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The Fort Lyon Correctional Facility in Bent County could find new life as a transitional housing center for military veterans. The Colorado State Attorney General’s Office confirmed yesterday that converting the recently vacated state prison is one of several ideas on the table for a windfall of money from a multistate settlement with mortgage lenders. Colorado’s cash share of the settlement with mortgage lenders is $51.2 million. The attorney general’s office has discretion over those funds, which are separate from payments that will go to some homeowners who lost property to foreclosure. Representative Sal Pace, of Pueblo, authored a letter to Attorney General John Suthers yesterday urging that up to $5 million from the mortgage settlement be used as an incentive to find a permanent tenant for Fort Lyon. The general assembly, at Governor Hickenlooper’s recommendation, voted to close Fort Lyon last year as a budget-balancing action.

Davey Pitcher, CEO of the Wolf Creek Ski Area, spent last week visiting towns in the area to talk about expansion plans for the ski area that could add five lifts and lessen skier density in a way that preserves access to powder. While the expansion would be dependent on a string of approvals from the U.S. Forest Service, Pitcher hopes to first get the public behind the plan, which could take anywhere from 10 to 20 years to implement. Wolf Creek currently sits on 1,526 acres, roughly halfway between South Fork and Pagosa Springs. Two of the new lifts would eliminate the long traverses skiers currently make across flat terrain and would also open up more ski terrain for beginning and intermediate skiers. A new low-capacity tram would also be built to access tree-covered terrain beyond the ski area’s existing western boundary and a section of steep chutes. Pitcher says that the expansion of the ski area is not dependent on the construction of the village at Wolf Creek.

Work is being done on the Purgatoire River through Trinidad’s downtown area to help improve the environment for fish and people whether the river is raging or resting. The $120,000 project is working to improve the fish habitat by adding groups of rocks that will help pool water in low flows and will provide shelter in the higher water. The project also includes a trail, handicapped fishing features and the removal of invasive species like tamarisks and Russian olives. Contributors to the project include the City of Trinidad, Pioneer Natural Resources, Trout Unlimited, the Arkansas Basin Roundtable and the Purgatoire River Conservancy District, among others. Flows in the river are almost entirely controlled by releases from Trinidad Lake. The river bed is basically flat, so the higher flows scour it. Contractors have been hired to add small boulders at strategic points, to reinforce banks and to develop a more complex system for fish. The project will affect about half a mile of the river near Interstate 25 and the center of the city. It is hoped that eventually a total of seven miles from Trinidad Lake through Trinidad will be improved.

The Bureau of Land Management issued a draft study yesterday that details possible policies for geothermal development of the federal mineral estate in the San Luis Valley. Under the agency’s preferred alternative, 739,400 acres would be opened to leasing, although 65,800 acres within that total would be barred from any surface occupancy. Another 61,000 acres would be completely off limits to development and would include the valley’s three national wildlife refuges, historic landmarks and other environmentally sensitive lands. There are no pending applications for development in the valley. The BLM is seeking comment on the draft and will hold a public meeting next Tuesday, March 20th, at 4pm in Saguache at the county road and bridge building at 305 Third Street. A second meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 21st, at 4pm, in McDaniel Hall, room 101, on the Adams State Campus. For more information, call 719-852-6213.

Gloria Gutierrez, a representative from U.S. Senator Mark Udall’s office, will meet with Custer County residents during office hours that are scheduled for 3 to 5pm next Monday at the Custer County Resource Center at 615 Rosita Avenue. Gutierrez will be available to answer questions and to help Coloradans who need assistance with any issues involving federal agencies. Call 719-542-1701 for more information.