Grand County still looking to connect with Boulder, Gilpin | SkyHiNews.com

Grand County still looking to connect with Boulder, Gilpin

Grand County Commissioners are continuing work on re-opening Rollins (Corona) Pass. The commissioners, along with Gilpin County, sent a letter addressed to Boulder County Commissioners on Wednesday, Nov. 27, addressing concerns raised by Boulder interests in opening the road to vehicular traffic. Rollins Pass is a historic mountain road linking Highway 40 near Winter Park to the town of Rollinsvile in Gilpin County. It occasionally passes through Boulder County. Much of the road remains open to high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicles, except for portions on the east side of the road and areas near Needle's Eye Tunnel. Boulder County closed the tunnel in 1990 after a falling rock injured a traveler and resulted in an $85,000 lawsuit. Grand and Gilpin Counties have been working to improve and re-open the road for two-wheel drive traffic since the U.S. Congress and Bush Administration passed the James Peak Wilderness and Protection Act in 2002. The act allowed for an exception for Rollins Pass, and by the request of Grand, Gilpin or Boulder Counties, allowed for federal technical assistance and cooperation in repairing and reopening the road. But Boulder County took issue over both the road's liability and potential impacts to adjoining wilderness. Boulder County's resistance has effectively blocked efforts to re-open the mountain pass. On Thursday, Dec. 12, Grand County and Boulder County commissioners will meet to further discuss their goals and concerns. Grand County's board of commissioners sent the letter ahead of the meeting to address three of Boulder County's main concerns. Regarding liability, Grand County is recommending either a tunnel authority be formed or Grand and Gilpin Counties join to assume all risk. To fund improvements for the tunnel and road, as well as ongoing maintenance, Grand County commissioners also suggest either a tunnel authority or partnership between Grand and Gilpin. The counties could also turn to grants for funding, the letter said. And to address environmental preservation, Grand County commissioners recommend installing signs, working with the U.S. Forest Service on enforcement and patrols, utilizing environmental groups in designing the road, and placing barriers along the route to keep drivers from going off-road. Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.

