Can PLP Do More?
by Art Goodtimes
Jan 20, 2011 | 1972 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PUBLIC LAND PARTNERSHIP … For years I was one of the sparkplugs of this four-county collaborative effort (San Miguel, Ouray, Montrose, and Delta). It was what I liked to call a “table of trust” – started by former Montrose Mayor Tricia Dickinson and others – to try and prevent the acrimonious back & forth arguments that marked the Louisiana-Pacific timber mill debate back in the day, a place to talk things out before the acrimonious, three-minute-each public hearings … Over the years it became the hothouse incubator for a lot of great projects – the Uncompahgre Plateau project, which has morphed into the Uncompahgre Partnership, the Burn Canyon Monitoring project, and several others. But PLP has remained a loosely structured table where diverse interests come to talk … Of late, it’s been slow at taking on major issues, and has become more of a resource advisory council for federal and state land management agencies. That’s a good thing. We need to keep in touch with what the agencies are doing in all four of these counties, where tax-exempt public land holdings are larger than private holdings … But I’m motivated to see PLP do more. Now that I was able to pass the BOCC chair’s gavel over to my very capable colleague Joan May, it frees me up to get back involved on the regional level with PLP. At their last meeting, they voted me co-chair with Ouray’s Alan Staehle, a former commissioner and a personal friend … I’m thinking that, given the current energy policies of Obama, Udall, and others (Dems and Repubs alike), it’s hard to not imagine the nuclear industry returning to the Western Slope, with its still-large deposits of carnotite and other uranium-bearing ores. The recent state review and approval of a proposed Canadian uranium mill in Disappointment Valley suggests that this nation is moving back to a “new, improved” nuclear option for our future energy mix. Some of us believe that is a bad idea. We argue that without a proven technology of safe disposal and with bomb-grade plutonium being a possible outcome of the uranium processing industry, we ought to not go down that road … But, while that continues to be my personal belief and a strong plank of the Green platform, I think we in the San Miguel Basin have to face the fact that a uranium boom appears to be coming. And I think, as an elected official, I would be remiss not to get our communities to start thinking about what that will mean, what cleanups of past tailings we ought to do first, how we will contain the radioactive genii to be sure there’s as little harm to our beautiful West End landscapes as possible, what impacts to our social structure will need to be addressed from the inherent boom/bust nature of this industry, etc. To do that, we need to get local people from all sides of this debate together and try to talk about what’s happening and how we can shape how it happens ... If we don’t discuss these matter and we just fight, a Western Slope uranium boom will happen without the kind of community oversight and planning that it critically needs – however bad an idea a minority of us may think it is. I hope PLP can start trying to do that for our four counties.

CARNOTITE … That’s a term you hear a lot in this region in relationship to yellowcake – the processed ore from mills that’s used to create uranium fuel for nuclear reactors. Carnotite was first discovered up the Roc Creek canyon off of the Dolores River, just downstream from the confluence of the San Miguel and Dolores rivers. According to a Montrose Daily Press story from 1934, an old Irishman by the name of Tom Dullan is credited with finding an outcrop of the bright to greenish-yellow rock in 1895 … T.M. McKee, a prospector and Montrose photographer, couldn’t identify the samples, and the assays turned up negative for gold, copper or iron. When Charles Poulot, in search of rare minerals for a Michigan syndicate, set up a small assay shop at the Cashin Mine in 1899, McKee took around a six-pound sack of Dullan’s poke. Unable to identify it, Poulot sent it off to one of his professors in France, who wired back in a few weeks and said it was “uranium in a new color,” which the French scientists M.M.C. Freidel and E. Cumenge named carnotite, in honor of a French mining engineer and chemist, M. Adolphe Carnot (1839-1920) … The mineral occurs typically as crusts and flakes in sandstones. Amounts as low as one percent will color the sandstone a bright yellow. It is found in the states of Wyoming, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, as well as Colorado, and overseas in Zaire, Morocco, Australia and Kazakhstan.

WATER RIGHTS … Montrose County has filed for water rights to storage in two reservoirs that haven’t even been built yet – the proposed Marie Scott Reservoir on Saltado Creek and a reservoir slated for Maverick Draw (east and north of Norwood). Water for those reservoirs is located in San Miguel County … While it is not illegal for one county to file for water in another county, one would expect the filing county to notify the county filed on beforehand. In this case, that did not happen. San Miguel County found out about the filings, after the fact, from third parties … And, as the reservoirs are yet to be built, the filings will be conditional (the only kind of “speculative” water filings allowed in Colorado water court), which is in itself kind of curious … Private conversations with Commissioner David White (my Montrose counterpart whose district takes in the West End) suggest that there’s no hanky-panky going on – perhaps just a simple oversight. And by filing for these rights, Montrose County may be helping to build a case for constructing these reservoirs, which is why the Norwood Water Commission and the ditch companies in Norwood appear to be supportive of the filings … Anyone interested in learning more about this issue ought to attend the Tri-County North meeting in Ridgway where Montrose County will explain its intentions in filing for water in San Miguel County. The meeting, which is open to the public, will be held in the 4-H building at the Ouray County Fairgrounds on Tuesday, February 15th, starting at 9:30 a.m.


Does all magic die
in the extermination camp
of the mind?
Or are there slices of the divine
between the rows & columns?
Between all of these regimented lives?

–Cardelia Brown
from Asylum
(Outskirts Press, Denver, 2009)

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