‘Nuclear renaissance’ continues in SW

Joining the resurgence in uranium mining, nuclear power is now shaking up the Four Corners states. A new, nuclear enrichment plant is currently under construction in New Mexico.

Located near the town of Eunice, in southeast New Mexico, the plant broke ground in late August. The Louisiana Energy Service plant is the first to be licensed in 30 years in the United States and will be the largest enrichment effort in U.S. history. The plant will enrich uranium into a more volatile form and is expected to supply 25 percent of U.S. power plant demand by the year 2013. The plant will also provide a nearby feeder for numerous uranium mines that are reopening in the Durango area and throughout the Four Corners.

Fueled by a national call for more energy and a resulting hike in prices, nearly a dozen uranium mines in western Colorado have reopened or will be back in business early in 2007. The White Mesa uranium mill, located in Blanding, Utah, is also scheduled to reopen late next year, and the Cotter Corp.’s mill in Cañon City is actively stockpiling ore mined from newly reopened mines in the vicinity of Dove Creek and Naturita. Meanwhile, speculators have filed thousands of mining claims in San Miguel, Mesa and Montrose counties, all in an effort to get a piece of the pie.

The LES Enrichment Plant is also a piece of a greater uranium boom. Jim Ferland, LES president, commented, “This is a historic and remarkable achievement for our company, for the nuclear industry as a whole, and for the citizens and leaders of New Mexico, who have stood by us during this process.”

The company boasts that the $1.5 billion project will provide close to 300 full-time and contract jobs and more than 1,000 multiyear construction jobs for a depressed area of New Mexico. When ground was broken on Aug. 30, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Steve Pearce were on hand, praising the plant for driving “America’s nuclear renaissance.”

Louisiana Energy Services is owned by an international consortium of nuclear companies led by European firm Urenco. The company was awarded a license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on June 23, and though activists are appealing approval, company officials are going forward with construction. Activists argue that the plant’s radioactive waste disposal plans are inadequate. In addition, radioactive remnants of the last boom in uranium, during the Cold War, are continuing to haunt of the Four Corners states.  

“The renewed interest in nuclear power is of great concern for us, largely because we have not dealt with the repercussions of the last uranium boom,” said Roger Clark, energy coordinator for the Grand Canyon Trust. “We’re watching new activity with a lot of trepidation.”

However, the community of Eunice is greeting the project with open arms.

“We’re well-convinced that it can be handled safely,” New Mexico State Sen. Carroll Leavell told the Albuquerque Journal.

Bus service opens to Bayfield

Bus service will soon link Bayfield and Durango along U.S. Hwy 160, one of the area’s most congested transportation corridors. Public transit between the two towns kicks off this Monday, Oct. 23. The new Bayfield Road Runner Transit service will make four round trips, Monday through Friday, one round trip on Saturday, and provide service within Bayfield between trips. A trip between Bayfield and Durango will cost $2

The program is a partnership between the Town of Bayfield, La Plata County, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Transit Unit and Southern Ute Community Action Programs. “People have been asking us about serving the Bayfield area for the past couple of years,” said Eileen Wasserbach, SUCAP executive director. “It’s great that we now have the opportunity to meet the transportation needs of that community.”

The primary service vehicle will be a wheelchair-accessible, 14-passenger vehicle, at least initially. CDOT has approved

funding for a newer 20-passenger vehicle to be put into service in 2007. Bus schedules will be available next week in locations around Bayfield.

Ignacio steps up to rally plate

The motorcycle rally will survive in 2007. In the aftermath of this year’s troubled Rally in the Rockies, the town of Ignacio is hoping to step into the void. The town has plans for a larger Ignacio Bike Week in 2007.

The lead-up to Labor Day Weekend this year was plagued with ups and downs for the Rally in the Rockies. Having relocated from Ignacio to Mancos, the rally was slapped with a last-minute injunction and forced to cancel. Following the weekend, Rally in the Rockies owner Dan Bradshaw announced the event would not return in 2007, ending a run that began when Ben Nighthorse Campbell created the Iron Horse Rally in 1993.

However, with just six weeks’ notice this year, volunteers, civic leaders and members of the Ignacio Chamber of Commerce managed to pull together Ignacio Bike Week, an event that attracted nearly 10,000 bikers and more than 40 vendors. The event turned a profit and donated proceeds went to sending Ignacio students to Space Camp this year.

Ignacio hopes to roll that success into next year, as well. Planners for the 2007 Ignacio Bike Week are already meeting and devising ways to improve on this year’s effort. The town has already received offers of interest and support from Ignacio-area biker advocacy groups, area businesses, the Ignacio Chamber of Commerce, the Ignacio Town Board, Sky Ute Casino and local motorcycle enthusiasts.

Puma released at the Nature Center

After a lengthy rehabilitation, a puma was successfully released at the Durango Nature Center in recent weeks. The wayward mountain lion was successfully rehabilitated over the last year and turned loose on property that Durango Nature Studies calls home.

“Pete was born with a bum leg,” Jeff Wise, renowned local artist and puma aficionado, said. “I felt for the big guy, so I took him home and nursed him back to health.”

As it turns out, Pete Puma is actually a member of the San Juan Mountains Association’s Pumas on Parade public art project, which continues to grace the Four Corners area. Unlike his dozens of brethren, who were artified by local artists and found homes in and around Durango, Pete suffered an injury early in life.

Using the “latest painted puma restorative healing techniques,” Wise spent months repairing the injured cat before choosing to release it to Durango Nature Studies for a permanent home.  

“The folks at Durango Nature Studies can provide ‘ole Pete with an ideal home,” Wise said. “He’ll get to live as a puma in the wild, but still welcome children to his corner of the woods.”

Pete Puma will be on display for viewing this Sat., Oct. 21 during a Durango Nature Center open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

– compiled by Will Sands



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