Rollins Pass hearing does little to bridge divide

Despite efforts from officials in Grand and Gilpin counties, along with a slew of history buffs, a celebrated mountain road remains locked in political impasse. Boulder County commissioners held a formal hearing last Thursday, Feb. 13, to gather public input on re-opening the historic Rollins Pass road, a former wagon toll road and trans-mountain railroad route. Much of Rollins Pass, known locally as Corona Pass, remains open to high-clearance and four-wheel drive vehicles in the summer. Boulder County, however, blocked and closed an important bottleneck at Needle's Eye Tunnel in 1990, severing the link between U.S. Highway 40 in Winter Park and State Highway 119 in Gilpin County. Commissioners in Grand and Gilpin counties have been petitioning Boulder to re-open the road for years, saying it was an important stipulation of the James Peak Wilderness Act. But Boulder County has done little to cooperate, citing issues with potential liability, cost and environmental impact. "They've been stonewalling on this thing for decades, honestly," said Grand County commissioner Merrit Linke. 'Overblown' costs? Many attending the meeting, including Grand County commissioners Linke and Gary Bumgarner, as well as Gilpin County commissioner Gail Watson, took issue with the costs Boulder County estimates as their share in re-opening the pass. According to a presentation made at the public meeting, Boulder County estimates it will take $3.24 million to bring their share of the road up to "level 3" status, where two-wheel drive vehicles could travel the pass. Repair and restoration of trestles in the county, engineered and used for the historic railroad, would cost $6.3 million. The county also estimates it will take $610,000 to repair Needles Eye Tunnel and bring it up to safety standards. Liability in the tunnel is a sore issue with Boulder County, after a falling rock injured a traveler in 1990, resulting in an $85,000 lawsuit and the current closure. On top of those costs, the Boulder County presentation noted the U.S. Forest Service estimates a required environmental review for re-opening the road at $1 million. In light of Boulder's current priorities on fixing damaged roads from the September floods on the Front Range, presenters said, the costs of re-opening the road were difficult to justify. But some meeting attendees said the county's figures are inflated. "I don't know how they got these numbers," Gilpin County commissioner Watson said in an interview. "Gilpin has always done basic maintenance on the road, and Boulder, Gilpin and Grand counties all get federal highway use taxes for the road." She estimates Gilpin currently spends around $1,500 to maintain their portion of the road. Grand County budgets about $3,200 each year to do basic maintenance on Corona Pass, and Boulder's numbers confounded commissioner Linke as well. "I think it's way overblown," he said. According to Linke, the cost of repairing Boulder's two trestles could be excluded by using the Boulder Wagon Road, a historic route that's currently used by hikers and bikers to bypass the closed trestles. But language in the James Peak Wilderness Act is where necessary costs and repairs become cloudy. The act says should "one or more counties" wish to repair Rollins Pass road, the U.S. Department of Interior will assist with those repairs to allow access for "two-wheel-drive vehicles." The old wagon road is much steeper than the Rollins Pass railroad route, which was engineered to run at a consistent four percent grade. Others attending the meeting claimed Boulder County was trying to mislead the public about the trestles. For a detail photograph used to highlight the repair work needed on trestles in Boulder County, the presenters showed a closed bridge actually located along the Grand County portion of the road. Gilpin and Grand county commissioners further argue that although the James Peak Wilderness Act notes "two-wheel-drive vehicle" accessible repairs, it's not necessary to go to the lengths Boulder County recommended. Although Rollins Pass might include steep bypasses of the trestles and rocky, rutted areas, minimal grading allowed a variety of vehicles to drive the road's length in past decades. Some meeting attendees recalled driving the pass in their 11970s coupes before Boulder County permanently closed the Needle's Eye in 1990. Split views Although the whopping majority of public commenters at the meeting where in favor of re-opening the pass, Boulder County commissioner Cindy Domenico said in an interview that public opinion is about equally divided on the issue. She said 49 individual speakers commented on re-opening the pass, with only 10 against. However, she said commissioners also received letters and emails on the issue, with 40 against reopening the pass and nine in favor. Those speaking against re-opening the pass are mostly concerned with potential environmental impacts to the road's adjoining protected areas – the Indian Peaks wilderness and James Peak wilderness. James Peak Wilderness remains a touchy subject for Grand County. "When the (James Peak) Wilderness Act started going into place, Grand County protested. We didn't want it," Linke said. "But part of the reason we agreed to it is because this historical corridor was carved out." Linke and other commissioners in Grand and Gilpin counties acknowledge Rollins Pass winds through a fragile, high-alpine ecosystem, but said barriers and public education could be used to help protect the area. Keeping the Needle's Eye area closed blocks county officials from enforcing the entire route and encourages travelers to move off established roads, they argued, which is already causing damage to the area. "We believe with the road open, there will be a lot more peer monitoring and pressure to stay on the road, and I think people will respect that," Linke said. "I made a statement in the meeting, that people take care of things that are taken care of. I think that highway's having problems now because it's viewed as a road neglected." Re-opening the road will undoubtedly bring more traffic to the area, but it will also bring some economic stimulus to Gilpin and Grand Counties, as well as connect Coloradans to an important part of their heritage and an amazing feat of engineering that helped connect the state. "It's not just a railroad's history, but the railroad played part in every portion of our history of people in the West," Gilpin County commissioner Watson said. It's that historic nature Gilpin and Grand county officials hope to preserve, Watson explained. "We're not saying this is a road that'll be an alternative for I-70, we're not talking about another Trail Ridge Road," she said. "It won't be paved, it won't be widened, it won't be plowed in the winter … we don't think we should change it greatly." The commissioners from Gilpin and Grand are even willing to assume much of the risk for the Needle's Eye Tunnel by forming a tunnel authority. Boulder Bottleneck Adding to much of Rollins Pass enthusiasts' frustration is Boulder County's ability to impede passage through such a small bottleneck. Of the roughly 25 miles that make up Rollins Pass, only about three pass through Boulder County. Grand and Gilpin counties divide up the rest. When stakeholders finally worked out provisions in the James Peak Wilderness Act so it could be adopted into law in 2002, excluding the Rollins Pass corridor from inclusion, Grand County contributed 16,000 acres to the James Peak Protection area, Gilpin County contributed 9,389 acres to the wilderness area and Clear Creek County contributed 7,469. Only 189 acres in Boulder County went to the wilderness. "In general, it's just a very challenging situation," Watson said. "My sense is that Boulder County commissioners don't want to re-open it, although they haven't said that. It's more what they haven't done, meetings they haven't attended and conversations they haven't wanted to have." For the time being, Domenico said she and the other commissioners don't have any future steps planned regarding the pass. "I think we need to be very careful about next steps so we take into account the larger picture." she said. "It was a little different than the typical hearing," she added, noting the number of attendees from outside Boulder County. She said the commissioners are taking the public comments into consideration, but reiterated Boulder County remains apprehensive about cost, liability and impact. Grand and Gilpin commissioners co-authored a letter to Boulder commissioners late last November with possible solutions to those concerns. Linke said they intend to send another letter next week urging Boulder County to take action. If that doesn't work, he said they're exploring the idea of having the pass declared as a national monument or finding a way to get the U.S. Forest Service to take ownership of the road. "We want their cooperation with this," he said," but we do feel there's a way around it, a way to get it open with or without them." Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334.

