Rollins Pass hearing does little to bridge divide |

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.

Letter: Benson, Let me tell you who to vote for

Letter to the Editor, Let me tell you who to vote for, This is Norm Benson from Fraser. The Primary elections are upon us and I have a few thoughts about certain candidates. It is no secret that I vote Republican. The County Commissioner race is the race that will have the most direct effect on the readers of this letter. I am not going to favor either Republican Rich Cimino or Chas McConnell because I believe either one will be a good Commissioner. I sort of wish I could vote in the Democrat primary where I would vote for Jane Tollet. I believe that she is more even handed than Andy Miller. I am just going to leave it that I have known Andy too long and I know where he is coming from. I will ask voters to vote for Merrit Linke. He is the longest tenured Commisioner at only four years, and I think that counts for a lot. He has been in Grand County for a long time, and I believe that there has to be some continuity in the Commisioners office. He solidly backs the Veterans Affairs office. When it comes to the Senate candidates, unfortunately I don't know much about any of them except sound bites or the internet. I have known of Ryan Frasier and I think he is a good candidate. If memory serves he ran against DeGette for Representative from Denver. I am voting for Darrel Glenn. None of the Republicans would be a bad choice and far preferable to Michael Bennet who is the hand picked democrat "YES" boy for Obama and Hickenlooper. If the democrats get the State Senate, Colorado will go the way of California and become unlivable politically! I actually don't know if there is a race for State Representative. I realize that is my failing, but since we are in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Boulder's district it doesn't really matter! They will manufacture enough votes to win! Vote no on all ballot measures! Norm Benson Fraser

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.

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.

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.

Grand County Real Estate Transactions

Scanloch Subdivision Lot 1, Block 2 – Gerald and Jo Ann Shumaker to Dylan and Gabrielle Taylor, $79,000 Winter Park Ranch 3rd Filing, Lot 62, Block 1 – Luanne Kay to Adam Gould and Veronica Callinan, $250,000 Winter Park Highlands Greenridge Lot 16 – Paul and Karen True Trust to Justin and Deborah Bridge, $207,000 Rio Rancho Small Tracts Sub Exempt Lot 1 – Larry and Judith Ware to Hadley and Joan Bradbury, $898,000 Columbine Lake Block 3, Lots 14,15 – Gerald and Kathryne Vanner to Benny and Susan Law, $285,000 Aspen Meadows Condominiums Unit 207, Block C – Aspen Meadows Condominiums LLC to Gordon McGlinchey and Brenda Kraft, $116,900 Winter Park Lodge II Bldg F, Unit 201 – Raymond and Judith Hall to Kenneth Richardson and Kelly Fraser, $137,500 Grand Country Estates TRT 77 – Richard Timothy Parry Living Trust to Cozens Pointe LLC, $65,000 Cozens Pointe at Grand Park Unit 201, Bldg B, Garage Unit B – Cozens Pointe LLC to Richard Parry and Abby Bleistein, $324,000 Villa Harbor Subdivision Lot 18 – Bell Crest Enterprises LLLP to William Henry Peltier III, $365,000 River Run Condominiums Unit 203, Bldg B – PennyMac Loan Services LLC to John and Barbara Rankin, $89,120 Copper Creek Lot 46 – John and Nancy Rice to Bruce Campbell, $299,999 Meadow Ridge Lodges Court 27, Unit 8 – Smith Family Trust to James Reasor and Margaret Copeland, $160,600 Mountainside at SilverCreek C U 111, Timeshare No 111504 – Tom and Louise Massoni to Mountainside SilverCreek Timeshare Owners Association, $500 Mountainside at SilverCreek C U 99, Timeshare No 099649 – Leo and Ann Lussier to Mountainside SilverCreek Timeshare Owners Association, $500 Mountainside at SilverCreek C U 91, Timeshare No. 091535 – Mountainside SilverCreek Timeshare Owners Association to Michael B Ensley Revocable Trust, $500 E.J. Vulgamotts 1st Block 5, Lots 1,2, Tabernash – Steven and Charlene Hayward to Chuck and Marie Huston, $52,000 Yacht Club Estates Lot 5 – FDIC, Firstier Bank to Gary and Linda Knippa, $1,250,000 Lakota Flg 3, Tract C, Lot 33 – SNAD II LP to M6 Capital LLC, $975,000 Longview Addn/Hot Sulphur Springs Block 15, Lots 10,11,12 – John and Taura Perdue to Roger and Michelle Gable, $213,000 Exhibit “A” Not Attached for Legal Description – Liberty Savings Bank FSB to Allen Schrieber and Suzette Kynor, $13,000 Lakeview Subdivision Unit 2, Lot 1, Bldg B – Fannie Mae Federal National Mortgage Association to Kenneth and Paulette Nolan, $106,000 Hamilton Hills Subdivision Exempt TRT 2 – Patricia Jacques to John and Florice Lietzke, $285,471 Mountainside at SilverCreek B U 064, Timeshare No. 064128 – David and Sharon Anderson to Mountainside SilverCreek Timeshare Owners Association, $500 Mountainside at SilverCreek B U 035, Timeshare No. 035126 – Thomas Farrel and Joann Debruin-Farrell to Mountainside SilverCreek Timeshare Owners Association, $500 Cozens Meadow at Grand Park Lot 3 – Grand Park Homes LLC to Robert and Debra Gnuse, $523,000 Pines at Meadow Ridge Court B U 6, Week 38 – Stephen and Susan Clemens to Naomi Yahn, $1,500 Slopeside Village Unit 113A, Bldg E – Stephen and Cary Paul to James Byerrum, $382,500 Fraser Crossing-Founders Pointe Condominium Unit 3611 – Smith Living Trust to Hyo and Jina Kim, $360,000

