BOCC

San Miguel County Commissioners Lance Waring, Hilary Cooper and Kris Holstrom at the outset of Tuesday’s commissioner discussion. (Photo by Suzanne Cheavens/Telluride Daily Planet)

In between meetings, there are more meetings. The San Miguel Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) — chair Hilary Cooper, Kris Holstrom and Lance Waring — conduct county business not only in the context of the board’s regular meetings, in which they take action on any number of new policies or other legislation, but also in frequently-held commissioners’ discussions. In those discussions, also open to the public, the minutiae of government proceedings takes place with direction given to county managerMike Bordogna, (or other staff) for items requiring further investigation or information.

Tuesday morning the commissioners discussed topics ranging from nearby projects of environmental concern to how nonprofit entities funded by the county fit into the overall funding picture. Then there’s the case of the theft of water from the Egnar water dock.

The BOCC first discussed EcoAction Partners, (EAP) one of the nonprofit organizations funded by not only the county, but by the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village. What EAP is, according to its website “is a sustainability organization that tracks the region’s greenhouse gas emissions and provides programs that reduce energy and waste. We currently run programs throughout the greater San Miguel County and Ouray County region to accomplish Greenhouse Gas reduction, focusing on energy, waste, and food efforts. Our staff and volunteers actively support sustainability in our community through programs such as our Green Business Certification Program, Greenlights LED Light Bulb Program, Truth or Dare Community Challenge, Zero Waste Teams at Telluride’s festivals (and regional events), and much more.”

This year, the county changed the funding mechanism for EAP from that of a grant allocation to a contract. EAP was founded in 2007 as the New Community Coaltion and changed to its current moniker in 2012. Waring is BOCC’s liaison to EAP, and said the nonprofit is close to hiring a new executive director. Since EAP is in a state of transition, the commissioners agreed on a list of goals for the new ED to tackle.

“It’s an organization in flux,” Waring said after the meeting. “Their funding could change pending performance or pending the funds we have available. That’s life.”

What the commissioners make sure all of the county’s grantees understand, is that the funding they receive is ideally not the sole source of income, but rather something with which to leverage into successful acquisition of other, non-governmental grants. The commissioners said they’d like to see EAP work to diversify its funding sources, but without threat of cutting them off entirely.

“Should we push them away from their reliance on government funding, and encourage the to explore a permanent funding source,” Cooper asked.

Holstrom agreed that a more diverse funding stream would be ideal but, “I wouldn’t want to give them a do or die.”

Waring said there are no guarantees for any county grantee.

“Every year is a different budget,” he said.

Cooper admitted she struggled with EAP’s “relevance.”

“I’m still questioning the need for this organization as it’s structured.”

Holstrom advised that EAP be allowed to get its bearings with a new executive director hire in the offing.

“Give them time to figure that out with new leadership,” Holstrom said.

The board said it would like to see EAP have greater visibility and opportunities with its composting program beyond the festivals, an expansion of its zero waste programs and to keep consistent with data collected on greenhouse gasses.

Waring suggested checking in with EAP in six months to monitor its progress and whether goals are being met.

Acknowledging that EAP would be in a “transition year,” Cooper stated she’d “like to see a new version of EcoAction Partners.”

In other business, two nearby projects of environmental concern requiring input are on the commissioners’ radar. Cooper shared the following notice with the Daily Planet.

“The Bureau of Reclamation is seeking public input on alternatives to reduce salinity in the Colorado River from sources in the Paradox Valley in western Colorado. Currently, the Paradox Valley Unit (PVU) in Montrose County, Colorado, is intercepting naturally occurring brine and injecting it 16,000 feet underground via a deep injection well. The PVU began operating in 1996 and is nearing the end of its useful life. The United States has a water quality obligation to control salt in the Colorado River, in compliance with the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act, the Clean Water Act, and a 1944 treaty with Mexico.”

The Paradox Valley Unit is a cost-effective salinity control project in the Colorado River Basin as it prevents 95,000 tons of salt annually from reaching the Dolores River and eventually the Colorado River—that’s approximately 7 percent of total salinity control occurring in the basin,” said Area Manager for Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office Ed Warner. “Reducing salt in the rivers improves water quality, crop production and wildlife habitat in the basin.”

A draft of an Environmental Impact Statement has been released for public review and comment. Alternatives analyzed in the draft EIS include a new injection well; evaporation ponds; zero liquid discharge technology; and no action, which would result in no salinity control in the Paradox Valley. To view the document visit usbr.gov/uc/progact/paradox/idex.html. Send public comment by midnight, Feb. 4 to paradoxeis@usbr.gov

And, the county was notified by Department of Energy that an Environmental Assessment was being prepared for the proposed reclamation of the Burro Tunnel Mines Complex in Slick Rock. The EA would be released sometime this year, the letter to the county said. The commissioners directed Lynn Padgett, the county’s natural resources director, to submit a list of concerns, including sufficient bonding for the project, to the DOE.

As anywhere in the West, water is precious. The Egnar water dock — an elevated cistern adjacent to the Egnar fire station managed by the county — was recently burgled to the tune of 3,000 gallons. According to Waring, locals avail themselves of the water, primarily for agricultural purposes. The keys to the tank are missing and so far, no one is talking.

In other county news, the county is hosting a talk Friday and 4 p.m. called “Going Beyond Reducing our Carbon Footprint,” a presentation that will be given by Senior Climate Scientist and Director of the Climate Science & Energy Program at The Union of Concerned Scientists, Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel. She will discuss how the latest developments in climate science can help local governments and communities to better understand the challenges ahead and how to think about apportioning responsibility for dealing with these challenges. The presentation is open to the public and takes place in the second floor meeting room in the Miramonte Building, 333 West Colorado Ave.