Rollins Pass supporters at impasse with Boulder County

After gaining no ground with Boulder County, commissioners in Grand and Gilpin counties are looking higher for a resolution on Rollins Pass. The historic mountain pass links Grand to Gilpin, with a few sections winding through Boulder County. After a 1990 injury and lawsuit at Needles Eye Tunnel, located in the Boulder County portion of the road, officials there sealed off the tunnel and halted vehicular traffic from traveling its extent. When the counties came together to negotiate forming the James Peak Wilderness and Protection area, Grand County commissioners agreed to contribute 16,000 acres and Gilpin commissioners agreed to contribute 9,389 acres with the understanding that Rollins Pass Road, called Corona Pass locally, would be set aside, repaired and re-opened to vehicular traffic. Only 189 acres in Boulder County went to the wilderness. Despite numerous efforts from history buffs and officials in Grand and Gilipin counties, Boulder County has done little to re-open its portion of the road. Now, Grand County commissioners are reaching out to officials on the federal level instead. wilderness Act Bargain "The feds, (Sen.) Mark Udall's office and the Department of Interior haven't kept up their end of the bargain, which was if they get the wilderness area, we get the road open," Grand County Commissioner Merrit Linke said. "Any time future wilderness areas are considered, people aren't going to buy it. They'll say, 'you didn't keep up your end of the bargain in Grand County, so why should we trust you?'" Sen. Udall introduced the bill for the James Peak Wilderness Protection Act when he served in the House of Representatives in 2001. Grand County officials repeatedly expressed their opposition, but ultimately gave their reluctant support when Rollins Pass was set aside. The James Peak Wilderness and Protection Act of 2002 also mandates the Secretary of the Interior to "provide technical assistance and otherwise cooperate" should "one or more" of Grand, Gilpin and Boulder counties wish to repair and re-open the road to two-wheel drive traffic. "The Secretary of Interior is supposed to assist us in re-opening the road," Linke said. "Boulder County is correct in that it doesn't obligate them to help open it, but it doesn't authorize them to close it, either." But at the federal level, Grand County commissioners' efforts may be paying off. Commissioner James Newberry has reached out to representatives at Sen. Udall's office, and will meet with them at the end of the month to discuss the road blockade. According to Newberry, the conversation will be with representatives from the three counties and Udall's office, and will look to find solutions on how to move forward. Newberry said he hopes for the meeting to take place by the end of the month. "There are pretty sound disagreements we have right now with Boulder, and we don't know what position the Udall camp is going to take on that," he said. "We're very interested in getting this conversation going." According to Mike Saccone with Sen. Udall's office, the plan is to have a series of meetings on the issue, although he noted it was too early to provide any details. "Sen. Udall has monitored this situation for years," Saccone said. Grand and Gilpin county commissioners are also exploring new strategies to get around Boulder's political obstruction. Specifically, they're trying to get the U.S. Forest Service to take ownership of Rollins Pass Road. "We're trying to understand who owns the right-of-way on the road, who's jurisdiction it's under, and in Grand County, it is a Forest Service road," Newberry said. "They have all the rights on that road … so we don't understand how a county can then shut the road down." Commissioners Linke and Newberry said they might also try to solicit help from Gov. John Hickenlooper's office and the Department of Local Affairs if it can help them gain momentum on the issue, although the governor has not taken a position on the road. Still, reaching out to federal and state officials now seems a more assured path toward reconciliation than trying to work across counties. At a crossroads Most recently, Grand and Gilpin commissioners sent a letter addressing Boulder officials' concerns over liability, environmental preservation and maintenance costs. They then traveled to Boulder County last February, speaking to Boulder commissioners during a public hearing about the need of re-opening the pass. A week later, they sent a letter to Boulder commissioners asking for a response. "Grand County remains optimistic with regard to you joining in with us and Gilpin County in the re-opening of Rollins Pass Road," the letter said. "What is your official position on re-opening Rollins Pass? If you do not have a position now, when?" To date, neither Grand nor Gilpin counties have received a response. "Zero. Nothing," Linke said. "They absolutely didn't respond to our letter, they didn't respond to our potential solutions, we've heard nothing." Sky-Hi attempted to contact Boulder County's commissioners to find out why they haven't communicated with officials in Grand or Gilpin counties. "They do not have a position at this point and have not responded to the letter from Grand County Commissioners yet, as no formal discussion has taken place," said Gabi Boerkircher, a representative with the Boulder County Commissioners' Office. With new strategies in mind and piqued interest on the federal level, Grand County commissioners said they're now feeling optimistic. "I think that we are further along than we ever have been, we're finally getting through the issues," Newberry said. "We're trying to open a historic route, and in our mind, there's a lot of benefit to having something like that in our county. Hopefully we can get everyone on the same page and push this forward, just like the legislation said it's supposed to do." Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.

