Congressman takes on power plant

Washington, D.C., could be shining a little light on the Desert Rock Project, a massive power plant proposed just south of Shiprock. Following a recent approval from the Environmental Protection Agency, Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., has taken an interest in the coal-fired plant and has requested a formal public hearing on its impacts.

The $2 billion Desert Rock Project would become the third coal-fired power plant operating in the San Juan Basin. It would be built on the Navajo Nation, roughly 20 miles south of Kirtland, and it is estimated that the plant would generate enough energy for 1.5 million homes. In its recent approval, the EPA boasted that Desert Rock will also be ground-breaking in terms of cleanliness and pollution controls.

However, opponents of Desert Rock and clean-air advocates viewed the recent EPA approval in a different light. Regardless of the technology, the new power plant would add pollution to the Four Corners area and join longtime polluters, the San Juan Generating Station and the Four Corners Power Plant, both west of Farmington. In addition, a fourth, coal-fired plant, named the Mustang Project, is also seeking approval to begin construction between Farmington and Grants, N.M.

“I still have serious concerns that the cumulative impact of power plants in this region has not been analyzed,” said Roger Clark, air and energy coordinator for watchdog group the Grand Canyon Trust. “There are times in the San Juan Basin when there are unhealthy conditions that people are already breathing.”

Salazar also took up these concerns last week, saying his constituents deserve a right to voice their opinions on the EPA approval. In that spirit, he requested that the agency hold a formal public hearing on the new power plant.

“Everyone has a right to clean air and clean water,” Salazar said. “The EPA’s role is to protect our air and water. An informational hearing is a good step, but local communities deserve an opportunity to voice their concerns to the EPA in person and have their comments shape the planning process.”

Salazar penned a letter to the regional administrator of the EPA formally requesting the hearing. In the letter, he wrote, “Any new major source of emissions in Northern New Mexico could have a significant impact on air quality in Southwest Colorado. Many of my constituents have expressed concern about the potential impacts from the project, and I believe my constituents should be allowed the opportunity to comment on the proposed permit at a full EPA public hearing in Colorado.”

Currently, a purely informational hearing is scheduled for Durango on Sept. 14. “The residents of Southwest Colorado deserve a formal, local, and public hearing on how their water and air quality will be impacted,” Salazar wrote. “I hope you will provide the communities of Southwest Colorado with the opportunity to shape your planning process.”

The EPA has yet to respond to the request, but the agency is currently accepting public comments on the approval. For more information, visit air/permit/desertrock/.


Homeless count comes to Durango

Durango is joining with the State of Colorado this week and trying to get a grip on the problem of homelessness. In order to understand and best assist Colorado’s homeless, a statewide homeless count will take place Aug. 28 and 29.

Ask La Plata County residents to describe a homeless person, and they are likely to mention an individual panhandling. However, according to homeless providers, Colorado’s and Durango’s homeless populations consist largely of families and the working poor as well as transients and the chronically homeless.

John Gamble, director of the Volunteers of America Durango Community Shelter, noted, “Durango has a significant population of homeless individuals, many of them families with children. A complete count will better enable the Volunteers of America to provide services and document the need for those services.”

In order to understand and assist Colorado’s homeless, the Colorado Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH), in conjunction with a variety of local organizations like Durango’s VOA, will conduct a statewide homeless count early next week. The homeless count, the first statewide count in 17 years, will be a one-day point-in-time survey of families and individuals to determine what homelessness looks like across the state. As a result, state and local governments will better understand the causes of homelessness and be able to improve planning efforts and the allocation of resources.

In addition to providing a head count of the homeless, organizers will ask where the homeless individual or family stayed the previous night and, if possible, their age, gender and ethnicity. Organizers are also seeking volunteers to assist in the effort. For more information or to participate in the local homeless count, contact Pat Carlson at 382-6120 or John Gamble at 259-1021.


Lobos triumph in ‘Best of the West’

Last Friday’s soccer showdown at Fort Lewis College did not disappoint. A standing-room-only crowd estimated at 1,200 filled Dirks Field for the “Best in the West” match and watched as the University of New Mexico Lobos defeated the Fort Lewis Skyhawks by an unofficial score of 4-2.

For the Skyhawks, the game marked the first outing since winning the NCAA Division II national championship last season. Fans showed their support for the defending champions by filling the bleachers for the exhibition game.

The Lobos were national champion runners-up in Division I play last year. Lobo Head Coach Jeremy Fishbein, who coached Fort Lewis from 1992-98, was also inducted into the Fort Lewis College Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday.

On the field, the Lobos struck early, capitalizing on Skyhawk mistakes to take a 2-0 lead only five minutes into the contest. The Lobos scored again later in the half to put the Lobos up 3-0. The Skyhawks were sloppy early but settled down and got their first goal just before halftime. Returning All-America senior forward John Cunliffe sped past a defender and fed the ball to freshman David Barden, who scored from in front of the Lobo net. Cunliffe added a goal of his own in the second half, but the Lobos held on 4-2 in unofficial scoring.

After the game, the Skyhawks, who didn’t suffer a single loss last season, gathered around Head Coach Jeremy Gunn.

“The idea about this weekend is to learn about ourselves,” Gunn reassured his team. “(UNM) is a great program.”

For Skyhawk fans, both young and old, there’s still a full season to look forward to.


Fire Burns Southeast of Mesa Verde

In spite of significant moisture in recent weeks, wildfire is still ever present in the Four Corners. A lightning-caused fire discovered last Monday continues to burn on Ute Mountain Ute land about 2 miles southeast of the Mesa Verde National Park boundary. Called the Mancos-2 fire, the blaze is located in rugged terrain with limited access on a mesa top surrounded by canyons in Johnson Tribal Park.

The San Juan Hotshots are working the fire and two 20-person Type 2 prison crews from Pueblo were en route to the fire Tuesday. A heavy air tanker and a helicopter also assisted in firefighting efforts.

The fire is burning in piñon and juniper vegetation at an elevation of 7,400 feet and was 30 acres in size and 25 percent contained at press time.

– compiled by Will Sands