Category: Environment

Burn Haze Has TV Weather People Recommending Grand Valley Citizens Close Windows and Doors

A smoky, smelly haze fills the Grand Valley's air as open burning season gets underway

A smoky, smelly haze fills the Grand Valley’s air as open burning (open polluting) season starts

Thinking of moving to Grand Junction?

You might want to think again. It’s spring open burning season — something people moving here rarely hear anything about from the Chamber of Commerce relocation packets, or from their realtors. Thanks to the cultural throwback of open burning, an acrid pall hung across the Grand Valley today as open burning season began. The air smelled as bad as it looked, too, reeking of burnt wood and rubber, and driving people indoors to escape the respiratory effects of the smoke.

Mulder and Edwards Announce Candidacies for Mesa County Commissioner in Districts 1 and 3

Dave Edwards of Palisade (yellow shirt) and Mel Mulder of Fruita (plaid shirt) announce their candidacies for Mesa County Commissioner

Dave Edwards of Palisade (yellow shirt) and Mel Mulder of Fruita (plaid shirt) announce their candidacies for Mesa County Commissioner today at the Mesa County Workforce Center, to draw attention to the high unemployment rate and dire need for economic development in Mesa County

Two intelligent, hard-working and civic-minded citizens, Mel Mulder and Dave Edwards, today announced they are entering the 2016 race for County Commissioner to replace incumbents in District 1 and District 3, respectively. Mulder is challenging District 1 incumbent John Justman and Edwards intends to replace incumbent Rose Pugliese.

Grand Valley Residents Jump the Gun on Open Polluting Season 2016

A Grand Junction resident at

A Grand Junction resident at 720 26 Road openly burns a pile of yard debris on February 28, several days before the official start of Mesa County’s Spring Open Polluting season, which runs from March 1 to May 31.

Spring Open Polluting season is almost here in Mesa County, but many landowners who are eager to burn leaves and trash can’t wait. They’re jumping the gun and polluting their neighbors’ air earlier than the law allows.

Open Polluting Season in the county officially starts on March 1 and runs until the end of May. During this time, area residents can legally burn yard debris and force their neighbors inhale the smoke without concern for the health or welfare of anyone around them. The County also permits open polluting in September and October. During these months citizens are allowed to pour trash into the Grand Valley’s air and suffocate nearby residents with clouds of stinky smoke during the five most beautiful months of spring and fall, ironically at the same time outdoor temperatures become most conducive to enjoying outdoor activities.

Intelligent People Enter 2016 Race for Mesa County Commissioner!

Dave Edwards, Mayor Pro Tempore of Palisade, will enter the race for Mesa County Commissioner on Feb. 29, to replace Rose Pugliese

Dave Edwards, Mayor Pro Tempore of Palisade, will announce on Feb. 29 that he is entering the race for District 3 Mesa County Commissioner, to replace  incumbent Rose Pugliese

Mesa County voters will finally have intelligent candidates to choose from for Mesa County Commissioner!

Dave Edwards, Mayor Pro Tem of Palisade, Colorado will officially announce his entry into to the race for Mesa County Commissioner at 1:00 p.m. on Monday, February 29, 2016 at the Mesa County Workforce Center, 512 29 1/2 Road, Grand Junction. (See map to the Workforce Center at the bottom of this article.)

Edwards is challenging incumbent Rose Pugliese for the District 3 seat, which represents the east valley, between the Gunnison River and I-70, and includes Orchard Mesa eastward to the county line.

Ray Scott for GOVERNOR? Laugh or Cry, Your Choice

House Rep Ray Scott (R) voted on 2/3/15 to kill a bill to provide economic help to rural Colorado communities that get hit with devastating economic events that cause mass layoffs.

House Rep Ray Scott (R) voted on 2/3/15 to kill a bill to provide economic help to rural Colorado communities that get hit with devastating economic events that cause mass layoffs.

