Drilling approved near Sand Canyon Pueblo

New drilling was recently approved in the nearby Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Kinder Morgan has received permission to drill six carbon dioxide source wells not far from the Sand Canyon Pueblo. The approval came just days before the company faces a hearing for 40 permit violations in the national monument, known for the highest density of Puebloan artifacts in the nation.

The Goodman Point project will be located 1.5 miles west of the Sand Canyon Pueblo and includes two new well pads, clearing and expansion of a reclaimed well pad, upgrade of an existing road, construction of flow lines and a production line, and drilling of six carbon dioxide source wells. The project has been recognized for its environmental sensitivity and the collaboration between Kinder Morgan, the BLM and native tribes.

However, Kinder Morgan is also being recognized for another reason. The company goes before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission next week over 40 permit violations in the Canyons of the Ancients. The hearing has attracted the notice of conservation groups.

“We’re quite concerned with the fact that Kinder Morgan has committed dozens of violations of permit requirements,” said Jimbo Buickerood, public lands organizer with San Juan Citizens Alliance. “Kinder Morgan is generally considered to be a good operator but these are significant violations of rules that all are there to protect public health and safety as well as wildlife.”

Rob Willis, of the COGCC, noted that while the number of violations seems daunting, the nature of the violations is not particularly severe. “Essentially, they drilled these wells without completing the proper paperwork,” Willis said. “They mistakenly thought they were already covered under their BLM permit. Our read is that it was a genuine oversight.”

Nonetheless, the oversight will cost Kinder Morgan $98,000 in fines.

“From my perspective and the perspective of the COGCC, they’re still a good operator,” Willis said. “Once they recognized they had a problem, they threw all of their resources into coming back into compliance.”


Fort Lewis takes on road nationals

Fort Lewis College riders rode to several podiums in Madison, Wis., as more than 325 of the nation’s best collegiate cyclists squared off last weekend at the Collegiate Road National Championships. In spite of strong finishes, the national team road cycling title continues to elude the local college.

During the road race on Friday, FLC riders offered two of the top performances of the day taking gold and silver in Division I. The 72-mile race was characterized by numerous breakaways and chases. Alister Ratcliff used a late surge up the final climb and a boost from his Fort Lewis College teammate Rotem Ishay to win the men’s Division I road race.“I’ve been wanting to win this one for a while, so it’s a good feeling,” Ratcliff said.There were numerous failed breaks in the lead-up to the final miles. However, Ratcliff and Ishay, who finished fourth last year, were able to get out in front as the final climb approached.“I was just waiting as long as possible,” explained Ratcliff. “I knew it was a selective course, and it was going to dwindle down. I was just trying to get my teammates to keep me up there and not let anything get off the front with too much time.”

Ratcliff opened a nearly 20 second gap on the climb and won his first national title comfortably. Ishay out-sprinted Stuart McManus, of Harvard, to earn the silver by less than a second.

However, the gold and silvers were not enough to propel Fort Lewis to the coveted national team road cycling title.

Instead, Indiana’s Marian University used solid performances from both men’s and women’s squads in the final day’s criterium to earn the teams national titles. Fort Lewis finished in third in the ominium competition just behind longtime rival Lees-McRae College.


Mountain Middle School finds home

Mountain Middle School is settling down in north Durango. The charter school has signed a letter of intent to lease the facility formerly known as the New Life Church, at 108 W. 31st St. The building will be leased from Animas Valley Investment Group  (or AVIG), a private investment group based in Durango whose purpose was to acquire and provide a facility to house Mountain Middle School. This facility is located across the street from the Animas Museum, and is five blocks from the Boys and Girls Club and the Durango Recreation Center.

Built originally as a school annex for Durango 9-R, the building has gone through substantial renovation and upgrades in the past several years, including asbestos removal, new in-floor heating, common areas and exterior refurbishment. The 10,000 square foot facility MMS will house two sections of 6th, 7th and 8th grades.

“Mountain Middle School is excited about this property,” says Nancy Heleno, MMS Board President, “Though we are a free, public school, we receive no facilities funding, and we are grateful to the Animas Valley Investment Group for working with us.”

Over the next 100 days, Mountain Middle School’s facilities team will be modifying, remodeling and enhancing the building to meet state requirements

 Mountain Middle School plans to open this August and will be based on the same model as Animas High School: the innovative California-based High Tech High. However, the two schools will be separate entities, with individual staffs, governing bodies and facilities.


Signage installed in mountain parks

The City of Durango is working to demystify the Overend and Dalla mountain parks. This week, the city, in cooperation with the Southwest Conservation Corps and Trails 2000, installed trail intersection way-finding signs on both of the park’s complex trail networks.

Installation of signs is part of a multi-phased initiative to establish and define a primary trail system within each park to help encourage hiker and bicyclist travel on established trails.  

– 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