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A potentially scary snowpack

Dear Editors,

“Would you ski on pee?” J.A. (Johnny Awesome), snow-ballin’ sloper who has “stomped it all” (or so he thought) asks, “Dude, what kinda question is that?”

It’s the kind of question concerned citizens in Flagstaff, Ariz., are asking regarding a plan approved by the Forest Service allowing the Snowbowl Ski Resort to spray treated effluent on the San Francisco Peaks to make snow. Former Democratic congressional candidate, attorney Howard Shanker, is representing these citizens in the courtroom. They have filed a federal NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) lawsuit seeking to halt the plan by the resort to pump up to 1 million gallons per day of wastewater up the mountain and clearcut more than 70 acres of rare alpine habitat on public land leased from the Forest Service.

The quality of the wastewater that would be purchased from the City of Flagstaff to make snow has been questioned by many, including prominent scientists. They contend that the dangers posed by introducing this water into the ecosystem have not been adequately studied, and that the water coming out of our wastewater treatment plants is not adequately regulated.

Flagstaff’s “treated” wastewater has been the subject of a national study, the “Endocrine Disruptor Screening Project.” Besides the obvious bacteria and nitrates, this study found human and veterinary antibiotics, antihistamines, caffeine, codeine, oral contraceptives and other hormones, steroids, anti-seizure medications, solvents, byproducts of military explosives, disinfectants, flame retardants, insect repellents, antifreeze ingredients, pesticides and other scary stuff in Flagstaff’s “reclaimed” water.

Scary fact: In Flagstaff’s Endocrine Disruptor study, growing aquatic species exposed to this water did not fully develop their reproductive organs! Even more frightening is the fact that scientists nationwide are finding male fish and frogs with no reproductive organs4 in studies done downstream from wastewater treatment plants, including here in Colorado!!

“Dang it, man!” J.A. mutters. “Ski on the pee? Not this guy!” “What happens to little Johnny Jr. when he takes a dive off the board and face-plants in that s***?”

Exactly, say the plaintiffs in this latest lawsuit against the Forest Service. They contend that the environmental impact statement for the snowmaking plan should have included studies of the dangers of small children (and others) ingesting snow, either accidentally or on purpose. The City of Flagstaff would post signs at the ski resort warning people not to eat the yellow snow, but that’s not good enough, say these concerned citizens. “Who would want this crap to happen anyway?” asks Johnny.

Just who would benefit from this controversial project?

The investors in the Arizona Snowbowl Resort Limited Partnership (most of whom had addresses in Washington, D.C., and on Park Avenue in New York last time I checked) must believe they have much to gain financially from this project, or they would have given up on it many moons ago.

The City of Flagstaff and local Chamber of Commerce are seeing dollar signs, and are working hard to promote the project. The City will take in money for every gallon of wastewater sold to the ski resort, and the Chamber believes it will see more tourism, therefore more revenue, from all of the yahoos who do want to ski on their pee.

Believe it or not, the government agency that approved snowmaking on the Peaks and is using our tax dollars to help promote it, would also benefit from it financially. The U.S.D.A (Forest Service) receives a small percentage of Snowbowl’s annual revenue as part of its lease agreement with the ski resort.  

Jeneda Benally is one of the leaders and founders of the Save the Peaks Coalition, a group formed in 2004 to educate the public about, and actively protest, the snowmaking plan. The Coalition, with members of many cultures opposing the plan for many reasons, is concerned about contamination of ground and surface water supplies and questions the need for a ski operation such as this in the high desert, where water is scarce. Jeneda asks: “why does our government need to spend all this money, time and energy just for the sake of one small, for-profit business?”

As our nation’s economic, political and ecological climates bomb down a slippery slide, I also wonder why the feds are spending so much of our money and their time on this risky business that insists it must harvest toilet water to stay afloat.

As for J.A., he’ll stick with the pure Colorado powder and keep it real! (Thanks to C.P. and K.N. for helping this old-fogy update her vocabulary for this editorial)

– Joanne Finch, via e-mail

Let the games begin


The Democratic and Republican party caucuses will be held March 16, 2010. Each major party will caucus within La Plata County to start choosing candidates for the November elections. The results of each caucus will then be consolidated at county level and then at state.

The caucus process varies by state and party, each with its own rules. In Colorado, to participate as a voting member in a party caucus, there are important deadlines you must meet. If you are a currently registered voter, you must have been registered to vote at your current address and have been affiliated with that party for at least 60 days, or no later than Jan. 19, 2010. If you are a registered voter with a party affiliation somewhere else in Colorado, but have moved to La Plata County and have been a resident here for at least 30 days, you may carry your party affiliation forward; the deadline by which you must have moved your voting registration to your new La Plata precinct is Feb. 16, 2010. If you are a currently unregistered voter, you must be both registered and affiliated with a party by Feb. 16, 2010.

You may register or change your registration at the La Plata County Clerk and Recorder’s Office in the La Plata County Court House, 1060 E. 2nd Ave, Durango, Colo. (note that the County Clerk and Recorder’s Office will be moving in March to 98 Everett St., Bodo Park). You can check your current registration status or obtain a mail-in registration form on the Colorado Secretary of State website at: www.sos.state.co.us .

Your caucus location may be different from your precinct polling place. Locations will be posted on the League website www.lwvlaplata.org when they become available. You are encouraged to check this site from time to time as it will be updated as additional election information is available.

– Trish Pegram, vice president, La Plata County League of Women Voters

Less safe on Obama’s watch

To the Editors,

As a former Naval intelligence officer on a high level staff (Top Secret Cryptographic clearance), I agree with President Obama that the breach of security associated with the Detroit-bound airliner is “totally unacceptable.” The warning signs were there, but the intelligence community failed to recognize, analyze and disseminate the information.  This is the same type of failure that led to the 9/11 attacks and the Ft. Hood massacre.

Although only a small percentage of Middle East inhabitants are terrorists, almost all of the terrorists emanate from Middle East countries. We have to pay much more attention to travelers to this country from the Middle East and a few other countries, and our Department of Homeland Security has to work with foreign airports to beef up their security operations. We need many more intelligence officials who are proficient in Arabic and who can penetrate al Qaida networks in various countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.

Unfortunately, the Bush Administration transferred a number of Yemini terrorists from Guantanamo Bay back to Yemen, and at least one of them was involved in the planning of the attack on the Detroit-bound airliner. President Obama wants to close down Guantanamo and transfer the terrorists to the U.S. for prosecution. Will these terrorists be convicted of their crimes? Will they be executed? If not, how long will they stay in prison? Will they be eligible for parole? Will they spread their hate for the U.S. to other inmates? Why take a chance with these hard-core terrorists? Keep them in Guantanamo.

We need President Obama to stop appeasing the leaders of countries that sponsor terrorism including Iran, Syria and Somalia, and cease bowing to leaders of the world and appearing subservient to them. These actions are construed by terrorists as signs of weakness, which gives the terrorists inspiration to attack us.

President Obama weakened the CIA operations, and the intelligence agencies in general, when he criticized the CIA for its interrogation techniques. Although some of these techniques might be unacceptable to the world community, we have to be able to somehow access information from captured terrorists. I believe the recent failures of our intelligence agencies to provide warnings of potential terrorist activities can be partially attributable to some apathy and lack of initiative within the intelligence community, and President Obama bears some responsibility for the climate of distrust among intelligence officials.

Janet Napolitano is not qualified to fill the position of Secretary of Homeland Security.  We need a professional intelligence/security person in this critical position.  Unfortunately, most high-level federal positions, including cabinet positions, go to unqualified politicians for payback for supporting the President during the campaign.

Note: The President was deeply involved and approved the people for these positions.

The U.S. is less safe on Obama’s watch, and we could be susceptible to ongoing terrorist attacks due to an appeasing and apologetic President, incompetent Secretary of Homeland Security and weakened intelligence agencies.

P.S. Bring on the body scanners. At my age, it could be exciting.

– Donald A. Moskowitz, via email

A frightening tea party

Dear Editors,

Last week was the First Annual Tea Party convention in Tennessee. I was curious as to who the typical “Tea Baggers” are and what do they stand for. Are these people nuts, a legitimate political movement or just another right-wing movement? Online I found some pictures of protesters, signs and websites.

They’re middle-aged, middle class and almost entirely white. Besides some of the typical “Bury Obamacare with Kennedy” signs, the more original signs read (verbatim) “Politians are like Dipers, they need to be changed often” and “Impeach the Muslim Marxist.” For me the spelling errors and racial anger spoke for themselves. Also, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Fox News give the movement strong support, which I think says something, too.

The Tea Party groups seem to be in agreement of three core principles: fiscal responsibility, limited government and the free market (deregulation). Nothing too crazy about that. But had any of these groups been around for the previous president? Bush’s deficit OK, but now Obama’s a Muslim Marxist? Do they realize it was deregulation that brought on this horrible recession?

The opening night speaker of their convention was former representative for Colorado; Tom Tancredo (R). Here’s a very telling excerpt of his speech: “It seemed after awhile that we’d all be boiled to death in a cauldron of the nanny state. And then something really odd happened mostly because we do not have a civics literacy test before peoplecan vote in this country. (Applause) People who cannot even spell the word ‘vote,’ or say it in English (applause) put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House. Name is Barack Hussein Obama.”

It’s hard to say which was more disturbing: Tancredo’s call for reinstituting Jim Crow laws, or the massive applause he received for saying it. What he means by “literacy tests” is prior to the federal Voting Rights Act in 1965. Southern states had voter registration “tests”  whose primary purpose was to deny the voting rights of non-whites.Understandable why there weren’t a lot of “people of color” in attendance. Sarah Palin was paid $100,000 to speak and as usual, fact checking her speech found numerous false and misleading claims about national security and foreign policy.

Well, I couldn’t be certain if all the “Tea-Baggers” are nuts, but they’re clearly bent to the extreme right, and they should definitely be taken seriously. The FBI does. They’ve been monitoring religious groups and right wing extremists as potential terrorists since the Bush administration was still in power.

– Thanks, Bill Vana, Durango



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