The Daily Sentinel reported on January 28, 2016 that our western slope State Senator Ray Scott is considering running for governor of Colorado in two years. He’s considering the governorship in lieu of running for a national office like senator, because, he says, he “feels he can do more if he stays within the state.”

Do more?

The notion is either side-splittingly funny or utterly tragic. Or maybe both.

The tragic part is that by mulling over his lofty ideas to the Sentinel, Scott is putting his narcissism on display for all to see. The funny part is that he’s been the worst legislator imaginable and has consistently acted to the detriment of most of his constituents, if you can call that funny. Maybe it’s the tragic part.

But tragicomedy is nothing new to the western slope Republican political crowd.

Whitewater-Area Residents, Ignored by Mesa County Commissioners, Still Suffer from Frackwater Odors, Illnesses

The Mesa County Comissioners (Cartoon: Douglas J. Monroe)

The Mesa County Commissioners (Original cartoon by Douglas J. Monroe)

On November 23, 2015, residents of Whitewater, Colorado submitted a letter to Mesa County Planning Department and the County Commissioners asking for permanent relief from the odors and health problems they have been suffering from Alanco Energy Services’ Deer Creek frackwater disposal facility.

Residents of the Kannah Creek, Bridgeport Road and the greater Whitewater areas have formed a community advocacy group called the Whitewater Community Alliance. They have complained to the County since 2013 of loss use of their property due to the noxious odors emanating from the Deer Creek facility.

Alanco Energy Services' Deer Creek Frackwater Disposal Facility near Whitewater, Colorado

Alanco Energy Services’ Deer Creek Frackwater Disposal Facility near Whitewater, Colorado

Residents report getting headaches, sore throats, nosebleeds, nausea, asthma attacks and malaise when the odors engulf their properties. The smell and accompanying illnesses are worst at times of high humidity, in the late evening and early morning hours. People who have visited the area surrounding Alanco’s waste pits describe an unbearably strong, metallic-excrement odor and complain of sore throats lasting hours to days after the visit.

Sentinel Highlights Mesa County’s Desperate Economy

Today's Sentinel talks about the desperate state of the local economy

Today’s Sentinel talks about the desperate state of the local economy

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel printed an article about the desperate state of Mesa County’s economy on the front page of its Business section today, written by business writer Greg Ruland.

Titled “Living wage tough to come by,” it describes how financially strained Mesa County families are compared to other families across the state. A study that showed that in Mesa County a family of four would need an annual income of $53,000-$65,000 to fund only the most basic needs of housing, food, health care, transportation, child care, taxes and an emergency fund. Ruland writes that the average wage in Mesa County “falls as much as $20,000 short of what single parents with three children must earn to cover the cost of a family’s basic needs.”

The cost of basic needs in Mesa County has increased over the last decade, but during that time wages in our area have stagnated, leaving Mesa County citizens worse off than ever.

A record number of people in Mesa County now use food stamps, and the number has climbed each year for the last eight years. About 18,500 Mesa County residents now receive government food assistance every month — more than double the number who got food assistance in 2008.

Ruland reports that a single mother working two full-time minimum wage jobs in Mesa County to try and support her family would still have an income low enough to qualify for food stamps.

That’s pretty bad, but not bad enough for the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce to come anywhere close to supporting an increased minimum wage.

Grand Junction Area Chamber: Let Them Eat Cake

Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke, secure in her $134k/yr job

Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke, secure in her $134k/yr job