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.

Odd bedfellows: Court orders Grand and Boulder into same legislative district

Grand County will share a Colorado legislative House district with parts of the city of Boulder and the western half of the county of Boulder, according to a final decision rendered on Monday by the Colorado Supreme Court. Entering into district 13, Grand and Jackson counties will now share a House district with Clear Creek, Gilpin and part of Boulder counties.The court issued its decision despite a 21-page Grand County objection plus exhibits filed last Thursday to try and sway the court against grouping Grand and Jackson counties with East Slope counties.The main argument was splitting the boundaries of Boulder County and the lack of “interest” Grand, Jackson and the other counties have in common with Boulder.”House District 13 Plan includes counties on both sides of the Continental Divide, splits Boulder County and spits the city of Boulder,” the Grand County objection states. “To travel from the city of Boulder to the new proposed House District 13 to Walden, the county seat of Jackson County, it is approximately 200 miles and takes approximately 3 hours 16 minutes to drive if you take the quickest route, which is through Wyoming.” (Bolded in the brief) Grand County’s new district encompasses much of downtown Boulder, including much of CU Boulder and half of Pearl Street. Claire Levy is the sitting Democratic representative from Boulder County and has filed for re-election in 2012. The brief advocates for Grand County to be joined in the formerly proposed district 26 with three contiguous Western Slope counties that had the same community of interest and “whose county commissioners consult with each other on a regular basis.”It also points out how Boulder County is not a part of many of the affiliations with Grand County, such as Colorado River Water Conservancy District, the Middle Park Water Conservancy District, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments and the Colorado West Regional Mental Health, Inc.”Grand County citizens do not trade in Boulder County, nor are they treated by doctors in Boulder County,” the brief goes on to say. “Overall, Grand County has essentially no community of interest with Boulder County.””I’m disappointed the Supreme Court held up the reapportionment commission’s partisan maps,” said state Rep. Randy Baumgardner (R-Cowdrey), who represents the present-day District 57 that includes Grand County. “The redrawing of the maps was not for the best interest of the people of the state of Colorado, especially areas that won’t have a voice such as Jackson and Grand counties.”Although Baumgardner filed to run again for District 57 – before the court’s game-changer and after he moved to Jackson County for what he says were ranching reasons – the representative said on Tuesday he hasn’t made any decisions about running against Levy in District 13. In the meantime, Baumgardner has bills in the works, such as one to rescind the $100 penalty on license plates and lower the fee to $20 a penalty, and with his Republican colleagues, one working toward the capture and use of methane for conversion to energy and another looking to save state money in certain government agencies.”I’m still going to focus my efforts representing the people of District 57 until next Dec. 31,” he said. – Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603

