Quick N' Dirty

Whitewater Park upkeep planned
Whitewater enthusiasts may not get their new play park just yet, but they will be getting the next best thing. Starting today, Jan. 26, the City of Durango will be performing routine in-stream maintenance on the Whitewater Park, downstream of Smelter Rapid at Santa Rita Park. Heavy-equipment will be used to shore up and move boulders that have been tossed around by high water and now represent a safety hazard.

As for the long-term improvements on the park, the City has received its U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 404 Permit to complete the work. Features to direct the flow of water are required to satisfy the requirements of the Recreational In-Channel Diversion Water Right. The city acquired rights to the Animas River water in late 2007 after a three-year battle. The rights allow Durango between 185 to 1,400 cubic feet per second, depending on flow, for whitewater recreation. Plans for the Whitewater Park call for an 850-foot structured course with as many as four permanent features.

The City anticipates building the new park in 2013. However, until these changes are completed, the City is responsible to maintain the Whitewater Park’s existing features.

Area recoups $750,000 in PV rebates
La Plata and Archuleta counties may represent a small slice of Colorado’s population, but they took a big bite out of a recent state renewable-energy rebate program. From 2010-11, 170 La Plata Electric Association members took advantage of the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) “Recharge Colorado” solar PV rebate program. This equated to 14 percent of the state’s entire allotment of solar rebates, for residents who installed new systems.

“It’s fantastic that La Plata and Archuleta counties represented that large of a percentage in the GEO’s entire statewide program,” said Sue Maxwell, project specialist for LPEA, which partnered on the program. Locally, PV rebate checks amounted to $766,188.

The rebate program, was part a larger program funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, that ran from April 2010 - December 2011.

According to the GEO, 1,204 Colorado residents and businesses installed PV systems during that time. The program also offered incentives on a variety of energy-efficiency measures, from new Energy-Star appliances to energy-saving doors and windows, shelling out nearly $22 million to 75,000 residents.

The solar rebates were based on system size and watt capacity. Installations were eligible for a return of 20 to 30 percent.

According to LPEA, there are 330 net metered, renewable generation systems connected to the grid within its 30,000-customer service territory.

Combined, these systems can produce 1,567 kilowatts, or about 1.6 megawatts.

“It was great that the financial support from LPEA could be leveraged with the dollars coming in from Denver,” said Mark Schwantes, LPEA manager of corporate services. “Those members who were able to participate will see a more timely return on their investment. We were happy to be a part.”

Although the rebate program ended, Recharge Colorado has a new start as its own nonprofit entity. “After a thorough review of the rebate program and its potential, the Governor’s Energy Office decided that the Recharge Colorado website and rebate program would better serve Coloradans by ... becoming an independent, stand-alone nonprofit organization,” the GEO website stated. Recharge Colorado, www.rechargecolorado.org, will continue to promote energy and water efficiency and provide information on rebates, incentives, local contractors and energy-saving tips.

Schwantes said LPEA’s interest in promoting renewable energy also will continue into 2012. “LPEA will continue to support local renewable generation with a streamlined interconnection process and support more renewable policies and programs,” he said.

Furthermore, LPEA will feature members of the Southwest Solar Industry Association (SSIA) at its upcoming Renewable Energy Generation meeting.

The meeting takes place Wed., Feb. 1, from 9-10 a.m. at LPEA headquarters, 45 Stewart St., in Bodo Park.
“We’re happy to provide this free forum,” said Schwantes. “We encourage anyone interested in learning more about the solar industry and installing solar to attend.”

The SSIA was formed late last year by four local solar installers: Living Solar, Shaw Solar, Solar Today and Tomorrow, and SolarWorks. At its core, it is a trade association, organized to educate the community, promote the local solar industry and serve as a unified voice for local solar installers. “The idea behind the group was to advance our shared interests,” said John Shaw, of Shaw Solar. “Most of the installers already know each other, and there is always a friendly competition – but when it comes to promoting solar locally, or responding to a policy issue, we can usually come to a consensus quickly.”

The talk is part of LPEA’s Free Information Series. For details, go to www.lpea.coop.  

Early-season skier numbers down
The numbers have confirmed what many Coloradans already knew: the 2011-12 ski season is off to a rocky start. According to Colorado Ski Country USA (SCUSA), its 22 member resorts reported a fairly significant decrease in skier traffic for the first part of the season. So far, skier visits from opening day through Dec. 31 have been down by 10.7 percent compared to the same period last year.

SCUSA President and CEO Melanie Mills said the lack of snow was probably the biggest culprit. “We had a promising start in October with several robust storms giving resorts a solid base and allowing some to open earlier than planned,” she said. “But we faced inconsistencies in weather patterns for most of November and December, leading to slower visitation especially by in-state skiers.”

As of Jan. 20, the day SCUSA released the number, resorts on average had about 80 percent of their terrain open. However, a series of weekend storms gave a little bump to many resorts.

Durango Mountain Resort is currently 99 percent open. Other SCUSA ski areas among the 99-percenters are Wolf Creek,  Aspen Mountain, Crested Butte, Silverton and Ski Cooper.

However, Mills notes Colorado is at an advantage over other Western ski areas at lower altitudes. “Resorts have been able to maintain the big snows we received early on, thanks to Colorado’s higher elevations and colder temperatures,” she said.

Resorts were busy over the holidays, with many travelers “diversifying” their vacations with other attractions. “Colorado is known for its world class resorts, and part of the reason is the wide range of off-snow and nonskiing activities they offer,” said Mills.

SCUSA also reiterated that oft-heard but seldom recalled fact in the face of a powder dearth: the state’s snowiest months still lie ahead. “We feast in the big snow years and suffer a bit when it’s dry,” said Mills. “But we’ve got lots of the season still ahead, including a bonus leap year ski day on Feb. 29.”

– Missy Votel