You’d think the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce would be deeply concerned about this state of affairs, but even in the face of the desperate financial straits of thousands of families in Grand Junction, Diane Schwenke, President of the Grand Junction Chamber, scoffed at the notion that raising the minimum wage (currently $8.23/hour) would benefit local families. In the Sentinel article, she dismisses the notion as “contrary to capitalistic principles,” and suggests that instead government needs to find ways to further lower the cost of basic living necessities, like food and housing. Neither Ruland nor Schwenke mentioned that the federal government already subsidizes a long list of agricultural staples like wheat, corn, soybeans and cotton, and even has a dairy subsidy program that pays farmers whenever milk prices fall below a certain level. In addition to promoting further reliance on government for help, Schwenke, who as always sticks to the same failed ideas she’s backed for decades, added that the quickest way to raise low wages in our area would be to increase oil and gas extraction operations. She sticks to this message despite knowing that disastrous economic fluctuations occur constantly in the oil and gas industry, and that our area’s past of embracing extractive industries like uranium, oil shale, coal, fracking and hazardous waste disposal have wreaked economic, health and environmental havoc on our area’s residents for decades. So why does Ms. Schwenke rely on the same tired, old ideas that have long been proven a bane for our area’s desperate economy?

Weak, barely-legible and ineffective signage attempt to address homelessness and poverty in Grand Junction

Weak, barely-legible and ineffective signage attempt to address homelessness and poverty in Grand Junction

Perhaps it’s because Ms. Schwenke doesn’t need to be concerned with coming up with new ideas to boost Grand Junction’s failing economy. She’s been comfortably entrenched in her position at the Chamber since 1989, even though her activities have brought heavy criticism to the chamber’s untoward political dealings and lip-service programs over the course of her career. The Daily Sentinel reported Ms. Schwenke’s compensation package is $133,930 yearly — about 4.8 times the annual per capita income in Mesa County, and twice Mesa County’s average annual total household income. Ms. Schwenke is obviously free of any concerns about being fired. She doesn’t even seem to need to demonstrate the effectiveness or lack thereof of any economic-related programs at the chamber, either. She doesn’t have to worry about working two jobs or putting food on her own table, so she’s free to repeat tired platitudes about the oil and gas industry being the area’s salvation for as long as she likes. 

For its part, the Grand Junction Economic Partnership referred to this latest devastating report about Mesa County’s abysmal economic status as “a call to action” to recruit higher-paying industries to the area. It’s nice that they seem to care, but like the Chamber, GJEP hasn’t offered any few new ideas about how to do this, either.

Obvious Opportunities Completely Ignored

DenverEconomyIn the mean time, Mesa County families continue to scrape by using food stamps, homeless shelters, the Salvation Army, secondhand stores, food banks and charitable organizations that try to alleviate hunger, like KidsAid, while low-cost, practically-guaranteed effective, obvious new opportunities for economic expansion continue to be completely ignored.

Since recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado in 2012, the new marijuana economy has generated tens of thousands of new high-paying jobs around the state, mostly in mountain towns and on the front range. But not here, because local leaders have banned marijuana-related activity in our area. New marijuana businesses employ tens of thousands of Coloradans as growers, security system installers, lab techs, scientists, agricultural and nursery experts, trimmers and tenders, compliance and quality inspectors, hydroponic equipment sales and experts, agricultural-related sales, accountants, lawyers, blown glass artists, industrial and retail construction companies to build greenhouses and retail stores and specialized distribution systems. While western slope warehouses sit empty, there isn’t enough commercial warehouse space to handle all the new business from the new marijuana economy on the front range. Denver property values are soaring, new houses, condos and shopping malls are being built, while property values in Mesa County are flat or diminishing. The front range’s growth from the new marijuana economy has been so spectacular, television networks are making TV documentaries out of it, drawing more people and investment into the state

But not in Mesa County.

