New uranium mill triggers lawsuit

A legal shot was fired across the bow of the Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill last week. Durango’s Energy Minerals Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of Sheep Mountain Alliance challenging a recent approval of the mill, which is planned for the Paradox Valley, not far from Durango.

Energy Fuels Inc., a Toronto-based uranium and vanadium mining company, is currently planning the construction of the nation’s first uranium mill in 25 years. The mill would be sited on 880 acres of privately owned land in Paradox Valley, halfway between the Dolores and San Miguel rivers. The facility would also be relatively close to the only other operating uranium mill in the U.S. – the White Mesa Mill in Blanding. Energy Fuels hopes to begin construction in 2011, and a contentious Sept. 30 approval from the Montrose County Commission put the company on track to meet that timeline.

However, Piñon Ridge hit an obstacle last week. Energy Minerals Law Center filed suit alleging that commission violated their own zoning rules by approving the mill. Energy Fuels’ property in Paradox Valley is zoned for agricultural use, and siting a uranium mill next to farmland would violate existing agriculture and property rights, according to the suit.

“The county’s zoning resolution classifies the Paradox area as an ‘Agricultural District,’ which protects existing land uses and the land owners,” said Travis Stills, of the Energy Minerals Law Center. “That district does not allow special use permits for heavy industrial uses. Energy Fuels should have known these limitations when the land was purchased in 2007.”

In the lead-up to the approval, more than 100 citizens voiced their opposition to the plan and raised concerns and criticisms of Energy Fuels’ plan to process 1,000 tons of uranium ore at the site each day. Stills noted that unless it is reversed, Montrose County Commission’s approval could endanger current residents of Paradox Valley as well as the Dolores River watershed.

“The existing zoning and land use protections were adopted to keep an industrial facility such as the proposed uranium mill and permanent radioactive waste disposal facility from changing the character of this amazing valley,” he said.

Riddle takes on state election law

Joelle Riddle is fighting to get her name on the 2010 ballot. The La Plata County commissioner filed a federal lawsuit this week challenging a state election law that imposes a heavier burden on independent candidates to obtain a place on the ballot.

Riddle disaffiliated with the Democratic Party this August and announced she would run for her seat as an Independent in 2010. However, to have a spot on the ballot she needed to have changed her affiliation and filed her registration with the La Plata County Clerk in June. As a result of the election law, she will have to run as a write-in candidate in next year’s election.

Riddle alleges that while a similar statute appears to impose the same burden on major party candidates, it also allows major parties to “opt out” of the requirement. “I seek to remedy this burden that falls unequally on small political parties and independent or unaffiliated candidates, unfairly discriminating against them and not affording them the same privileges as the major political parties,” she said. “Throughout my campaign and during my three years in office, I have always maintained that partisan politics have no place in county government.”

Riddle added that the election law amounts to an unconstitutional exclusion of candidates. “I work for all citizens of La Plata County regardless of their affiliation and believe I can do so more effectively as an Independent county commissioner, and I would like an equal opportunity to be on the ballot as such,” she said.

Smart Meal Seal takes hold locally

Eating healthy while dining out can present a challenge for many diners. Proper portion size, nutritional values and methods of preparation are not always obvious in local restaurants. However, several Durango restaurants are adopting the Smart Meal Program in order to help health-conscious patrons navigate the menu.

Smart Meal entrees, which are labeled with a Smart Meal Seal, must include two or more servings of either beans, whole grains, fruits or vegetables. Main dishes must contain 700 or fewer calories and be low in fat and sodium.

The Smart Meal Program was developed by LiveWell Colorado, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing Coloradoans with access to healthy food and physical activity.

LiveWell Colorado partnered with Healthy Lifestyle La Plata to bring the Smart Meal Seal to Durango.

“LiveWell Colorado’s mission is to inspire and advance environmental and lifestyle changes that promote health through the prevention and reduction of obesity,” said Amita Nathwani, the program coordinator for Healthy Lifestyle La Plata.

Healthy Lifestyle La Plata is a coalition of health and wellness professionals whose main goal is to create a healthy, active and sustainable community. The Smart Meal Program first rolled into Durango in 2006, thanks to a LiveWell Colorado grant.

 “This funding has enabled Healthy Lifestyle La Plata to set in motion goals based on healthy eating and increasing physical activity within La Plata County,” Nathwani said.  

Healthy Lifestyle La Plata took the plan one step further by requiring Durango’s Smart Meal restaurants to include at least one ingredient bought from a local farm. Thus far, Zia Taqueria and Beaujo’s Pizza have signed up for the Smart Meal Program. Carver Brewing Co. and Diggs Market, in Grandview, are now in the process of joining the program.

Nathwani added that the program is picking up momentum. She hopes to see the Smart Meal Seal popping up at numerous establishments in 2010. For more information or to complete the inquiry form, visit and click on the “Contact Us” link.


KSUT changes its Durango frequency

The Durango dial will move slightly this week. KSUT Public Radio’s frequency 89.5 FM, which serves downtown Durango and other local neighborhoods, will change to 89.3 FM effective late Thurs., Nov. 12.

KSUT is making the move because 89.5 FM is secondary in status to a full-powered transmitter. Stasia Lanier, KSUT’s station manager, noted that the FM dial is getting more crowded and the 89.5 frequency is not protected. As a result, KSUT is replacing the translator with a full-powered transmitter, KDNG at 89.3 FM, which gives the station a permanent place on the FM dial.

KSUT should be up and running at 89.3 FM by late Thursday. In the meantime, Durangoans needing a fix can tune into 90.1 FM.

– Will Sands & Emily Tennison




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January 26, 2024
Paper chase

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January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows