Groups target Four Corners Power Plant

The Four Corners Power Plant went into the crosshairs last week. Conservation groups appealed to federal agencies to force the nearby coal-fired power plant to take measures to reduce its air pollution, and thereby lessen the amount of haze it causes in the region’s national parks and wilderness areas.

The groups petitioned the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture to declare that the pollution from the plant, located on Navajo land near Farmington, is violating the Clean Air Act by causing poor visibility in protected areas in Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.

“Emissions from this dirty, outdated coal plant have obscured priceless views in our national parks in a brown haze for years,” said Stephanie Kodish, of the National Parks Conservation Association. “It’s time for EPA to take action to protect our residents’ health and our cultural and scenic treasures.”

The plant is the largest single source of air pollution in New Mexico, burning more than 10 million tons of coal per year and discharging  approximately 42,000 tons of nitrogen oxides,12,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 1,300 tons of particulate matter. In addition, the National Park Service has found that Four Corners Power Plant has the greatest visibility impact on Class I national parks and wilderness areas of any coal plant in the country. Mesa Verde, Canyonlands, the Weminuche Wilderness and Arches National Parks are among those most affected by the pollution.

“When the wind is blowing pollution from the Four Corners plant to Mesa Verde, Bryce Canyon or Grand Canyon National Parks, visibility is seriously impaired,” said Roger Clark, of the Grand Canyon Trust. “Only when the wind is coming from another direction is the clarity of the landscape anything like what it used to be. The number of days when views in these parks is clouded by pollution seems to be ever-increasing.”

Modeling has found that the plant’s air pollution reduces visibility by 25 times the amount defined as causing impairment by the EPA. The Clean Air Act states that Class I areas deserve the highest level of protection, and should be free from man-made haze.  


Horse Gulch forum set for Wednesday

The future of Horse Gulch returns to the spotlight next week. “The Appleseed Series: Exploring Local Sustainability,” a monthly educational event, takes up discussion of Durango’s Central Park next Wed., March 3.

The greater Horse Gulch area has always been more than a popular recreational resource. The area is made up of a patchwork of private and public land, and the land known as Ewing Mesa represents the most significant private holding. Stretching high into the Gulch from the south, the nearly 1,900 acres are owned by Oakridge Energy Inc. and have long been discussed as the location for thousands of homes and a new golf course. That changed in 2008 when Oakridge shortcut the planning process and subdivided the property into 54 individual 35-acre parcels. Ewing Mesa came to the fore again in late December, when La Plata County announced that it was considering adopting a “letter of intent” to accept rights of way from Oakridge. The dedication would enable the county to construct a highway along a yet-to-be-determined alignment linking Grandview, Ewing Mesa and downtown Durango. Such a road would alter the current Horse Gulch experience and open the door to development of Ewing Mesa.

Next week’s panel discussion will include representatives from the City of Durango (Kevin Hall, Development Manager, Parks, Open Space, and Trails); La Plata County (Shawn Nau, County Manager); Trails 2000 (Mary Monroe, Executive Director); and a Fort Lewis College class that studied this area (students James Foerster and Chad Goodale). The discussion will be moderated by Professor Brad Clark, of Fort Lewis. Clark and his students have done extensive research on Horse Gulch and Ewing Mesa and hope to engage the public in a discussion of options and alternatives.

“We must begin to ‘think outside the box’ and explore alternative policy solutions to existing problems,” Clark said. “And while the proposed Ewing Mesa access road may benefit a few, the long-term welfare of the many – both in Durango and beyond – will be sacrificed. As Durango-area residents, we must ask ourselves: ‘How will future generations view the results of choices we confront today?’ Growth may be inevitable; bad growth is not.”

The City of Durango has worked actively in recent years to preserve the recreational resource in Horse Gulch. The City has partnered with other groups and government entities to preserve nearly 750 acres in Horse Gulch proper, an area that includes many of Durango’s most popular trails. Hall noted that these efforts will continue.

“Horse Gulch continues to be identified as a priority preservation area within the City of Durango’s Comprehensive Plan, as well as within the soon-to-be released 2010 Parks, Open Space, Trails and Recreation Master Plan, which is an element of the Comprehensive Plan,” he said.

The Appleseed Series session will be hosted by the Durango Youth Coalition and meets from 7-9 p.m. on March 3 in 130 Chemistry Hall at Fort Lewis. For more information, e-mail

Fort Lewis selects presidential finalists

And then there were three. Fort Lewis College has narrowed the search for its ninth president to three final candidates. The prospective presidents will meet the community when they visit the campus and Durango between Feb. 22 - March 1.

“We screened 110 very qualified candidates from all over the country, as well as a couple of international candidates,” said Dr. Peter R. Decker, a Fort Lewis trustee. “The committee and the board were very impressed with the quality of the candidates who applied, which included a number of sitting presidents. Clearly, academic leaders from across the country are impressed with Fort Lewis College and want to participate in its future development.”

The finalists include: Elizabeth S. Grobsmith, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Northern Arizona University; Dene Kay Thomas, President, Lewis-Clark State College; and Kent M. Tingey, Vice President for Advancement, Idaho State University. Grobsmith will visit the campus March 3-4. Thomas will visit March 1-2. And Tingey will be here this week, Feb. 24-25.

The board plans to make a decision by the end of March. For more information, visit

– Will Sands




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