Four Corners joins Clean Cities push

La Plata County is getting on board a regional and national push to safeguard future air quality. A Western Colorado Clean Cities Coalition is coming together with a mission of improving air quality throughout the region.

The joint effort would include representation from counties throughout the Western Slope. According to Katrina Davis, Clean Cities advocate, all of the counties face the same problem growth.

"Our region is beginning to see the onset of community sprawl and with this comes increased vehicle miles traveled, and thus vehicle emissions," Davis said. "It is critical that we act now to minimize future air pollution in our fast growing communities."

Created by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Clean Cities Program's purpose is to promote the use of alternative transportation fuels and decrease reliance on petroleum fuels. The net effect would be a reduction in vehicular emissions and an improvement in regional air quality.

"Becoming Clean Cities designated would affirm our region's commitment toimproving our community's air quality and developing regional economic opportunities to support the use of domestically produced alternative fuels," Davis said.

The Clean Cities designation would also make the region eligible to apply for $2.7 million in federal grants for infrastructure, fuel and vehicle purchases. Davis said that the push could be particularly meaningful to people who own, operate or manage vehicle fleets as well as businesses or individuals supporting the initiative.

Two public information sessions are scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 15, at 2 and 7 p.m. at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. People interested in attending should RSVP by calling the Region 9 offices at 247-9621.

FLC students reach out to Nepal

Fort Lewis College is working to bring relief to a village in Nepal. The FLC chapter of Engineers Without Borders is working on a project in Humla, a remote district in the northwest region of Nepal.

Lacking sanitation facilities, many Humla villages face high infant mortality, low life expectancy and a low standard of living. The goal of the FLC project is to construct water, sanitation and electric systems for the village of Dhadhaphaya.

The national Engineers Without Borders organization was established in 2000 to help developing areas worldwide with their engineering needs. At the same time, the project seeks to involve and train internationally responsible students.

To initiate its work on the project, the FLC chapter of Engineers Without Borders hosts Alex Zahnd for a week of workshops and presentations beginning Thursday, Sept. 9. Zahnd is a mechanical engineer working with the Research and Development Consultancy at Kathmandu University. He has been living and working in rural Nepal since the mid-1980s and is the FLC project partner.

Zahnd will make a presentation to the general public on the history, culture and his work in Nepal at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 9 in 130 Chemistry Hall. For more information or if you are interested in working on the Nepal project, contact Professor of Engineering Don May at 247-7545.

Five new West Nile cases diagnosed

West Nile Virus is continuing its march through La Plata County. In the past week, five new human cases of the disease have been diagnosed, bringing the local count to 10.

The new cases were found in: a Durango man in his late 30s; a woman in her early 40s from southeastern La Plata County; a man in his early 40s from eastern La Plata County; a man in his 40s from southeastern La Plata County; and a woman in her late 70s from southern La Plata County.

While the cases have been isolated to southern La Plata County and the City of Durango, the San Juan Basin Health Department urged people to be on guard throughout the region.

"Although West Nile virus has been identified in specific parts of the county, we want to emphasize that you could come into contact with West Nile infected mosquitoes in any part of Southwest Colorado and in the Four Corners area," said Joe Fowler, regional epidemiologist. "We urge all residents and visitors to exercise precautions and protect themselves from mosquito bites, wherever they may travel."

All five of the recent infections were the milder West Nile fever. Typical symptoms of West Nile fever include: fever, headache, malaise and muscle weakness. These symptoms persist for about two to seven days, but some people may experience lingering effects for several months.While West Nile fever is a milder version of the disease, Fowler stressed that it is still severe. "These individuals had a milder' form of West Nile infection, but this is a very significant illness," he said.

The San Juan Basin Health Department again encourages 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 DEET and wearing long sleeves and long pants when outdoors.

Missionary road nearly restored

Missionary Ridge Road, a popular recreation corridor, is nearly rehabilitated. The final phase of work to restore the road to its pre-wildfire state began Sept. 8. Over the course of the next month, about 22,000 tons of gravel will be spread on the road.

Crews hope to haul 1,000 tons of gravel per day with eight belly dumps or five trips per day for each truck.While the road will remain open to public traffic, delays of up to 15 minutes should be expected on weekdays. In addition, the trucks will need to use the whole road on switchbacks and in narrow spots, and road users are asked to yield the right of way.

The road, which had been closed since the Missionary Ridge fire in 2002, reopened July 31 after efforts to make the road safer.Previous projects included the replacement of more than 30 culverts and the removal of hazard trees along the road. The gravel work is scheduled to be completed by Oct. 8.

DHS student reported as missing

Durango Police are searching for Jason Clark, a 17-year-old Durango High School junior who has been missing from his home since Monday.

Clark was reported missing by his parents after he failed to return to his home on Bennett Avenue after a walk. Clark is an asthmatic, and police are concerned about his welfare because it is believed that he does not have his medication with him.

He is described as 6 feet tall, 160 pounds, blond hair, blue eyes, last seen wearing a blue short-sleeve, collared shirt with white stripes across the back, black windbreaker-type pants, and black and white shoes.

If you know his location or have seen him this week, call Detective Rita Warfield at 385-2930.

compiled by Will Sands





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