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80 ranchers told army Assistant Secretary Keith Eastin yesterday that he was ‚€œin contempt of congress‚€Ě before they walked out of a meeting about the army‚€™s latest bid to buy 100,000 acres around the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site northeast of Trinidad. Six landowners whose property borders the southern edge of the 238,000-acre training area were introduced at the meeting and all six said that their land was not for sale. Mack Louden then told Eastin and Army Major General Mark Graham, Fort Carson‚€™s Commander, that there was nothing left to discuss. And with that, most of the ranching crowd at the meeting walked out of the gymnasium at TSJC, leaving Eastin behind the podium with just a few people remaining in the audience. The walkout was part of the rancher‚€™s reaction to Eastin‚€™s announcement last month that the army was going to solicit land offers immediately, despite a congressional ban in the current federal budget that specifically says that the army cannot spend any money on the expansion during 2008. The U.S. House voted last week to extend that moratorium through 2009.
Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch said yesterday that a lawsuit that seeks to block construction of facilities on the current Pinon Canyon Manuever Site may not deserve to be thrown out as the army contends. The lawsuit, filed in April by the group ‚€œNot 1 More Acre‚€Ě seeks a court order that would bar construction of facilities on the current site until the army complies with a federal environmental assessment law. The action being challenged is the army‚€™s August 2nd, 2007, approval of an environmental impact statement about building new facilities at the current site. The lawsuit alleges that the army illegally segmented plans for ‚€œtransformation‚€Ě of the current site from plans for expansion of the site. The lawsuit also alleges that the army illegally did not consider alternatives to the construction plans.
A second mudslide in the past 3 weeks closed U.S. Highway 160 over La Veta Pass again last night, shortly after 5pm. According to the Colorado State Patrol, the slide was reported at 5:03pm near mile marker 274 and was larger than the one that occurred on July 28th. The slide was approximately 300 feet across and 5 to 6 feet deep at the deepest point. Colorado Department of Transportation crews had most of the highway clear by about 9:40pm, however, they continued to hold traffic while the mountainside was stabilized. There were no reports of any injuries or any vehicles trapped by the slide. Heavy rains in the area of the Malo Vega burn scar on La Veta Pass triggered the large mudslide yesterday as it did back on July 28th.
Western Resource Advocates, representing Environment Colorado, has asked a judge to dismiss a water court application by Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association for a power plant it plans to build at Holly. The motion, filed in Division 2 Water Court this week, states that Tri-State has not obtained federal approval, or that of the Arkansas River Compact Administration, for using John Martin Reservoir for an industrial use. The group believes that Tri-State is violating Colorado water law by failing to meet the ‚€œcan-and-will‚€Ě provisions that require applicants to show they are capable of putting the water to beneficial use. Tri-State has purchased a little more than half of the water rights on the Amity Canal, located mostly in Prowers County, to secure about 20,000 acre-feet for power plants at Holly.
Construction on the new Centennial School District building in Costilla County has been stopped because the bids that have been received to do the work exceed the funds available. The total cost of the school construction had been projected to be $11.2 million. Voters of the centennial school district passed a bond issue of $7 million last November. That bond led to a $5 million grant from the Colorado Department of Education‚€™s capital construction grant program. The total cost for the bond repayment could amount to $13.9 million.