West recycling lags due to big spaces

ASPEN – Aspen city officials are calculating how they can nudge the recycling rate upward. About 16 percent of solid waste is diverted into recycling, which is far higher than the rate in Colorado, but well below the national rate of 30 percent.

Why is the land of Denver and John Denver so so-so? TheAspen Daily News explains that it is, relatively speaking, a place of wide-open spaces, which means that it costs less to dump trash. Even in the Roaring Fork Valley, one of Colorado’s priciest neighborhoods, the cost is $50 a ton at the landfill. It can be three times as high along the East Coast.

In the neighboring Eagle Valley, nobody keeps track of the recycling rate from Vail and outlying towns, although one knowledgeable figure estimates 10 percent.

In Wyoming, however, the story is much, much higher. Teton County – which his nearly synonymous with Jackson Hole – last year diverted 32 percent of trash, concrete and construction debris from the landfill. That’s twice as good as Aspen, probably three times as much as Vail.

Why so much better in Jackson Hole? The landfill tipping fee is only $50, but it is located 90 miles south of Jackson, near Pinedale. That adds on transportation costs, although it may speak to a greater environmental ethic in Jackson Hole.

In Colorado’s Grand County, meanwhile, officials are unsure of what to do next. Although it’s closer to Denver, ironically it’s also more geographically isolated. As such, the cost of getting bottles, cans and newspapers to market caused the recycling operation to shut down in the Fraser-Winter Park area. TheSky-Hi Daily News reports it would take a $306,000 subsidy to continue recycling in the four towns.

However, operating the landfill also involves a huge subsidy. Last year, the county swallowed a $5.5 million debt.

Molybdenum mine foes gain big bat

CRESTED BUTTE – Opponents of a molybdenum mine being planned on the outskirts of Crested Butte now have a heavy-hitting bat in hand.

The Red Lady Coalition, an opposition group, has retained DLA Piper, the world’s largest legal firm, and more importantly, one with a high profile in Washington, D.C.

The firm is providing its services for free. Chairman of the firm is George Mitchell, former majority leader in the U.S. Senate. Among the figures employed in the firm’s Regulatory and Legislative Affairs Group are both Dick Gephardt and Dick Armey, both former majority leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives. Gephardt was a Democrat from Missouri and Armey a Republican from Texas.

“We will explore all appropriate avenues – both legal and political–to make sure that the Red Lady retains its character as one of the country’s treasured natural landmarks,” said Lisa Dewey, a partner in DLA Piper.

The Red Lady is the nickname for Mount Emmons, the mountain immediately to the west of Crested Butte. It is within that mountain that the molybdenum deposit owned by U.S. Energy is located.

Opponents told theCrested Butte News that DLA Piper’s “vast public policy experience and extensive capacity in environmental litigation will help ensure that the case of the opponents is presented credibly and effectively before Congress, but also the Forest Service and other federal agencies, as well as state and local governments.”

Crested Butte town authorities are also gearing up for a formal proposal. The town in1978 adopted regulations that address impacts to the municipal water supply. The mine would be in the watershed that supplies the town’s water.

Summit County to clean up old mine

MONTEZUMA – The heyday of the Pennsylvania Mine is now more than a century old, but it’s still causing problems in Summit County. At this point, reports theSummit Daily News, some people are thinking that a Superfund designation may be necessary.

The mine is located along Peru Creek, near the town of Montezuma, and several miles upstream from the Keystone Ski Area and Resort. Mining of silver, gold and other minerals began in the 1870s but petered out in the 20th century.

The problem is that the mining exposed rocks and water that runs over them picks up heavy metals such as zinc. Such acid-mine drainage is a problem in many areas of the West.

If this was a problem before, it became much more so last summer after an intense rainstorm apparently changed the way water flows through the mine. Since then, zinc concentrations down

stream have doubled. At Keystone, the surge of tainted water killed hundreds of trout that had been stocked in the Snake River.

A listing under the nation’s Superfund legislation could attract federal money, but water specialist Lane Wyatt tells the newspaper’s Bob Berwyn that there are also downsides.

One downside to Superfund designation is that it attaches a stigma. French Creek, which flows through Breckenridge, was literally turned upside down by dredges in an effort to recover gold dust. However, Breckenridge did not want the notoriety of being a Superfund cleanup site. As such, the cleanup is occurring far more slowly.

Steamboat tries to balance big boxes

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Steamboat Springs continues its efforts to reconcile somewhat contrary realities. On one hand, it’s growing in population – and rapidly. That is creating a market for the sorts of goods commonly sold across North American at lower prices by big-box retailers like The Home Depot and Target. But a good many people would rather not live in a place that is too much like the rest of America.

The background issue is that plenty of people from Steamboat are driving long distances anyway to buy at the big-box stores in Silverthorne, 81 miles away, and Avon, 89 miles away. There, local governments are skimming off sales taxes to be used for transportation, bike paths and other community amenities.

To sort out its future, Steamboat city leaders have retained Economic and Planning Systems, a Denver-based firm. A survey distributed by the firm found Steamboat is mixed about whether big-box chain stores should be allowed.

But some officials, such as City Councilwoman Cari Hermancinski, say that a large-format retail store somewhere in the Yampa Valley is inevitable. “If there’s to be a big box in the west of Steamboat,” she said, describing an area likely to be annexed, “there’s going to be one down-valley, and we’re all going to be driving to it anyway.”

The city, notes theSteamboat Pilot & Today, already has an ordinance that holds any commercial development larger than 12,000 square feet to higher design standards.

Loui Antonucci, the council president, said a healthy mix of retailers would stop some of the leakage of money being spent in other towns.

Also looking into the future, Noreen Moore stressed again the evolving nature of Steamboat’s economy. She noted that 10 percent of local job-holders are location neutral, meaning that their incomes are not tied to local tourism or agriculture. Instead, they are tied into broader regional, national or international economies.


Crested Butte to revamp flights

CRESTED BUTTE – Crested Butte is restructuring its direct flight program in an effort to better appeal to destination skiers.

The ski area operator and its partners from local governments, who levy a sales tax to subsidize transportation, had taken a heavy hit in revenue guarantees two years ago when airlines too frequently carried fewer passengers than was necessary to meet costs. The subsidized flights were primarily to Texas and also Denver.

This year, Crested Butte took a breather, offering fewer flights, but hopes to return next winter with a revised program to a variety of cities, including to Delta Airlines headquarters in Salt Lake City as well as Chicago and Atlanta.

Nearly $2 million will be offered to airlines to ensure they don’t lose money on the new flights. To make this possible, Crested Butte Mountain Resort will pick up a large portion of the tab, $1.2 million, should the planes not fill to at least 75 percent capacity.

At the same time, Crested Butte may cut short its winter flights. While the flights now continue into April, those flights lose enormous amounts of money, said Kent Myers, of Airplanners, a consulting firm. “We lose so much more in April, it’s silly,” he said. Crested Butte also expects to cut back its shuttles from Denver.


Vail’s airport may get name change

GYPSUM – So much depends upon what you call it. “It,” in this case, being the airport located in Gypsum, 37 miles west of Vail.

“It” was formally proclaimed the Eagle County Regional Airport in the late 1980s, when it was expanded to accommodate jets, which now routinely deliver passengers for Vail, Beaver Creek and, to a lesser extent, Aspen and Snowmass – but also to the oil and gas industry that is now feverishly at work to the west.

– Allen Best