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Wolf Creek water supply contested

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WOLF CREEK PASS – Disputes and disagreement continue at Wolf Creek Pass, where Texas billionaire Billy Joe “Red” McCombs proposes to build 2,172 residential units next to a ski area that has no overnight lodging and not even much base area development.The disagreement reported by the Durango Herald is whether there is sufficient water in late summer to sustain the city of part-time residents. The location is at 10,300 feet, near the Continental Divide.”If you go up there in mid-summer and walk the drainages, there’s hardly any water, or just a trickle,” said Ralf Topper, a hydrologist with the Colorado Geological Survey.The newspaper reports a case of dueling water engineers. Martin and Wood, the firm hired by the developer, said the resort village could survive with 64 acre-feet of water storage, if necessary, although plans call for double that amount. But a firm hired by the ski area operators, which is fighting the project, foresees too little water in late summer and fall in the very dry years.Bob Honts, the development’s front man, said the lesson is that you can hire experts to say what you want them to say. Of course, he was just talking about opponents of the development.Storytelling is heart and soul of Whistler festivalWHISTLER, B.C. – Whistler lift-served skiing does not end until June 1, but well before that is one of the resort’s largest annual events, the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival. This festival has many facets, including an evening devoted to something called Words and Stories.This collection of words, stories, characters and sense of place is, for Pique editor Bob Barnett, the defining event of the festival. There was one individual reminiscing about shooting bears at Whistler’s garbage dump many years ago with rubber-tipped arrows. Another speaker told of her life as a ski bum. Yet another pair gave their performance piece about love.”Nearly 200 people, a cross-section of generations … coming together to share experiences and perspectives forged in the mountains. It was uplifting,” he wrote. “It may be the physical environment that brought us together, but it is the people that make a community.”Ketchum area continues to look at shifted developmentKETCHUM, Idaho – Bracing for an influx of new residents that is expected to double the population of the Wood River Valley in the next 20 years, local officials are continuing to look at a program to transfer development rights to Ketchum, Sun Valley and other towns.The Idaho Mountain Express said that 70 percent of people participating in a planning process called Blaine County 2025 want to see population directed away from rural areas and to or near existing town. The cities, says the newspaper, do not want more density, but had better “rub the sleep from their eyes and face the need to accept higher density developments and to develop affordable housing.”Red Lodge waits for Beartooth HighwayRED LODGE, Mont. – Red Lodge is located at the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park. Although it has a ski area, summer is somewhat the livelier season, partly because Red Lodge is along the Beartooth Highway that is among the most scenic ways to see Yellowstone.But last year, just before Memorial Day, that highway closed for the season even before it opened. Rock and mud slides clogged the highway, and then a $14 million road repair project kept it closed. The Associated Press explains that the closure was tough on the economy of Red Lodge, with the resort-tax income down 11 percent. That was less than what had been expected, however. The closure “helped us understand we’re more of a destination than we thought we were,” said Denise Parsons, director of the Red Lodge Area Chamber of Commerce.Water district elections a sign of times in VailVAIL – It used to be that elections for the various water and sanitation districts were ho-hum affairs in Vail and other Eagle Valley towns, with just enough candidates – virtually all men with ties to development companies – to fill the slots.Not now. Water has become a going concern, and so have the elections. Eleven candidates were vying for five seats on the board of directors for the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District. Partly at issue, reports the Vail Daily, is how the water rights belonging to Denver in the Eagle River Basin are to be accommodated. One proposal is to create a reservoir near Wolcott, about halfway down the valley, to benefit both Denver and local interests.Beetle-infested trees felled at SteamboatSTEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Chain saws are at work at the Steamboat Ski Area in an effort to remove 1,500 pine trees and prevent the pine beetles from spreading in June.The wood is being hauled hundreds of miles, variously to Laramie, Wyo., and Fort Collins and Silt, both in Colorado.A giant blowdown in October 1997 triggered an epidemic of the spruce beetle. While that epidemic is waning, the pine beetles are now gaining strength; reports The Steamboat Pilot. The ski area has some of both types of forests, pine and spruce.Meanwhile, Colorado’s two senators have introduced legislation that proposes to allocate $227 million for managing bark beetles, wildfires and floods in Colorado. The bill proposes to reinvigorate the forest products industry and also encourage the use of beetle-killed trees for biomass energy burners. One of the senators, Ken Salazar, has warned of “perfect storm” conditions this summer for wildfires.There are discussions about building a biomass plant in Colorado along the I-70 corridor.Immigrants gather in resort valleys of WestGLENWOOD SPRINGS – Crowds of more than 1,000 people turned out in both the Aspen-dominated Roaring Fork Valley and the Vail-anchored Eagle Valley in support of immigrants. Smaller turnouts were also reported in Jackson Hole and Telluride.Police estimated 1,000 to 1,500 people marched from Avon, at the foot of Beaver Creek, to Edwards, reports the Vail Daily. In addition, police estimated a morning march of 650 people.”This will show that we’re here and that we exist,” said Ivan Hernandez, a 19-year iron worker from Avon. His employer supported his participation in the March. “Let us love your country,” proclaimed one sign. And another: “Stop H.R. 4437,” a reference to the bill passed last year by the U.S. House of Representatives that would make illegal workers felons.In Glenwood Springs, at the bottom end of the Aspen-dominated Roaring Fork Valley, a crowd assembled that newspapers variously estimated at 1,000 to 2,000. The protesters made a point of declaring their allegiance to the United States, as well as declaring their aspirations to succeed. One 17-year-old student at Glenwood Springs High School, Heidi Marquez, read a piece she had written that was titled “I Believe in This Country.” Brought to the United States while still quite young, she feels part of this country, she said. Her parents aren’t here to break laws, she reported, although she understands how difficult it must be for native citizens to see their country invaded. As for her dreams, she wants to become a surgeon.Among those in the audience, reported the Aspen Daily News, was a 34-year-old from Aspen, Jose Zabala, who arrived with two flags. “I love this country. I love this flag. We can make it a better place if they give us the legal right to be here,” he said.Others assembled at a park in Glenwood Springs acknowledged that the immigration flood had also brought drug-dealers and other criminals, but they said the misfits were not in the majority. “We’re here to say we’re not criminals,” said Raul Gonzales of Basalt, who arrived in 1989. “We’re just hard workers trying to get a better life for ourselves, our kids, so they can go to school.”


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