Boulder County to consider re-opening Rollins Pass

BOULDER — Next week, supporters of Rollins Pass could make strides in opening the historic mountain road once again. After reviewing a proposal by Grand and Gilpin Counties to repair and re-open the Needles Eye Tunnel, Boulder County commissioners will take public comment on allowing vehicular traffic to link Colorado Highway 119 to U.S. Highway 40 for the first time in nearly 15 years. Needles Eye Tunnel is located on the Rollins Pass leg, winding through Boulder County. Portions of Rollins Pass, sometimes called Corona Pass, running through Gilpin and Grand counties remain open to high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicles, but the small tunnel has remained a roadblock since a falling rock injured a traveler in 1990. After a $85,000 lawsuit, Boulder County officials had the Needles Eye closed. The proposal submitted by Grand and Gilpin commissioners recommends forming a tunnel authority to assume liability and risk, outlines methods of funding the road and tunnel repairs and offers suggestions for environmental preservation along the road, which winds along the boundary of James Peak Wilderness. Boulder County Commissioners will take public comment regarding the proposal from Boulder County residents at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13, at the Boulder County Courthouse.

Moffat Firming Project support absent at Boulder BOCC hearing

A public hearing on the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project's Final Environmental Impact Statement in Boulder attracted a variety of voices, but almost all of them questioned the document's thoroughness in evaluating environmental impacts of the project. "There were numerous data issues raised that might be worth flagging," said Elise Jones, Boulder County commissioner. "Everything from the use of median versus average in the statistics to whether or not the cost estimates are accurate. There were numerous other examples but that seemed to be a theme." Denver currently diverts a large amount of water from the Fraser River through the Moffat Collection Tunnel. The current project proposal seeks to triple the capacity of the Gross Reservoir in Boulder County. Denver water currently divers 60 percent of the upper Fraser River's flows, and the project would see even more water drawn from the river. Proponents say the new expansion will improve the reliability of Denver Water's system and will stymie looming water shortages. But critics say the project's impacts haven't been accurately assessed and the project could cause serious harm to the Colorado and Fraser rivers. The July 16 meeting was to gather public comment to send to the Army Corps of Engineers, which must approve the final project. Though there was a June 9 cutoff for the comment period, commissioners said the Corps would still accept "substantive public comment." At the beginning of the meeting, Boulder County Commissioners' staff voiced concerns about the project's Final Environmental Impact Statement. The 12,000-page Final Environmental Impact Statement is meant to reveal possible environmental impacts of the project. "There wasn't a robust discussion of the need and purpose of the project," said Michelle Krezek, the commissioners' staff deputy. "Specifically, there wasn't any analysis of water conservation measures that could be taken or other smaller projects that could be undertaken instead of this large project. So it was hard to determine whether this was the right alternative." Other concerns included the absence of the Environmental Protection Agency from the process and the effect that expansion of the reservoir would have on Boulder County infrastructure. Though most of the discussion focused on the project's impacts in Boulder County, Grand County arose multiple times during the discussion, from both Grand and Boulder county residents. Boulder County commissioners said that they would take into account testimony about the effects of the project on the Western Slope. "We would want to draw the Corps' attention to those substantive comments even though they were outside Boulder County," Jones said. More than 20 people spoke during the hearing, but only one speaker, Denver Water Planning Director David Little, was in favor of the project, though he did not present an argument to counter previous assertions. "The passion that the people in the audience have shown and some of the information that they've brought forward is important for you to consider in augmenting your comments to the corps," said Little. The Boulder County Commissioners will now submit their new comments to the Army Corps of Engineers. Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.