Opportunities to Put Grand Junction on More Maps Passed up

Western slope elected officials also flushed a wonderful opportunity to add Grand Junction to national park maps several years ago after they ditched a massive effort that gained tremendous public, private and business consensus to change the Colorado National Monument into a national park. Keeping the park listed as a national monument keeps tourists driving around Grand Junction looking for a statue or plaque instead of the stunning 28,000 acre area of canyons and stone monoliths that the Monument really is. How many tourists simply stay on I-70 because they think the “monument” is just another statue somewhere? As a national park, the Colorado National Monument could be a much bigger natural tourist attraction. A change of name would be all it would take to give tourists a better idea of what the Colorado National Monument really is. Similarly, tourists don’t know what a “Mcinnis Canyon” is, or why it might be something special to see, because they don’t know what a “McInnis” is. But they would certainly get a much clearer idea of the spectacular scenery they’d encounter if they saw “Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area” on the map instead of “McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area.” If only the more descriptive name referring to the area’s natural features could be restored to western slope maps as well, it could increase the number of people coming to Grand Junction to enjoy more of our outdoor amenities. Changing the names of these areas would only cost a few bucks, and could bring more notoriety and tourist dollars to the area. A cheap and easy fix if there ever was one.

Add a World Class Outdoor Recreational Amenity in Almost Nothing Flat

The maintenance road banks of the Grand Valley Canal System could be a world-class outdoor recreational amenity if a few gates were opened, a few gravel trailheads installed and a few signs put up

The maintenance road banks of the Grand Valley Canal System could be a world-class outdoor recreational amenity if a few gates were opened, a few gravel trailheads installed and a few signs put up

Opening up the Grand Valley’s stunning irrigation canal maintenance banks to non-motorized public recreation would create some of the most fantastically beautiful and accessible strolling, walking, running and mountain biking paths in the U.S. The irrigation canal system and its banks were built by the U.S. government Bureau of Reclamation in the early 1900s as a massive project to help bring settlers to the area by irrigating what would otherwise be arid desert land in the Grand Valley. The canal system criss-crosses the valley from north to south and east to west, and its maintenance banks are a ready-made system of dirt and gravel roadways paralleling some of the most scenic waterways in the western U.S. They run all the way from the spectacular fruit and wine byways in Palisade and East Orchard Mesa, to the beautiful paved riverfront path along the Colorado, from Palisade to the Loma boat put-in. Open a few gates, put in a few gravel parking areas and signage and bingo! The Grand Valley would have a star attraction that would get bicycles off the streets, provide motorless ways to criss-cross the valley, contribute to outdoor recreation and public health and boost tourism. It would also draw outdoor recreationalists who would come and stay in area hotels, dine at area restaurants and shop at local stores. There are already state laws in place protecting private landowners along the banks from liability. More of an effort needs to be made to create this fantastic amenity that lies literally at our feet.

There is SO much waiting to happen in Mesa County, and it has all been nixed for so long. It’s getting painful to see so many obvious ideas for turning Grand Junction into a destination city shunned, dismissed and ignored as impossible by our same old last-century “leaders.”

Until we overhaul and re-stock the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, Grand Junction Economic Partnership, G.J. City Council and Mesa County Commission and other powerful boards and commissions with an entirely new slate of fresh,open-minded, creative and forward-looking thinkers who really have residents best interests at heart, our area will stay in the same economic death spiral we’ve been in for decades. But keep the same old people in the same positions of power with their same comfortable salaries and solid job security, and we won’t see any new ideas around here in our lifetimes. We’ll keep relying on things like uranium, oil and gas, fracking, creation of more hazardous waste dumps, coal mining and other doomed, last-century industries until Mesa County residents finally decide it’s time for that nonsense to end.

Nevertheless, we owe thanks to Greg Ruland for an excellent article about the continuing problem of Mesa County’s stagnant economy, if not for exploring more ideas about how to improve it.

  

Help Whitewater Residents End Their Hazardous Waste Hell

Whitewater residents' petition seeking help to get rid of the sickening stench of Alanco's frackwater pits.

Whitewater residents’ petition seeking help to get rid of the sickening stench of Alanco’s frackwater pits.

Whitewater residents are begging other Mesa County residents to help them, and boy, do they need our help.

Imagine you’ve bought some peaceful acreage in the outskirts of Mesa County. You finally realize your dream of owning your own land. You build a house, move in and start enjoying the beauty, quiet, views and proximity to wildlife that the area offers.

