BuRec hosts Nighthorse meeting

The stalled-out plans at Lake Nighthorse are about to make some waves.

Next week, the Bureau of Reclamation will hold a meeting at the Durango Rec Center to update the public on recreation plans at the reservoir. The meeting takes place Wed., June 18, from 5 - 7 p.m. in the Eolus and Sunlight rooms and will include a brief presentation from BuRec officials. After the presentation, members of the public will be able to ask questions and view maps and plans for Lake Nighthorse.

“It’s a chance for the public to hear what we’ve been up to, to this point,” BuRec Public Affairs Specialist Justyn Hock said Tuesday from Grand Junction. “

The meeting was likely hastened by a letter sent last month to the BuRec, which oversees the reservoir, by Colorado Democratic Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet. The two requested that BuRec speed up efforts to open the reservoir, which was filled three years ago.

Several entities have a stake in the reservoir, including the Southwestern Water Conservation District; Southern Ute Indian Tribe; Ute Mountain Ute Tribe; Navajo Nation; Animas-La Plata Conservancy District; State of Colorado; San Juan Water Commission and La Plata Conservancy District, which together make up the Animas-La Plata Operation and Maintenance Association.

It is estimated that recreation at Lake Nighthorse could add up to $12 million annually to the local economy. Although the City of Durango has stepped forward to oversee management of recreation and law enforcement at the reservoir, several hurdles remain. Those include protection of cultural resources and wildlife habitat as well as honoring Brunot Treaty rights of the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes to hunt on ancestral lands.

Also at issue is City annexation of the land, which is under La Plata County jurisdiction, as well as what sort of motorized uses will be allowed. In the past, the Utes have opposed City annexation and there has been disagreement over who should oversee operation.

“We are conducting regular meetings with partners and stakeholders to discuss and resolve a broad range of issues concerning water quality, environmental protection, and tribal trust responsibilities of the United States government,” read a news release from the BuRec. “Many issues have been resolved and Reclamation continues to work on remaining issues, including working closely with Association members to ensure protection of cultural resources and annexation of project lands by the city of Durango for administration of recreation and law enforcement purposes.”

The BuRec, along with the Department of the Interior, is working with the City of Durango to develop a lease agreement for the administration of recreation at Lake Nighthorse. Once the agreement is finalized, the City would become recreation manager, and amenities would be developed according to the lake’s Master Plan, which was completed in 2011.

The ALP Operations and Maintenance Association has awarded funds to the City to pay for design and construction of amenities at the 5,500-acre reservoir, which is two miles from downtown. Hock said if a consensus is reached among stakeholders, the lake would be open to the public in 2015, at the earliest.

In the meantime, Hock encouraged anyone interested in recreation opportunities at the lake – including frustrated members of the recently formed Occupy Nighthorse movement – to attend. She advised this would be a more productive option than plans for the “spirited community gathering” on July 5 at the lake’s locked gates – which technically would be trespassing.

“We’ve been fielding lots of calls from the public,” she said. “We definitely invite them to come to the meeting.” 

For more information on the Lake Nighthorse Master Plan, go to the City’s website, www.durangogov.org.

LPEA warns of phone scam

La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) is once again cautioning members of a phone scam making the rounds. On Tuesday, LPEA’s Customer Service department was alerted of a party calling members, claiming to be from UPS and in search of information to deliver a check from LPEA.

 “LPEA does not send out checks via UPS. That was our first red flag,” Steve Gregg, LPEA manager of operations, said. “The caller apparently indicates that the LPEA customer has a sum of money available to be returned, and then asks for additional information."

Gregg warns people not to provide the caller with any additional information and to call LPEA with any questions, at 247.5786.

In late 2013, local businesses were the focus of scammers claiming to be LPEA employees and demanding immediate payment via credit card or pre-paid debit card to avoid disconnection of electric service. LPEA hasn’t taken credit card payments over the phone since 2010, pursuant to national regulations. “Our Customer Service Representatives will call you when payments are delinquent and there is a pending disconnect, but they will not take any personal identity information over the phone. LPEA is committed to protecting its members’ identity,” LPEA CFO Dennis Svanes, said.

– Missy Votel