Boulder County rejects Moffat Firming Project deal

Boulder County Commissioners this week heard citizens passionately testify against the enlargement of Gross Dam, a key element in Denver Water’s Moffat Firming Project. With a revised final Environmental Impact Statement yet to be released on the Moffat firming project and approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Boulder County was considering signing an agreement with Denver Water that essentially would have forfeited that county’s powers under 1041 permitting and accepted $8.25 million in mitigation money. But during a three-hour public hearing on the issue, commissioners were swayed to reject the deal with Denver Water after hearing citizen after citizen say the deal was premature, not enough, and that the project is a sorry substitution for what Denver Water should be doing: Stepping up its conservation measures. During the hearing, Chris Garre of The Environmental Group called the IGA “a thinly valed bribe, nothing more,” and called the Moffat Firming Project an “environmental catastrophe.” Several citizens spoke of the troubled rivers in Grand County and the implications of the project statewide. “On shutting off the Fraser River, if the argument is that it’s not in our county, it’s not our concern, that’s just not taking responsibility for your actions,” said one resident who testified, saying the Moffat Firming project is about “waste, sprawl and fracking.” Another Boulder County citizen used up her three minutes at the podium for a moment of silence in contemplation of the Colorado River. “Let’s think of the Colorado River, a river that is dying, or in this case, being killed,” she said before leading the 200-or so meeting attendees and commissioners into a short meditation. “Fundamentally, we believe this project is not a well-considered project,” said Will Toor, outgoing Boulder County Commissioner. “I don’t beleive we should be diverting additonal water from the Western Slope.” “We hear you loud and clear about the Western Slope and the issues with the Colorado River,” said Boulder County Commissioner Chair Cindy Domenico, after the board’s decision to risk not settling with an IGA. “It’s something as a Colorado community we need to really think about.” Neighbors to the proposed Gross Dam expansion were especially against an estimated seven-year construction project fraught with heavy truck traffic on a county road, plus the impact the project would have to trails, vegetation, a waterfall and wildlife on 400 acres. “We’re so proud of the commissioners and grateful to the community who turned up in droves to help educate and inform the decision Boulder County made,” said Garre, in statements released on Tuesday. “The commissioners’ decision fills us with a tremendous amount of optimism that Boulder County will stand its ground.” Their decision not to sign the IGA does not stop the project, “but it does send a clear signal to Denver Water that the county is not willing to settle for such inadequate compensation and mitigation,” according to a joint statement released by environmental groups opposed to the project. – Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603