Then one day, a stench akin to metallic excrement wafts over your house. It’s doesn’t just stay for a minute. It’s not there for just an hour. It’s permanent. The stench is so strong it forces your family indoors on nice summer evenings. You have to close all your doors and windows in midsummer to try to escape it. Then your family starts getting sore throats and headaches. Your kids start having nosebleeds and vomiting. You contact local and state authorities for help, to no avail. Whatever you do — no matter how many letters you write, phone calls you make or public hearings you go to — nothing changes.

You’re stuck with it.

Welcome to the world of Whitewater residents living within smelling distance of Alanco Energy’s Deer Creek frackwater evaporation ponds.

In 2012, the County Commissioners approved construction of Alanco’s hazardous waste disposal facility in the Whitewater area. It now accepts contaminated water from fracked wells 24/7 for hundreds of miles around. The facility evaporates the contaminated water into the air to get rid of it, but it’s also Whitewater residents’ air. People who live downwind are forced to breathe everything Alanco’s evaporation pits are pumping into the air, and it’s making them sick.

No Help

Whitewater residents have been struggling to get a stop put to the harmful stench since 2013. They’ve begged Alanco Energy Services, their elected officials and health and environmental agencies from Denver to Grand Junction for help for years, all to no avail. No person and no agency has helped them. They’ve been helpless to fight the problem and continue to breathe the contaminated air around their homes and get sick.

Now they are warning other Mesa County residents that they could be next if the Commissioners keep approving this type of industrial hazardous waste development in Mesa County. They’re also asking their fellow Mesa County residents for help by signing petitions demanding commissioners either end their hell once and for all, or shut down Alanco’s hazardous stink pits.

The petition says:

Background: The Deer Creek Evaporative Waste Facility located at 5180 Highway 50 in Whitewater, began accepting “produced water” from oil and gas operations in August, 2012, despite objections from nearby residents. In September, 2013, residents living in the surrounding area began submitting complaints regarding offensive odors emanating from the facility. Complaints were addressed to the Mesa County Planning Committee, Health Department, County Commissioners, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Alanco Energy Services, owners and operators of the facility. Odors described as “metallic” and “sickening”have often forced residents to inhibit outdoor activities and retreat indoors and close windows. Residents have experienced adverse health conditions such as headaches, dizziness, bloody noses and vomiting, which they believe are associated with the odors. Repeated complaints over a two year period have resulted in only short-term solutions with continued promise of future remedies.

Action petitioned: We, the undersigned, believe area residents have the right to full and healthy enjoyment of their property and have endured Alanco’s incompetent practices for too long. We contend that Alanco, in acting irresponsibly, sets and unhealthy precedent for prospective industrial development in Mesa County and across the entire Western Slope. Viable alternatives for treating produced water exist. Therefore, we urge our elected representatives to require Alanco to utilize proven, safe and effective treatment methodologies, or revoke the company’s Permit

You and Your Family Could Be Next

The Deer Creek frackwater disposal site (Photo credit: Mel Safken, Whitewater)

The Deer Creek frackwater disposal site (Photo credit: Mel Safken, Whitewater)

The Deer Creek frackwater disposal facility and Whitewater residents’ plight is a lesson, and a red flag to all of us. All Mesa County residents (other than the commissioners themselves, of course) currently run the risk of having a hazardous waste facility approved close enough to your homes to impact your health, quality of life and property value. If the county commissioners green light more facilities like Alanco’s hazardous stink pits and then refuse to remedy the problems these facilities cause the way they’ve failed to do in Whitewater, the rest of us run the risk of the same kind of treatment. The way the current Mesa County Commissioners revere oil and gas development, it’s a likely scenario.

It’s time for all Mesa County residents to help our Whitewater neighbors regain their health, environment and property values, and help protect ourselves from getting overrun by dangerous industrial development. You can do it by signing and circulating the petition, and showing the commissioners we all care about this disastrous situation.

