In defense of LPEA rate increase
To the editor:
Although I have served as a director for La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) for a number of years, I write this letter as an individual.  In the January Colorado Country Life magazine, CEO Greg Munro will explain why it is necessary to raise the electric rates. I am writing because there seems to be some confusion about the process the board went through to make the rate decision.
For as long as I have been on the board, we have worked to balance reliability and environmental responsibility with costs. Once it became apparent a rate increase was needed, the question was whether to raise the base charge or the electric component. The staff at LPEA prepares a cost-of-service study to help the board ensure that the membership is treated equitably when determining rates. According to the study, some members have not been paying their fair share for their electric service. In other words, they are being subsidized. After two days of discussion and debate, the board felt the fairest way to raise the rates was through the base charge.
The base charge is independent of consumption. Use less electricity, conserve and your base charge remains exactly the same, but you can still save money through conservation. To say otherwise is just not true. The base charge is designed to make sure everyone pays their fair share for a service.
The cost-of-service study uses individual members’ records to establish an accurate scenario. LPEA takes member privacy very seriously. For this reason, LPEA will not release this information to the public.
The LPEA board makes every decision in meetings open to all our members/consumers. If you don’t mind watching sausage being made, I invite you to come and visit a board meeting. Also, all board meeting minutes are posted on the LPEA website.
I will end by saying that LPEA is one of the leading coops nationally in conservation, efficiency and renewable generation. The company has won national awards and been recognized as a leader in these areas. LPEA serves4 more than 30,000 members, and the board is responsible for considering all of them when making decisions.
– Davin Montoya, LPEA Board of Directors, Hesperus

Warn consumers of salvia’s effects
To the Editor,
I recently had a terrifying experience. A loved one of mine, a very intelligent, self-controlled, emotionally stable man, decided to give Salvia a try. Salvia Divinorum is an unregulated over-the-counter drug sold in colorful little packets easily obtained at a smoke shop in Durango. He was picking up some rolling papers when he saw the Salvia sold in packets as if they were tobacco. The packets give absolutely no information about how the drug works or what dosage to take. It comes as a dried leaf, much like tobacco or marijuana.

We came home, he put some in his pipe and took one hit. Almost immediately, I saw his face turn blank, his eyes open wide like a deer in headlights, and his forearms curl up like a person with a severe mental handicap. For the next two minutes, he babbled and walked around banging into walls trying to leave the house. His pulse was extremely elevated and he seemed to be having a fight-or-flight response. He did not seem to see me or acknowledge my words as I told him to sit and calm down. Finally he laid down and slowly came to, having no recollection of the experience.

When he came to, he decided that the drug was dangerous and couldn’t believe it was sold legally in the smoke shop in that manner, when something like marijuana which is much safer requires a prescription. He is an experienced user of marijuana, and has occasionally used LSD, mushrooms and DMT, always having had positive experiences without ever having it feel dangerous. He never expected to completely lose it with an over-the-counter herb.

To be fair, Salvia Divinorum has been used safely in natural form for centuries in Mexico to facilitate spiritual experiences. However, Westerners need to realize that it is a very powerful drug that can cause users to be knocked completely out of touch with reality, which could lead them to accidentally hurt themselves by walking into traffic or jumping off a building. Just because it is sold over the counter does not make it safe. Be warned. In the name of harm reduction, I suggest the city of Durango require smoke shops to provide customers with information about dosage and potential side effects.

– Name withheld, Durango

BLM should deny new ATV trail
Dear editor,

The Monticello BLM office is requesting comments on its environmental assessment, which analyzed a proposal to give San Juan County, Utah, a right-of-way to construct a new ATV route across scenic public lands next to Indian Creek, directly east of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. This ATV route would irretrievably impact the Indian Creek-Lockhart Basin proposed wilderness area and would be a significant conflict with other recreational uses of the area.
The Indian Creek area, located on the east side of Canyonlands National Park, south of Moab, is famous for its dramatic and sheer Wingate Sandstone cliffs and is an internationally known and treasured rock climbing destination. Beyond the sheer walls, as Indian Creek continues its journey downstream toward Indian Creek Falls and its eventual confluence with the Colorado River, off-road vehicle users enjoy many miles of trails that allow for recreational adventures and exploration of the vast Canyonlands basin.

Even though the BLM has designated more than 3,000 miles of off-road vehicle routes in San Juan County, including dozens of routes in and near the Indian Creek area, San Juan County is requesting that the BLM grant the county a right-of-way for yet another off-road vehicle trail “to provide an exclusive recreational opportunity for ATV enthusiasts.”

The proposed ATV trail, approximately 4 miles long, would bisect a roadless area and could adversely affect this stretch of Indian Creek – a desert stream that supports a variety of wildlife species including desert bighorn sheep, mule deer and golden eagles, as it meanders through the redrock and high-desert grasslands on its way to the Colorado River.

