Western Slope Round-Up: Don’t Drink, Breathe, Live or Be a Mountain Here

Colorado Confidential perused recent newspaper headlines across the Western Slope to give you a glimpse of current issues. Water, air quality, growth impacts…it’s definitely a land of transition and loss.Colbran Takes a Leak
Collbran is a small rural town located east of Grand Junction and it has about 230 municipal water users.  A recent study of Collbran’s water system showed it needs more than $1 million in repairs to patch up existing leaks-that’s about $4,350 per user.

To add to Collbran’s water woes– town loses almost 400,000 gallons of treated water each year–their public works supervisor quit because he felt the town lacked the political will to solve the problems. The town also charges fees that are less than what it costs to produce the treated water. “You can’t fix something that has been broken for so many years in a day,” he said. “If you start in one spot, it is like putting your finger in a dam with leaks all over the place. Which leak do you stop first?” asked the former supervisor.

The town won’t know until August if they will receive a $300,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to find out what’s broken, prioritize their needs and fix some of the seepage.

Cortez Physicians Discuss Air Pollution Effects from Coal-fired Plants
The San Juan Citizens Alliance invited local doctors to describe the medical effects that pollutants from coal-fired power plants can have on Cortez residents, who will be downwind from the Desert Rock Energy Project, a proposed 1,500 mega coal-fired power plant south of Shiprock, N.M on the Navajo Reservation.

One doctor said he has seen serious, life-threatening respiratory cases in children in the Four Corners, something he didn’t experience while practicing on the East Coast. He thought the Farmington-area power plants may be contributing to respiratory problems.

He sited his personal experience with witnessing respiratory failure in children. He had six cases in the last five years while working on the Navajo Reservation, which he did not see during his five years as an ER and family physician in Florida. He also noted figures from the 2002 Clear the Air Report showing pollution’s effects in New Mexico which included a 26% increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome and a 40% increased risk of respiratory death for the state’s infants in areas with high levels of particulate pollution.

Olathe to Discuss Growth Problems
Are you waiting for the Colorado-grown golden sweet corn in King Soopers or City Markets? The Kroger grocery store chain has an exclusive contract with Olathe corn growers for this delicacy. This trivia piece hopefully puts some connection from your dinner plate to the importance of what happens in Olathe, a small town south of Grand Junction near Delta.

“One Community” of Montrose and Delta counties is inviting the public to a community forum on the growth and future of Olathe on May 12 at the Olathe High School Cafeteria. The forum will be conducted in English and Spanish.

Steamboat: Work Here, But Can’t Live Here
Affordable housing issues will be discussed at the next Workforce Forum Series sponsored by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Economic Development Council. As one chamber of commerce member asked: “How do you recruit people to come to town to work for your company if they can’t afford a place to live?”

The main issues for Steamboat employers are finding good employees, retaining good employees and housing employees. The chamber hopes to come up with solutions through dialogue.

Most Glenwood Springs Residents in Wildfire Zones
A new study, which evaluated factors such as fuels, topography, structural flammability, access issues and availability of water for firefighting, identified 15 neighborhoods in the Glenwood Springs area as having a “very high” vulnerability to wildfires.

The Glenwood fire marshal said it will probably cost $40,000 to $50,000 to prepare a pre-attack plan that is designed to outline helicopter landing zones, water availability, anticipated fire spread and other considerations for firefighters. The plan would also recommend a range of methods for reducing the fire danger in the neighborhoods it studied, including reducing fire-prone vegetation and creating a defensible space around properties.

Glenwood Springs has had two major fires in recent years-the Storm King Mountain Fire that killed 14 firefighters and the Coal Seam Fire that destroyed over 30 residences and threatened hundreds more.

Silt Ranchers Out, Homeowners In
The local Silt CO-OP is closing after almost 50 years of business. Locals have seen ranchlands turned into housing developments and few ranchers are left. Oil and gas drilling is also blamed for impacting ranch lands.

One Silt ag producer noted: “We’ve stopped planting crops and now plant houses where the best cropland is, so one day we’ll be really hungry.”

For the ranchers who are still in the business, they will have to truck to the Fruita CO-OP for fertilizer and supplies, a three-hour round-trip commute. Silt is located on I-70 about 20 miles west of Glenwood Springs.

Eagle Moves Mountain
What happens if a mountain of dirt and rocks are needed to expand airport? Well, in Eagle County you truck it. To expand a runway at the Eagle-Vail Airport, contractors are shoving 2.5 million cubic yards of a small mountain across a roadway.

The private property owners of the mountain want to build a development that will someday house a golf course, hotel, timeshare cabins, and 300,000 square feet of commercial space. But they needed to remove a massive quantity of dirt first. Across the road, Eagle County had to add approximately the same amount of dirt to extend the runway. Definitely a win-win situation– except for the mountain.

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Leslie Robinson

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