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

Grand County among communities exploring the re-opening of Corona Pass

Fourth generation rancher Jim Yust of Kremmling considers Corona Pass, which crosses the Continental Divide, not only a piece of Colorado history, but representative of his own family’s past. Years ago, on the route created by David Moffat for the Denver Northwestern and Pacific Railway, Jim’s father Ed Yust traveled across the pass in a caboose with his loads of cattle, and his grandmother was once snowbound at Corona in a train. In later years, after the railroad route became an auto route, Yust would travel over the route with his father for leisurely exploration of Colorado’s most majestic passages. “I’ve been advocating keeping it open ever since they first opened it in the ’50s,” Yust said. He continues that advocacy on the Rollins Pass Restoration Association. The 32-mile road that passes through three counties, two U.S. Forest Service districts and federally protected wilderness land can be accessed on either side of the Continental Divide, but users haven’t been able to continue the route to the other side since 1990. The Needles Eye Tunnel in Boulder County was closed off at that time from a rockfall, which caused a Denver man to lose his foot. Boulder County became liable for the injury at a cost of around $85,000. Since then, Boulder County has been hesitant to repair and reopen the passage due to the liability. Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service office on the eastern side has outlined the need for a National Environmental Policy Act study, at an estimated cost of around $750,000, were stakeholders to move forward on repairing the dirt summer route for two-wheel drive vehicles. Talks about the status of reopening the Rollins (Corona Pass) route from Winter Park to Rollinsville in Gilpin County have sparked interest from Sen. Mark Udall’s staff, who organized a recent meeting between U.S. Forest Service officials and Grand, Gilpin and Boulder county officials. Grand County commissioners, who along with Gilpin officials advocate repairing the pass, attended the meeting via telephone since they were held up by the March avalanche on Berthoud Pass. The meeting did not result in a plan to rectify road barriers, according to Boulder officials, but served to outline challenges and concerns standing in the way of reopening the route. There are those who worry of potential environmental impacts near a protection area, and the risk of motorists exploring land off-trail. There are also significant costs involved, not only to repair the tunnel, but in liability, grading and road maintenance, said Boulder County Transportation Director George Gerstle. There are “substantial issues that take time, energy and money to resolve,” said Boulder County Commissioner Ben Pearlman. At a time when counties, including Boulder, are exploring how to shave budgets, “We’re talking about a big price tag if this were to move forward,” he said. The proponents on both sides of the pass who would like to see it open again cite the road’s scenic vistas, its capability of attracting tourism to Rollinsville and Winter Park, as well as its glimpse into Colorado’s railroad history. And, “there aren’t that many places in the high country that handicapped people can get to,” Yust said. “It’s a historic area, not only for the state of Colorado, but for Grand County,” said Grand County Commissioner James Newberry. “We’re looking to preserve that piece of history.” Once dubbed the “Hill Route,” the pass served as a temporary railway line from 1904 to 1928. When the Moffat Tunnel was completed, the original Hill Route was abandoned until 1955 when it became an automobile route on the rail bed. The route served as a tourist attraction until a rockfall occurred in 1979 near the north portal of the Needle’s Eye Tunnel. Upon repairs, it reopened in 1987, but collapsed again in 1990. Travelers on the dirt road then illegally used a forest road to bypass the tunnel, but that road travels through wilderness area and foresters have attempted to keep it blockaded. The intent of a provision in the 2002 James Peak Wilderness and Protection Area Act was to keep Rollins (Corona) Pass exempted from wilderness designation and to one-day reopen it, Newberry said. The provision states: “The Secretary (Forest Service) shall provide technical assistance and otherwise cooperate with respect to repairing the Rollins Pass road in those counties sufficiently to allow two-wheel-drive vehicles to travel between Colorado State Highway 119 and U.S. Highway 40.” The provision goes on to say that if the road is repaired and reopened, the Forest Service could then close alternate routes that link to Rollins Pass. But advocates like Yust don’t see the why the main route would need further environmental studies when, historically, it has always been a transportation line. “The Boulder district is throwing up every roadblock,” Yust said, “everything conceivable to fight it as hard as they can.” – Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail