Mountain Town News: Two laborers suffocate when trench collapses | SummitDaily.com

Mountain Town News: Two laborers suffocate when trench collapses

JACKSON, Wyo. — Two laborers were suffocated Friday morning in a trench dug in a residential subdivision outside Jackson. The trench, which was 12 to 15 feet deep and 4 feet wide, had not been shored.

A fact sheet from the federal government's Occupational, Safety and Health Administration cited by the Jackson Hole News&Guide says dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries each year result from trench collapses. The agency says trenches deeper than 5 feet require a protective system of sloping, shoring or shielding unless the excavation occurs entirely in stable rock.

Both men were from Mexico. The family of Juan Baez-Sanchez, 42, said he had been sending his wife and two daughters in Mexico money regularly and had built them a beautiful home there.

"He was planning on leaving next year. He was here for so many years. That was his wish, to have accumulated enough money. He was planning on opening up his own business," said his sister in law, who lives in Idaho.

The other victim, Victoriano Garcia-Perez, 56, had arrived in Jackson Hole 12 years ago and was similarly remembered as a hard-working man whose priority was supporting his family in Mexico.

"He wasn't content around the house not doing anything," a nephew, who lives in Jackson, told the News&Guide. "He always, more than anything, dedicated himself to his work."

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An investigation by OSHA could take a month, said the News&Guide.

Aspen writer gets

message of climate hope in NY Times

ASPEN — Among writers with opinions, especially those who bend just a bit left, it gets no bigger than the op-ed section of the Sunday New York Times. Auden Schendler of the Aspen Skiing Co. was there.

"It's unlike anything I've experienced in writing. I've written for the Los Angeles Times and the Denver Post. The Post has a circulation of 700,000, and the LA Times even more. But the New York Times is the paper of record. It's a big deal," said Schendler on Monday even as messages continued to be posted on Twitter and Facebook.

Schendler, the vice president for sustainability with the Aspen Skiing Co., and his co-author, Andrew P. Jones, wrote an essay headlined: "Stopping Climate Change is Hopeless. Let's Do It." The Times added this subtext: "It begins with how we live our lives every moment of every day."

The op-ed was prepared with advance notice of a new report from the International Panel on Climate Change. The report, said the New York Times in a news story on Monday, "paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has no documented historic precedent."

Anticipating that news, Schendler and Jones asked "how do we even get out of bed in the morning?" The answer, they said hopefully, is that "if the human species specializes in one thing, it's taking on the impossible." They go on to outline their approach, concluding with this: "Perhaps the rewards of solving climate change are so compelling, so nurturing and so natural a piece of the human soul that we can't help but do it."

Schendler said he usually gets messages attacking him when he is published. In this case, the message of hope produced comments of support.

Among those endorsing the essay was Bill McKibben. "As these folks point out, the climate fight—like every movement for justice—is a long daily grind against strong foes. The work can't be avoided," he wrote on Twitter.

Homeless allowed

to stay in designated open space

DURANGO — Homeless people have been in the headlines in Durango lately, as they have been periodically for the last several years.

In one story reported by the Durango Herald, a homeless man believed to be 55 years old was found along the banks of a local creek. He was believed to have died of natural causes. The homeless man was said to make his home along the creek.

Elsewhere, eight homeless people refused to take down their tents while camping on designated open space in Durango. They had been charged with trespassing on public property, but city prosecutors have dismissed the charges.

The dismissal, explains the Herald, came after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found it unconstitutional to prosecute people for sleeping or resting on public property when no other shelter is available. The Herald says the American Civil Liberties Union prodded the city into dropping the charges and stopping its enforcement of the ban on homeless camping.

The city in September said it had stopped issuing citations to people sleeping outside on public grounds, excluding parks and sidewalks.

Jasper next takes up where in public

cannabis use OK

JASPER, Alberta — Jasper's elected officials have adopted laws governing cannabis within the townsite located within Jasper National Park in advance of Oct. 17, when cannabis officially becomes legal in Canada.

Next comes a process for determining in which public areas smoking and vaping will be allowed. This will include proposals for marijuana zones at events, reports the Jasper Fitzhugh.

"We recognize that designated cannabis areas may be desired, and we've provided a process to consider such requests," said Mayor Richard Ireland.

The new law allows private property owners who want to designate a cannabis area within a public place on their properties to write a letter to the mayor and council requesting an exemption.

In Canmore, at the gateway to Banff National Park, elected officials in mid-October will decide whether to restrict public consumption of cannabis.

Good signs seen in Vail's takeover of CB

CRESTED BUTTE — Vail Resort now owns the Crested Butte ski area, and the early word from people who work there is that the "new owners of the resort are really pretty good," reports Mark Reaman, editor of the Crested Butte news.

"The employee benefits appear to be an upgrade from the previous ownership, and Vail Resorts managers are focused and professional and have the people humming in anticipation of a new ski season."

Reaman says his community seems to want to figure out ways to collaborate with the corporation to "maintain the uniqueness of Crested Butte while skimming off some of the benefits that money can bring to a ski area."

A highway river of noise flows through this town

VAIL — The executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation met with the Vail Town Council last week to talk about what might be done to make Interstate 70 less of a nuisance.

Not much, seems to be the answer. At least not unless a great deal of creativity is brought to the table.

The idea of putting the highway in a tunnel has been kicked around since the 1980s. Mike Lewis, the C-DOT director, knows about such projects, as in a previous job he supervised construction of Boston's Big Dig. That took money, and this would take money, too — the same conclusion drawn by a 2004 study in Vail.

At that time, the costs looked too huge to pursue further study. According to a Vail Daily story, Lewis advised thinking about partnerships. If that statement represents forward movement in the discussion, it's not clear how.

But what about turning down the volume? The speed limit on I-70 through Vail is 65 mph. As cars and trucks go faster, they create more noise. Could that be dialed back? And could trucks be encouraged to use other routes?

Again, no words of encouragement were forthcoming. Highways built with federal funds, as I-70 was, are subject to federal rules. States aren't able to arbitrarily set speeds, said Lewis. Those segments with lower speeds, such as in cities, are dictated by what the Daily, quoting Lewis, describes as "geometry." Think sharp bends.

Alaska has record heat, snowing in the Rockies

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Last year, the worst fires of the year occurred on the West Coast during October. This year could be better.

Daniel Swain, on the California Weather Blog, points to something called the Omega Block, one of the highest pressure systems to form over the Northern Hemisphere for decades. It has taken up residence over Alaska, producing record-breaking if relative warmth even into the high Arctic.

"Such blocking patterns are notorious for bringing unusual and persistent weather regimes to adjacent regions, and this block should prove no exception," he writes. "Many areas across the Mountain West may see earlier October snowfalls over the next one or two weeks than they have experienced in recent years, while the Eastern U.S. will experience simultaneous record warmth."

Normally, California is at its most vulnerable by October. As the San Jose Mercury News explains, rain in the state's Mediterranean climate unusually ends by April and, apart from a few light sprinkles, don't resume until November.

"Until we get a bunch of rain, we're still in fire season," said Craig Clements, director of the Fire Weather Research Laboratory at San Jose State University. "If it starts warming up this month, it will get worse."

Major solar farm

proposed for near

retiring coal plant

TELLURIDE — San Miguel County commissioners have indicated their support for a proposed 30-megwatt solar array being considered west of Telluride, near Nucla.

A 100-megawatt coal-fired power plant at Nucla is scheduled to be retired before 2023. The closing of that plant and another much larger plant near Craig, west of Steamboat Springs, is the result of a settlement about air quality violations. State regulators, pushed by environmental groups, argued that the pollutants from the coal plants were contributing to declines air quality, as reflected in regional haze, another name for smog.

The solar plant is being planned in response to an appeal by Tri-State, owner of the coal plants, for proposals. Tri-State spokesman Lee Boughey said the request for proposals in late June resulted in 120 proposals.

About 30 percent of Tri-State's power comes from renewable sources, mostly from the large hydroelectric dams of the Colorado River and Missouri River basins. The wholesale provider delivers most of the electricity consumed by co-operatives based in the mountain towns of Durango, Crested Butte and Telluride, among others.

"The energy use in our regional residential and commercial buildings accounts for almost 50 percent of carbon emissions," said the letter sent by the county commissioners, as reported by the Telluride Daily Planet. "There is significant demand for local action to reduce our carbon footprint and increase local renewable energy projects."

Benefactor to arts center gets released from prison

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Alberta Vilar, whose name adorns the Vilar Performing Arts Center at Beaver Creek, has been released from prison.

The Vail Daily explains that Vilar was arrested in 2005 after Amerindo Advisors, the investment company he co-founded, floundered. Federal prosecutors initially charged Vilar and his partner, Gary Tanaka, with stealing $22 million from investors. An attorney for Vilar said those investors had been repaid with interest — all with money that had been frozen by federal officials.

Vilar had donated an estimated $250 million to opera houses and other arts institutions around the world, as well as hospitals and other causes.

In the Vail area, he contributed $7 million to build the performing arts center at Beaver Creek that bears his name. He also contributed $2 million toward the $10 million renovation of Vail's Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. That fell short of the $3.5 million he had promised the Vail Valley Foundation, causing the foundation to borrow $1.5 million to finish the work.

How local newspapers keep officials accountable

WHISTLER, B.C. — All but the biggest newspapers, those purchased by billionaires, have been struggling as advertising has shifted to digital platforms. In Canada, 70 percent of online ad revenue goes to Facebook and Google.

But wait just a minute, says Clare Ogilvie, editor of Whistler's Pique Newsmagazine. Consider what your local newspaper delivers. "Accountability is a cornerstone of a high-functioning community, and newspapers are a crucial part of achieving this," she writes. As for online sources, accountability rarely measures up.