To download, print and sign Whitewater residents’ petition to the Mesa County Commissioners, click here.

 

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Mesa County Commissioners Work to Stomp Out Wilderness Areas

Local conservative Marjorie Haun, who promotes the use of firearms and writes in her blog, "ReaganGirl.com," that poverty is a lifestyle choice, white privilege is a myth and marijuana use "turns young men into biological young women."

Mesa County Republican activist Marjorie Haun echoed the sentiments of the county commissioners when she stated her belief that wilderness “is an absurd notion.” Haun also promotes the use of firearms and writes in her blog, “ReaganGirl.com,” that poverty is a lifestyle choice, white privilege is a myth and marijuana use “turns young men into biological young women.”

An article in today’s Daily Sentinel titled “Land of Bewilderment” says the Mesa County Commissioners voted unanimously to oppose a Congressional bill recognizing several new wilderness areas in Mesa County, including 75,000 acres in the Little Bookcliffs and the land surrounding Gateway’s stunning signature rock formation, The Palisade. Commissioner Rose Pugliese said more wilderness “is not in the best interest of Mesa County.”

Mesa County “Reagan Girl” GOP activist Marjorie Haun echoed Pugliese’s sentiment in the article, calling wilderness “an absurd notion.”

Community Rights Ballot Initiative Coming Back in 2016

Screen shot 2015-08-19 at 12.12.12 PMColoradans for Community Rights (CCR) is gearing up to once again put a Community Rights initiative on the 2016 state-wide ballot.

A Community Rights amendment doesn’t ban anything. Instead, the measure establishes that communities in Colorado have a definitive right to local self-government. That is, the new law would give people, not corporations, the dominant authority to decide how to best protect health, safety and welfare in their own communities and surrounding natural environments. Basically, the measure would allow communities to decide, free from corporate or state interference, whether to allow corporate projects that could negatively impact their safe and healthy environments.

What does this measure mean to citizens on the western slope?

The Community Rights Amendment would, for example, give Mesa County residents living around Alanco’s stinky Deer Creek frackwater ponds the right to disallow this land use in their area. It would also give Paonia residents the right to keep drilling and fracking activities away from their schools, residential areas and organic farming districts. Corporations and their trade groups could no longer sue communities over decisions to keep dangerous or noxious industrial activities out of their area. The amendment would also prevent corporations from suing communities that vote to enact living wages, or ban GMOs (genetically modified organisms), for example.

On August 17, CCR submitted the official ballot language for the 2016 Colorado Community Rights Amendment to the Colorado Legislative Council. The ballot measure is very short, only about 200 words. After the ballot language is approved, CCR will organize a state-wide campaign to gather the number of signatures necessary to qualify the measure for the November 2016 statewide ballot.

CCR tried to get a Community Rights measure on the 2014 statewide ballot, but legal challenges by corporations opposed to the measure succeeded in delaying the signature-gathering phase of the effort until it was too late. This time, CCR has started work early enough that they will have a better shot at getting the measure on the ballot and passing it.

Efforts to pass Community Rights Initiatives are also ongoing in New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington.

Enigmatic Redlands Hill Continues to Speak to the Neighborhood

The mystery remains about who has been sending huge, cryptic messages using this hill on the Redlands for years now, and why

The mystery remains about who has been writing huge, cryptic messages using this hill on the Redlands for years now, and what drives him or her to do it

Back in December, 2014, I talked about the Mysterious Talking Hill Off South Camp Road. For years now, someone has regularly been climbing up this hill and scratching brief, huge messages into the green bentonite. The letters are probably at least 10-12 feet high. The writer changes the messages every other week or so. This task is far more challenging than using Twitter, which limits messages to 140 characters. The messages scratched into this hill are almost never more than four letters, tops. Repeatedly climbing up the crumbling scree to “erase” the old message and scratch in a new one can’t be easy, but some unknown person has been driven to do it frequently for at least six years now.