Counties edge closer to Rollins Pass accord

Officials from Grand and Gilpin counties say they are making headway with Boulder County on ways to reopen the historic and scenic Rollins (Corona) Pass someday. A recent meeting among commissioners of the tri-county area left Gilpin and Grand County officials encouraged that the 32-mile route that passes over three counties, two U.S. Forest Service districts and near federally protected wilderness land may someday once again serve the touring public. Users haven’t been able to continue the historic route to the other side of the Continental Divide since 1990, after Boulder County closed off the Needles Eye Tunnel at the top of the pass when a falling rock left a Denver man seriously injured. The incident became an $85,000 liability to Boulder County and a greater amount the U.S. Forest Service. Since then, Boulder County has been reluctant to join the other two counties in reopening the pass to motorists, not only because of the liability, but also because of adjacent federally protected lands. The road right of way was carved out of two federal wilderness bills, the James Peak Wilderness and Protection Area Act of 2002 and the Indian Peaks Wilderness Act of 1977. “If we could come up with a way to protect the tundra and make Needle’s Eye safe, Boulder has said, ‘We can get out of your way,’” said Grand County Commissioner James Newberry, in a recap of the Boulder meeting during a Nov. 2 Grand County-hosted discussion about the issue. Newberry encouraged Rollins Pass advocates at the meeting to not get bogged down on who owns the road and language written in wilderness legislation, but to move forward with how Boulder’s concerns can be alleviated to make opening the road more plausible. “Groups coming together, saying they want something done, has a lot of clout,” Newberry said. Yet the project, which has been gaining momentum since 2005, faces both literal and figurative barriers involving the Forest Service, which due to an existing high pressure gas pipeline, natural resources and overall degradation of the high-mountain roads, has barricaded the top of Rollins on both the pass and the rough Boulder Wagon Road. It has stated in the past that federal environmental approval would be necessary in order for the counties to move forward in fixing the tunnel and reopening the road – deemed a potentially costly and lengthy process. Grand County officials hope to first come up with a proposal on which all three counties agree, then move forward in working with the Forest Service. “That tunnel, that’s always been the big problem,” said Gilpin County Commissioner Chair Buddy Schmalz last Wednesday. Gilpin County absorbs most of Rollins Pass on the eastern side, but the county does not maintain its length of the road. “One of the solutions is to create a tunnel authority. All three counties could become part of an authority that owns and operates the tunnel,” Schmalz said. “Boulder was receptive to that, which I think is a big hurdle.” That may be one idea to address Boulder officials’ and forest officials’ concerns about liability and safety of the pass. “We have a long way to go in resolving these issues,” said Boulder County Commissioner Ben Pearlman. But, “if all of those issues can be resolved to our satisfaction, then we can really start talking about whether it makes sense,” he said. The project could face much public scrutiny on the east side of the Divide. A large number of Boulder County constituents worry opening up the area to through traffic could entice off-roaders to forge trails in wilderness, according to Pearlman. At Tuesday’s meeting, Newberry illustrated how county officials might envision the pass for the future, which could be a combination of the safest portions of Rollins Pass Road and the Boulder Wagon Road on the top 6-8 acres within Boulder County’s boundaries. The funds needed to improve those roads might be found in a combination of federal, local and private grant funds, with counties sharing maintenance responsibilities. But all of these details have to be worked out. “We’ll deal with that when that comes up,” Schmalz said. Meanwhile, some citizens of Gilpin’s town of Rollinsville eagerly await a road reopening. For the small struggling mining town on the eastern side of the pass, the road could mean revitalization. “It would explode the town,” said Lynn Slinger, resident and owner of several rental properties in Rollinsville. “It would help businesses flourish.” The town contains about 12 Main Street businesses, including one grocery store and one restaurant. Schmalz predicts opening the pass would “probably double property values.” Yet her support for Rollins may not be shared by all who live there. “Some people I’ve talked to think it would destroy the character of the town … ruin the cowboy character,” she said.

Boulder County sets 2025 zero-waste goal

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) – Boulder commissioners have approved a plan to achieve a goal of becoming a zero-waste county by 2025. The commissioners adopted the plan earlier this month that outlines 28 recommendations to divert most waste from landfills. About 35 percent of waste throughout the county is currently diverted from landfills by initiatives that include recycling and composting. The Boulder Daily Camera reports that some of the new recommendations include requiring zero-waste planning for large events, increasing the collection of electronics for recycling, and supporting a ban on recyclables that go to landfills.

Jane Mather, guest opinion: House district with Front-Range mountain communities a better match for Grand County