There are reasonable alternatives to this proposed ATV route (i.e., using existing off-road vehicle routes and roads) that would not impact wild lands, Indian Creek and its world-famous scenery and would minimize conflicts with other users of the Indian Creek area. However, the BLM failed to analyze these alternatives in its environmental review.

Please tell the BLM by Thurs., Dec. 22, that there is no need for additional ATV routes in the Indian Creek area.

With your help, we can preserve the scenic and wilderness qualities of the Indian Creek area.

– Thanks for your support, Liz Thomas, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Talking dust with David
To the editor,
David Feela’s excellent essay, “Dust Thou Ain’t” reminded me of a poem that I wrote quite recently. Here it is:

“An Ugly Dream of Dust”

What are the specks that drift from room to room
That make the smoker hack and sickly sneeze?
If not me now then surely some day soon
I too will know the lung, the cloth, the breeze
Though not here now it’s always in the post
Long after bone is bleached, when concrete’s gone
When everything will blow from coast to coast
With no one to go gently or rage on!

So learn to love the will of wind and air
But spare a thought for dust and you will see
Through high and low of laughter and despair
Just what it was and is and yet will be
– Sincerely, Marcel Barton, Nottingham, U.K.

Lower Dolores Boating makes waves
To the editor,
Lower Dolores Boating Advocates would like to thank everyone who came to Dolores on Nov. 30 for our first public educational forum. Over 80 people packed the Dolores River Brewery. Private boaters and commercial outfitters were represented. We opened with a short film about whitewater conservation in Colorado, followed by a presentation by Nathan Fey, Colorado Stewardship Director for American Whitewater. Many who were unable to attend have asked me for a recounting of the evening.

The film draws attention to the issues of release management and predictability that we have been fighting for years. To view the film, click here: It mentions a petition campaign to the Bureau of Reclamation that has been completed; to learn more about how you can still be involved, keep reading.

Lower Dolores Boating Advocates formed earlier this year to pick up where the previous boater group, Dolores River Action Group, left off. We have begun registering with the state, designing a logo, and developing an interactive website. All these efforts require an investment. We ask boaters who support us to join for a $10 annual membership. We also strongly urge you to join American Whitewater. With your membership in LDBA, AW membership is only $25. Visit LDBA’s website to become a member: Follow this link to join AW:

Fey provided a historical and technical perspective of boating on the Lower Dolores. Since the dam was built, we have lost more than half of our boating days. The dam has had enormous impacts on recreation, commercial rafting and the environment. That’s not news to anyone, though.

What struck me most about Nathan’s talk was the level of expertise that AW is bringing to the discussions. Local boaters have been involved in the same talks for years, but now we have the data to voice a clear, consistent message. For example, the AW flow-needs survey is a statistical measurement of what all boaters want to see for the Dolores, not just the voice of a few that can be easily dismissed by water managers. AW has not supplanted the voice of local boaters; it has provided us with a microphone! Now more than ever your voice is crucial for defining and amplifying our message.

The presentation also touched on the impact native fish have had on the direction of talks. The Way Forward process, initiated by the Lower Dolores Working Group, brought together the existing science on the flannelmouth sucker, bluehead sucker and roundtail chub. The scientists made it clear that current management policies are not working for these species, and their futures are grim if nothing changes soon. They’ve presented ways to enhance habitat and spawning. As a result, an Implementation Team is using the recommendations to write release guidelines for the first time.

And AW is adding value to those negotiations, too. Using the flow-needs results, we’ve demonstrated to water managers that the flows boaters want coincide with the needs of native fish. Hydrographs we’ve proposed most closely resemble those that would occur naturally, demonstrating that we care deeply about the long-term health of the river.

A recurring theme was predictability. Everyone knows how difficult it is to plan a trip on the Lower Dolores. New release guidelines, hopefully for the 2012 season, is a step in the right direction. So is making sure we all understand the forecasting process and how to access the best information. To accomplish that, we are planning another boater forum this winter with water managers and forecasters—stay tuned.

Questions were also raised about the amount of water available. McPhee is over-allocated as it is. We depend on carry-over from one year to the next and a good snow pack to provide enough water for a release. We are focusing efforts on better use of the water available, not finding more water!

Thanks to all who have supported our work so far and to those reading this who are reaching for your checkbooks! Charlotte Overby, from the Conservation Lands Foundation, and I are embarking on a project to collect and record stories from Dolores River runners, pre- and post-dam. We think it will be useful for shining the spotlight on and maybe raising money for more protection efforts.

We have a unique opportunity to make real change happen— stay informed, be involved and pay it forward for the river we love! Keep checking the website and friend us on Facebook:
Hope to see you on the water,

— Jay Loschert, American Whitewater Dolores River Stewardship Assistant, Dolores