement rangers responded at 10 a.m. after a party reported that an agitated 40-year-old woman in possession of a loaded firearm rammed their vehicle with her red sedan. She then left the campground and drove southbound on the main park road.

The vehicle and suspect were subsequently found approximately 9 miles from the park entrance, and a tense negotiation at gun point ensued. The woman was eventually subdued and taken into custody.

Acting Chief Ranger Jessie Farias said, "Unfortunately, these types of incidents do happen in national parks. However, visitors should understand this is not the norm. We have very few law enforcement incidents like this at Mesa Verde National Park. "

In a subsequent evaluation at Mercy Medical Center, the suspect tested positive for methamphetamine use and is currently in custody at the La Plata County Jail and facing four felony charges.

compiled by Will Sands





News Index Second Index Opinion Index Classifieds Index Contact Index