When my friend Eileen first told me about the reapportionment meeting, I of course had something else I thought was more important to do. Now a few weeks later, I realize what “reapportionment” is, how important it is, and I’ve traveled to Boulder to make a statement at the public hearing. I’ve also written this column to clarify some misunderstandings I’ve heard. Unlike what you might have heard or read, many Grand County residents – myself included – support the new proposed House District. In this proposal, Grand County is combined with Clear Creek, Gilpin and western parts of Boulder County. Most of the population in these communities share a reliance on tourism and recreation, a strong interest in preserving the environment for both residents and visitors, the challenges of education and public transportation in small communities, and concerns about our forests, fire-mitigation, pine-beetle infestation, and yes, as you will see, water. Admittedly, a House District that included Grand, Routt and Summit Counties, and whatever else would be added to reach the target of 77,372 residents, would be preferable, but might not be achievable. The reapportionment process is like a set of dominoes: Change one district and nearby districts no longer have their 77,372 people. My views reflect, in part, time visiting my parents near Allenspark, in the part of Boulder County included in new proposed House District. I could tell you lots of stories about my parents, their friends along the Peak-to-Peak Highway, which traverses the mountains on the Eastern side of the Divide, and my friends in other parts of the proposed District, but facts and data are more likely to explain why the proposed District has similar interests to Grand County. Here are four rebuttals to opponents’ concerns: • The district combines Grand County with Boulder and we aren’t like Boulder. The proposed district includes only part of Boulder County. More than 65 percent of the population in the proposed district lives in mountain areas, near ranch and farm land, or in small towns with a rural or tourist focus, such as Lyons, Hygiene and Eldorado Springs. Only 21 percent of the population lives in suburban residential communities in the city of Boulder. •Even though it might look like the proposed district meets the constitutional requirements for “compactness,” it isn’t compact because you can’t drive over the Continental Drive. It’s actually quicker for me to drive to Allenspark and Niwot, in the farthest corners of the proposed district, than to Rangely, on the far side of our current House district. From Fraser, I can reach Allenspark and Niwot, summer or winter, in 2.25 to 2.5 hours. From Kremmling, it’s 2.5 hours. In comparison, it takes 2 hours to drive to Steamboat Springs, the closest of the four counties in our current district. To reach Rangely on the far side of Rio Blanco County, it’s more than 4 hours. Opponents claim the Continental Divide means we won’t see our representatives. Jeanne Nicholson, our state senator, and Jared Polis, our U.S. House representative – both from the Front Range – have held meetings and town halls in Grand County numerous times. • Grand County is a West Slope county and thus has the same interests as the other West Slope counties. Not necessarily. Consider our economic base. Almost 40 percent of Grand County workers are employed in accommodations, arts, entertainment and recreation. Only 11 percent of workers in Garfield, Rio Blanco, and Moffat are employed in these industries, less than the 12 percent average for Colorado. Routt County is more similar, but only 24 percent of employment in these industries. So where are workers employed if not in tourism and recreation. Ranching and agriculture? No. Only 1 percent of workers in these counties are employed in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting. Boulder County actually has more people employed in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, 382, than in Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat and Routt combined, 324. Grand County has just 58 people in these areas. While some of the employment difference is in health care and government, the majority is in mining. Driving through the northwestern counties, you will certainly see ranches, but you will also see lots of oil and gas wells. Close to 20 percent of their employment is in mining, while Grand County might reach 4 percent. Mining leads to another significant difference – higher incomes. Grand County’s average annual wage for an individual is $29,000. Average wage for an individual in these three northwestern counties is more than $43,000, 50 percent more than in Grand County. Average wages in Clear Creek and Gilpin is closer to ours at $37,000. The average for Colorado is $48,000. (Data isn’t readily available for just the part of Boulder County in the proposed House District.) • They just want our water. Actually they don’t. Many people in the proposed district are actively fighting the expansion of the Gross Reservoir, where the Denver Water Board would store the water they want to take with the new firming project. Jeanne Nicholson, the state senator for this area and for Grand County, and Clare Levy, the state House representative for this area, oppose the dam expansion. At the town hall they hosted, attendees noted the project would damage their environment while water would go to water lawns and support growth in Denver. Levy said, “We can’t keep sucking water out of a river and killing it.” Sound familiar? Our county commissioners recognize how important reapportionment is. When members of the Grand County Republican and Democratic parties claimed that we were united in opposing the Larimer/Jackson district and then the Boulder/Gilpin/Clear Creek County House districts, the commissioners said they would fight to stay represented on the West Slope. With only 14,843 people in Grand County and a target of 77,372 for each House district, they recognize we can only elect a state House representative who represents our interests if we are part of a House district with similar interests. With the new House district proposal, our county commissioners and the Reapportionment Commission still have heard primarily from those who object. When I spoke to County Commissioner Newberry, he said his comments reflected what the commissioners had heard at the time. With sufficient new evidence, they would reconsider challenging the Reapportionment Commission proposal. One piece of new evidence is the vote taken at the last Grand County Democrats meeting: 7 favored the new proposal with Clear Creek, Gilpin and parts of Boulder County; 4 opposed, believing a western-slope House District was necessary; and 2 abstained, saying they were just there to learn.

Boulder County may hold hearing on proposed pot farm

LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) -The Boulder County commissioners are considering the next move following a county agency’s approval of an application that could eventually turn a one-time organic egg farm into a large medical marijuana farm. The commissioners will consider Tuesday whether to schedule a public hearing on the application that would allow the operation on a 67-acre site north of Longmont. The commissioners in June adopted changes prohibiting most new medical marijuana dispensaries or growing operations in rural Boulder County, but the application for the Longmont-area property was submitted before that. Laramie, Wyo., Councilman Scott Mullner says he plans to buy the property. He couldn’t grow marijuana because he’s not a Colorado resident, but has said he could resell it to someone who can.