I-70 monorail starts to take off

I-70 CORRIDOR – Could the door be cracking open for the monorails talked about for the last decade on Interstate 70? Don’t hold your breath, but something more tangible is now afoot.

Metropolitan Denver’s Regional Transportation District has agreed to review competing proposals from three companies to build trains between Denver International Airport and the city’s downtown. All three propose to use mag-lev technology, which use electrically charged magnets to power rail-based vehicles.

In an editorial,The Denver Post cautiously suggests that such mag-lev technology, if it works in Denver, might be the answer for the I-70 corridor. The newspaper notes that a mag-lev train in Shanghai, China, covers the 19 miles to the city’s airport in 7 minutes. The project cost $1.7 billion.

While Colorado pleads empty trouser pockets for big-ticket transportation items, the paper speculates that the three companies might help finance the line with a long-term design-build-operate-maintain contract. This, says the newspaper, would give them a foothold in what could eventually be a huge U.S. market – and might even get assistance from the federal government.

And if mag-lev trains work in metropolitan Denver, saysThe Post, there will be obvious interest for the I-70 corridor, “whose steep grades resist traditional steel-wheels on steel-rails service.”

Proponents of a rail-based technology employed in Switzerland by a company called Stadler beg to differ with thePost’s rejection of steel wheels on steel rails.

Bark beetles ravage Grand County

GRANBY – Foresters are now saying that the bark beetle epidemic in Middle Park is unprecedented. By summer’s end, the beetles are expected to have killed three-fourths of the 800,000 forested acres in Grand County.

Among the hardest hit areas is Grand Lake, at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. Hope that the Winter Park-Fraser area might escape the worst of the epidemic has dissipated.

Patrick Brower, editor of theSky-Hi News, says the severity of the epidemic is illustrated in two ways. It is now obvious that thinning forests is not sufficient to make the remaining trees healthy enough to withstand beetles. Even healthy, prime-of-life trees are getting attacked.

Also, the early-on advice was that trees sprayed with poison would be protected. While that is still accurate, the slightest mistake in mixing of chemicals, timing of applicatio, or missed coverage could mean the beetles will still kill the tree.

The battle is over, says Brower, and it’s only a matter of time before the bark beetles have killed all the lodgepole pine, which is the dominant species in Middle Park.

 The greater worry now is the threat of catastrophic forest fires, a situation that U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar in December described as a potential “Katrina of the West.”

A bill advancing rapidly through the Colorado Legislature would provide up to 60 percent of the cost of local projects to remove trees and plant new ones. The state is allocating $1 million. A second measure, which has already become law, lets communities set up forest improvement districts that could levy sales taxes with voter approval.

Jackson to cut its energy use

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Teton County and the town of Jackson are embarking on a most ambitious effort. When 2010 ends, they aim to use 10 percent less energy on a per capita basis than last year, and also generate 10 percent less garbage. The project is called 10 x 10.

This is, notes Jonathan Schechter, a columnist in theJackson Hole News&Guide, more than checkbook environmentalism. “It requires residents to do things differently,” he says. It’s a voluntary effort, with no economic incentives, although consuming less energy and generating less trash do in fact save money.

This effort builds on a resolution adopted by both town and county governments, which commits both governments to reduce their energy and fuel use by 10 percent. The two governments recently formed an Energy Efficiency Advisory Board, which includes two ski resorts, two large lodges and the electrical utility serving Jackson Hole.

As in Aspen, one of the arguments for such an effort is that because of its influence on visitors, the effort can beexaggerated, causing passers-through to similarly cut back on energy use.

Carbondale shuts down man camps

CARBONDALE – Carbondale town trustees have adopted a law that will give police and building officials authority to crack down on the so-called “man camps.”

The law specifies that no more than four unrelated people can live together, and that there should be at least 200 square feet of habitable space for the first person, and 150 square feet for each additional person. Closets, garages and attics are not considered habitable.

The Town Board for several years has struggled with the issue, which was brought to national attention at Christmas with a Tom Brokaw television special about immigration. In that show, cameras went into a house that contained 18 people.

Still, the issue is a tricky, says theValley Journal, because the family unit is protected by federal law. In the case of Latino immigrants, large extended families often live together. This new law recognizes such extended families. Authorities have considerable latitude in what constitutes a violation of the new law.

The most common impacts of the tight living conditions are excessive trash, parking constraints, and noise.

Telluride fund-raisers come up short

TELLURIDE – It’s getting close to the stroke of midnight, and fund-raisers in Telluride still don’t know where they’ll get the final $2.4 million to complete the purchase of 585 acres of land for open space.

The town is condemning the land, located at the town’s entrance, to prevent any development, and a jury has found the parcel to be worth $50 million. The deadline for contributions is May 11. In addition to interest that is now in excess of $700,000, the town must pay the landowner’s legal bills, which he claims are $3.5 million. The town says $2.2 million would be fair.

The Telluride Watch reports that there is no “white knight” waiting in the weeds to provide last-minute help, should the fund-raising fall short, nor does the Town Council have any reserve funds. Indeed, there seems to be some worry on the part of town officials that they are now vulnerable should the economy sour.

Most bears adapt in Whistler

WHISTLER, B.C. – Michael Allen is a self-taught bear expert who has spent every summer for the last 10 years watching bears eat and sleep, mate and fight, play and run. For the last seven years he has led tours at the Whistler-Blackcomb ski area for people interested in bears. The cost is $189.

Allen toldPiquenewsmagazine that the black bears at Whistler Mountain have learned to adapt to a changed environment, including a smorgasbord of enhanced natural food, as well as new open spaces created by ski trails.

But not all bears have gotten A’s.Pique reports that the first bear of the season was killed after it broke into a van that contained garbage awaiting transit to a trash compactor. The 5-year-old male had never bothered people before but this year had bluff-charged people and also broken into houses. His ultimate no-no was breaking into houses while people were inside.

Nine bears were destroyed last year at Whistler for similar violations of human-ursine protocol.

County places ban on piercing

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Teton County has adopted new regulations governing businesses that offer tattoos and piercing. The new regulations ban tongue and genital piercings, and also scarification and lacing.

Driving the tongue-piercing ban is a fear that people with tongue rings will end up with chipped teeth.

The Jackson Hole News&Guide reports umbrage from a local piercing business called Sub-Urban Tattoo. “They’re trying to regulate an industry they don’t understand,” said shop-owner Susan Woodward. She says that the prohibitions will not stop the piercings, but likely cause customers to drive to Idaho Falls, about 80 miles away. She also suggested the regulations are driven by aesthetics. “What’s next, will they ban purple hair?” she said.

School turns to solar panels

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Solar collectors erected at an alternative high school near Glenwood Springs are expected to provide 6 to 8 percent of the school’s electricity. Yampah Mountain High School teacher Suzy Ellison won a $60,000 grant for energy education, installation of the panels, and an energy audit. She told theGlenwood Springs Post Independent that she has taught about energy, including the greenhouse gases created in burning coal to make electricity, and climate change. Students are also being taught about conservation, i.e. turning off lights and computers when not in use.

– compiled by Allen Best

In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows