City keeps watchful eye on water levels
When it comes to Durango's water situation, the City of Durango is taking a "fluid and flexible" approach.

With no measurable precipitation in the area since May 12, several municipalities and water districts have enacted water restrictions, including Bayfield, Durango West, Telluride and Mountain Village. However, the City of Durango's Terminal Reservoir, above town near Jenkins Ranch, was sitting pretty as of Tuesday, a half foot shy of its 24.5-foot level, and city officials were taking a cautiously optimistic approach.

"As of right now, we're looking pretty good," Steve Salka, Durango's Utilities Director, said Tuesday. Salka replaced former director Jack Rogers on June 4. "We're prepared – we're not going to jump the gun."

The reservoir has a capacity of 74.1 million gallons, about a seven-day supply. Salka said he took a proactive approach during high water to open a second pump on the Animas River to send water to the reservoir. "I spent 25 years in the military, so one thing I've learned is, it's better to stay ahead of a problem," he said.

The City is also trying to keep things in check by fixing its leaky pipes and sprinkler heads and keeping the reservoir topped off. Salka said one of the biggest concerns is if a fire breaks out and water would need to be diverted for firefighting efforts. "By keeping it full, we'll be ready for whatever mother Nature throws at us," he said.

On an average summer day, durango residents consume 7.3 million gallons of treated water with another 1.5 million of untreated water going to city fields and parks, Hillcrest Golf Course and the grounds at Fort Lewis College.

Salka also praised Durango residents for taking matters into their own hands to help conserve water. "We have great citizens, all we have to do is give them the tools and they can self-manage," he said. "The biggest tool is education. The bottom line is to keep everyone informed on where we stand."

The city is trying to get the word out about diligent water use and last week sent out a press release with suggestions on conserving water. "We're trying to make sure everyone is aware of habits and to start thinking about conserving water," he said. Such measures include fixing leaky faucets, sprinkler heads and plumbing, and not watering between the hours of 6 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Proof of residents' awareness is evident. In comparison to 2002, the last big drought year, city water users have consumed less water. In May 2002, about 305 million gallons were used vs. 289 million in 2012, and 350.7 million were used in June ’02 vs. 350.4 in ’12.

Despite this, Salka warned against complacency. "The city Water Board met yesterday, and everyone is really concerned because we haven't had any rain," he said.

Ultimately, the decision to enact restrictions or odd-even watering schedule would be left up to city manager Ron LeBlanc. "It's my job to keep him informed," said Salka.

LPEA offers rebate for LED bulbs
La Plata Electric Association is helping its customers to be greener by offering them a little of the green. The local electric cooperative announced this week a new program that reimburses its members $10 for every LED bulb purchase. The credit will show up on members’ monthly LPEA statements.

“We’ve been looking for an opportunity to reward our residential members when they invest in new, energy efficient lighting technology,” said Ray Pierotti, LPEA project specialist who oversees the cooperative’s lighting programs, noting that businesses are also eligible for the rebate. “Thanks to financial assistance from our power supplier Tri-State Generation and Transmission, and enthusiastic support from our Board of Directors, we were able to organize this rebate program.”

To qualify for the rebate, bulbs must be Energy Star® rated with a lumen output of 300 or higher. Called the “next generation of energy efficient bulbs,” LEDs, or light emitting diodes, are considered more efficient, durable and versatile than incandescent and compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. , alluding to the mercury inside the more easily broken CFLs. The light output from LEDs remains consistent over time, decreasing only toward the end of their life – about 25,000 hours or 22 years, if the bulb is turned on three hours per day.

“LEDs are approximately 70 percent more efficient than old incandescent bulbs, which is similar to CFLs, but we’re finding that people prefer LEDs,” said Pierotti.

LEDs are also attractive as many incandescent bulbs as we know them are being phased out. As part of 2007’s Energy Independence and Security Act, light bulb makers are required to improve the efficiency of incandescent bulbs by 25 percent. The law requires that companies meet a series of rolling deadlines, which started in January 2012 and run through 2014.

As for the CFLs, they pose health and environmental concerns of their own, as they contain small amounts of mercury.

Although they’ve been around for decades, the newest LEDs come in various colors and a variety of sizes, shapes and applications (including dimmable varieties). They are also cool to the touch.

However, the bulbs are pricey, ranging from $12 to $40 apiece – with the Energy Star rated ones that qualify for the rebate tending toward the more expensive end of the spectrum.

“That’s why the new rebate is going to be so helpful,” said Mark Schwantes, LPEA manager of corporate services. “We’ll help a little with the up-front cost, and the remainder of the return on investment will be realized in energy savings over time.”

Rebate applications can be downloaded at or picked up at LPEA’s offices in Durango (45 Stewart Street). To qualify, applicants must receive electric service from LPEA and include the application and the original receipt and bulb packaging.

“Then we will recycle the packaging for you,” said Pierotti.

He also noted that members should do their homework first and take a “buyer beware” approach. “We’ve learned that not every LED is created equal,” he said. He also reiterated that bulbs must be Energy Star rated with an output of 300 lumens or more.

LPEA members have six months from the time of purchase to apply for the rebates. For accounting purposes, LPEA asks members to submit all rebate requests at one time within that 180-day period, even if bulbs were purchased over a span of time. Credits could take up to three months before appearing on monthly electric bills.

Snowberger takes reins at District 9-R
After searching for nearly a year, School District 9-R has a new superintendent at the helm. Dan Snowberger officially started Monday as the district’s lead administrator.

Snowberger, most recently of Colorado Springs, was selected as one of two finalists from of a pool of 25 candidates to interview for the superintendent position. The interview process included public meetings, surveys, two community forums, interview sessions with top 9-R administrators and staff, and a final interview session with the Board of Education. The school board officially approved Snowberger’s contract April 23.

Snowberger holds a Master of Arts degree in educational leadership and a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and has 27 years of teaching and administrative experience. Prior to coming to Durango, he served at Harrison School District in Colorado Springs from 2007-12. During his tenure there, he moved up the ranks from director of learning services to assistant superintendent. He was credited with vastly improving the status of the district, which was one of the lowest performing in the state.

Additionally, he has also served in leadership roles at Cornerstone Academy, Inc. in Los Angeles; Douglas County School District; The Learning Connection in Loveland; and Seminole County School District in Sanford, Fla.

“I am excited to be 9-R’s new superintendent,” said Snowberger. “As Superintendent it is my strong desire to lead, inspire and serve those with whom I work. My presence and support will be a part of who I am as your superintendent and I look forward to working with the Board of Education, 9-R staff members, and the community for the benefit of our children.”

Snowberger replaces Keith Owen, who resigned last August to become associate commissioner of education at the Colorado Department of Education. Bill Esterbrook, a professional development and assessment data coordinator with San Juan Boces, was the interim superintendent for the 2011-12 school year.

– Missy Votel

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