Salazars win Desert Rock extension

U.S. Congressman John Salazar and U.S. Senator Ken Salazar helped put the heat on the proposed Desert Rock Power Plant last week. The brothers have successfully petitioned the Department of the Interior to grant a 30-day extension on the comment period for the lengthy Desert Rock Draft Environmental Statement.

Sithe Global Power, together with the Diné Power Authority, has pitched the massive coal-fired power plant southwest of Farmington. When completed at an estimated cost of $2.5 billion, the new plant would be among the largest in the nation and generate enough energy for 1.5 million homes. Desert Rock, which is being touted as being more efficient than standard coal-fired plants, won preliminary approval from the Environmental Protection Agency last year. In addition, the Bureau of Indian Affairs released its draft environmental impact statement in late May, citing few negative impacts and recommending approval of the coal-fired power plant. With the release of the draft EIS, the BIA also kicked off a 60-day public comment period, which was set to expire this week on Aug. 20.

However, controversy and opposition have long dogged the Desert Rock plant. In response to constituents’ concerns, the Salazars sent an Aug. 3 letter to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, urging him to extend the comment period. They wrote that the power plant is very controversial among residents of the Four Corners, and that many of them did not receive a copy of the statement until the comment period was half over. The Senator and Congressman also expressed concern about the extreme technical complexity of the 1,600+ page document. Kempthorne responded to their request with a 30-day extension.

“I am very pleased that the Department of the Interior has decided to allow local communities more time to read and analyze the Desert Rock EIS.” said Congressman John Salazar. “The proposed Desert Rock plant is one that concerns many of my constituents. The possible impacts of the proposed plant to our air, water and health need to be fully understood. This extension will allow more time for the public to read and comment on this proposal.”

Senator Salazar added, “This 30-day extension is a win for the residents of the Four Corners-area. This proposal will have an impact on the lives of everyone living in the area and granting the residents the time they need to review the proposal is the right thing to do.”

Comments on the draft EIS will now be accepted through Sept. 20. They can be submitted by and clicking on “Comment on the Project.”


Manna serves up local foods lunch

More than 80 people at the Manna Soup Kitchen enjoyed a truly local meal on Aug. 22. Patrons dined on a fresh pesto, summer squash pasta and a mixed green salad still buzzing with minerals, after being picked only three hours before being devoured. The meal marked the maturation of the soup kitchen’s garden and the product of several years of work.

Started in 2003 by Sue Bruckner of the Garden Project, the Manna Soup Kitchen garden was designed to offer a wholesome food source to people without sufficient access to fresh, locally produced foods. After growing a variety of produce the first season, the garden was then converted into a “pickling garden,” which raised money by selling copious jars of homemade pickles.

This year, a diverse vegetable garden was restored with planning and organizational assistance from the Garden Project of Southwest Colorado and Colorado Master Gardeners and with enthusiastic volunteerism from La Plata Youth Services. As a result, the garden is thriving in 2007. Basil bursts out of the ground the size of small shrubs, tomatoes hang off numerous stems, zucchini spreads its way across the ground of a raised bed and large heads of lettuces fill the plot.

Looking at this success, Katy Pepinsky, of the La Plata County Cooperative Extension, commented, “In my mind, the greatest importance of a garden such as Manna’s is to serve as an example of how an equitable local food system can work. The Manna garden offers a wholesome, sustainable food source to people who otherwise wouldn’t have sufficient access to fresh, locally produced foods.”

The garden should continue to produce for many weeks, and it is the hope of garden organizers that the kitchen staff, all of whom volunteer their time, and the patrons of the soup kitchen will continue to appreciate and enjoy the abundance of food that lies just outside their back door.


County stays the course on ATVs

Silverton and San Juan County have become the off-road vehicle hotspot of the San Juan Mountains in recent years. The San Juan County Commissioners recently turned back an appeal to lighten restrictions on four-wheelers, dirt bikes and jeeps.

The mountains around Silverton are laced with 4WD roads and old mining tracks often climbing as high as 13,000 feet and providing a measurable lure to motorized recreationists. Though Colorado law requires only that ORV drivers be a minimum of 10 years old and within line of sight of an adult, San Juan County took a decidedly stricter approach several years ago. At that time, the commissioners mandated a driver’s license and proof of insurance for anybody driving an ATV within the county. However, that law has not sat well with everybody in the community, according to a recent report inthe Silverton Standard & Miner.

During a recent hearing, one motel operator noted that ORV operators “bring a lot of money to this area and keep us all going” and urged the county to bring its regulations in line with the state’s. Another speaker said that the requirement of a minimum age of 16 seemed “anti-family.”

However,the Standardreported an overwhelming sentiment at the well-attended meeting – including among the county commissioners – for staying the course. Safety was one of the top arguments, since young ATV riders have a very high accident rate throughout the nation. San Juan County Sheriff Sue Kurtz was also in the audience and urged no change to county regulations. “The problem is 20 times more than it was 10 years ago,” she said, adding that she would like to see seamless regulations and enforcement among the interconnected counties of the San Juan Mountains.

“It’s a dangerous situation,” she said. “We have too big a volume of traffic.”

Local receives top photography award

A local photographer has received a top international honor. Gunnar Conrad, a Durango-based photographer, recently took first place in the Pilsner Urquell International Photography Awards Competition. Conrad received top honors in the Professional Photographer Historic Architecture category for his series of images of Hovenweep National Monument.

International Photography Awards is the world’s most prestigious professional photography contest, accepting nearly 20,000 entries from more than 90 countries. Conrad was recognized for a series of four photographs of Hovenweep’s 800-year-old Castle ruin. The images were taken at different times of day and night from different angles. Hovenweep National Monument protects six prehistoric, Puebloan-era villages spread over 20 miles of mesa tops and canyons along the Utah-Colorado border. Conrad, who was born and raised in southwest Colorado, said he is attracted to Hovenweep’s undeveloped, natural character, as well as the mystery of the ancient Puebloan Indians.

Conrad has been shooting location/action images for national and international clients for 17 years. A former ski racer, ski coach, heavy equipment operator, logger, and river guide, he now photographs in the mountains, deserts, canyons and rivers of the West.

– compiled by Will Sands


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