Local Red Cross dodges disaster

A local nonprofit dedicated to disaster relief has averted a crisis of its own thanks to an outpouring of community support. In early December, the Southwest Colorado Chapter of the American Red Cross announced that it was facing a severe funding crisis. Just weeks later, community donations have gotten the chapter back on its feet.

The local Red Cross experienced a $71,000 shortfall last year, due to a significant decline in contributions since 2007 coupled with a 71 percent increase in disaster response. The Durango-based office serves La Plata, San Juan, Archuleta, Montezuma and Dolores counties and operates on an annual budget of $183,000. The Red Cross responded to 29 disasters in 2008, three times as many as in 2005. At the same time, the local chapter does not receive money from the federal government nor the National Red Cross but depends entirely on support from Southwest Colorado. When the local office depleted its funding reserves, it turned to local residents for help.

Executive Director Cindi Shank said that the community answered the call in force. More than 130 citizens and businesses donated to the chapter during the past month, funneling more than $45,000 into the Red Cross coffers. Of particular note was the $7,500 donation of Taste of Durango proceeds by the Durango Chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association.

“There are no words that can express what it means to me personally that our community cares this much,” Shank said. “We put it out there, and we were really hoping the members of the community would understand why we’re needed here. They did, and we’re really pleased.”

Shank noted that the local donations are already finding their way back into Southwest Colorado. Since Dec. 24, local Red Cross volunteers have responded to three emergency incidents and provided assistance to both citizens and firefighters. She added that the funds are allowing the nonprofit to get back on solid financial ground and that the organization will focus on sustainability in 2009.

Navajo pipeline nears approval

The Animas-La Plata project’s big brother is taking shape downstream. The Navajo-Gallup water supply project, a pipeline that would siphon water from the San Juan River and dwarf A-LP both in finances and infrastructure, is forging ahead. Last week, the proposed pipeline received U.S. Senate approval as part of the Omnibus Lands bill, a package of 160 bills largely dedicated to wilderness designation and river preservation.

A lesser known piece of the massive bill is approval of a 2005 settlement between New Mexico and the tribe, guaranteeing the Navajos the rights to 600,000 acre-feet of San Juan River water per year for farming, cities, households and industrial uses between the intake and the City of Gallup. The bill also authorizes $870 million to build the pipeline. By comparison, A-LP, just south of downtown Durango, is a 120,000 acre-foot project with a current cost estimate of $500 million.

The majority of the funding for the Navajo project would go to the construction of an elaborate pipeline that would siphon water out of the San Juan River in the vicinity of Shiprock and feed the eastern side of the reservation. As proposed, the pipe would take as much 180 cubic feet of the San Juan per second in order to provide drinking water to as many as 250,000 people by the year 2040. The agreement also includes details of how water would be delivered to the pipeline from Bureau of Reclamation water projects including Navajo Reservoir and the Animas-La Plata project.

Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley. Jr. has argued that the pipeline is badly needed on the impoverished Navajo Nation. “This settlement is crucial to the Navajo Nation,” Shirley has said. “It is vital that people see the conditions that some of our people are living in right now.”

However, there are concerns about the project. First, the intake would dramatically impact flows on the lower San Juan, a scenic and popular float trip. Second, the pipeline would pass directly past the proposed Desert Rock Power Plant, which to this point has claimed it will use ground water for cooling. Third, a group of irrigators has argued that the bill would allocate too much water to the Navajo Nation and harm other water-rights holders.

Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, one of the bill’s sponsors, disagrees. He has countered that the settlement will end decades of legal infighting between the state and tribe and existing water rights holders will be protected. The pipeline is now a U.S. House of Representatives vote away from reality.


Tax check-off supports Mancos River

A few moments and a few extra dollars on this year’s tax form can support river health in Southwest Colorado.

The Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund, a voluntary income tax check-off program, aids efforts to protect and improve fish habitat, water quality and recreational opportunities in Colorado. Since the program’s inception in 2003, Colorado citizens have contributed $560,000.

This year, half of the fund will go to restoring the Mancos River. The Mancos Conservation District is in the process of conducting an assessment of the Mancos River and formulating a long-term restoration plan, and the project is already achieving tangible results. A rancher has already agreed to fence cows out of a mile-long stretch of the river for the first time in 70 years.

Residents can contribute to the Healthy River Fund and the Mancos River restoration on their 2008 Colorado state income tax form by writing in the amount they wish to donate on line 39 in the “CheckOff for Colorado” section.


Center to unveil juried photo show

The view from Durango’s lenses goes up at the Center of Southwest Studies this week. The sixth annual juried photography show, “Images of the Southwest” opens to the public this Sun., Jan. 26. with a 1 p.m. opening reception.

The community photography show features amateur, professional and student submissions alike. The final selections were selected by Utah photographer and this year’s juror, David J. West, and awards for Best Color Photograph, Best Black and White Photograph, Best Student Photograph and Best of Show will be presented at the reception.

The Images of the Southwest photography show was started in 2003 to recognize the great number of excellent visual artists in Durango and the Four Corners area.


Durango changes up parking policy

Durangoans get a sweet and sour taste of parking beginning this week. The City of Durango’s new parking meter policy went into effect Jan. 20. All visitors to the downtown business area must now feed the meter between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday - Friday. Parking is free on weekends year-round.

The change ends the distinction between summer and winter hours but brings a stiffer fine for parking violations, with the cost of parking tickets jumping from $6 to $9. Durangoans will get be getting something for their additional $3, however. Rides on the Durango T’s trolley loop are now free courtesy of the hike.

– Will Sands




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