Sometimes the messages make sense. For example, around Mother’s Day it may say “MOM.” Near the end of December it may say “XMAS.” In May of 2014, when Google Street View caught a photo of the enigmatic hill, it said “USA.”

Mysterious talking hill of South Camp Road

Google Street View captured the hill in May of 2014, when it said “USA.”

Yesterday the hill said “TREK.”

Why?

We don’t know.

Maybe it had to do with the recent article in the Daily Sentinel about Jamie Bianchini, the man who went on an 8 year bicycle ride through 80 countries — an extended TREK. Or maybe the writer simply bought a new Trek bicycle and was glad as hell about it.

Here’s how to see the Talking Redlands Hill:

Take Broadway out towards the Redlands. Turn left at Monument Road, where the “W” gas station is. (Stop at the fabulous Trailhead Coffee House for Coffee if you have time). Continue on Monument Road toward the Colorado National Monument. When you get to South Camp Road, turn right and go a couple hundred feet to the dirt pullout directly opposite East Fallen Rock Road. There’s a big green electrical box there. Park and look for the dirt road heading generally northwest from the pullout, then look up at the Morrison formation hills just above it. Look a little to the right at a lower green bentonite hill lying between the two rock-covered peaks, as seen in the photo at the top of this article. See what it says and report back! And if you know who’s doing the writing, please do tell!

 

G.J. Garbage Follies: Inefficiency Rules the Day

City of Grand Junction Garbage service: fast, efficient and very reasonably priced

City of Grand Junction Garbage service: fast, efficient and very reasonably priced

Every day in our subdivision, trucks from at least five different private garbage companies rumble through the neighborhood, hopscotching from house to house picking up trash. Most private trucks have 2-3 people operating them: one driver and one or two others who hang onto the back of the truck and jump off to gather trash cans. Sometimes just one guy does it all, driving a few feet, putting the truck in park, jumping out, emptying trash cans, jumping back in the truck, driving a few more feet, jumping out to get trash, etc.

Of all the trash services coming through the neighborhood, one is clearly the most efficient: the City of Grand Junction. A single employee does it all: drives the truck, operates an automatic lift that picks up and dumps the trash cans and puts them back down again. The City’s service is extremely quick, too. One City garbage truck services the entire neighborhood in just minutes.

The City’s rates for trash pickup can’t be beat, either. For just $10.85/month, the City provides a 64 gallon trash can and weekly pickup. Standard trash cans are just 30-45 gallons, so this is a generous size. The City also provides free junk pick up in the spring, and free fall leave removal. By contrast, private trash companies’ charge from $16-18/month for comparable service. Some charge an extra fee to provide you with trash cans and other extra fees to remove large items. Some also charge fuel surcharges when the price of diesel fuel exceeds a certain amount, so you’d have to know the going price of diesel fuel every day to know if you’re going to get a surcharge on your bill in a given month. The one advantage of private companies is that they will often pick up up to five or six trash cans for the same monthly or quarterly price.

Mysterious Creature Spotted in Highline Canal

This highly unusual creature was spotted swimming in the Highline Canal this morning. It's obviously a lot bigger than a muskrat, but what is it?

This unusual creature was spotted swimming in the Highline Canal this morning. It’s obviously a lot bigger than a muskrat, but what is it?

Above is a photo of a very odd creature that was spotted swimming in the Grand Valley Highline Canal this morning. It was much bigger than a muskrat, along the size of a beaver, but did not have a wide tail like a beaver, and didn’t engage in tail-slapping-the-water behavior like beavers do when they are scared. It looked more like a seal. Also, this creature did not get scared. Instead, it seemed curious, even following people on the canal banks and poking its head far up out of the water at times to get a better look at them. It was a remarkably powerful swimmer, too, easily swimming upstream against the current in order to keep up with people walking that direction. The creature even appeared to get more curious if people made noises or gestures, too. In my opinion, it looked and acted a lot like a river otter. But if it was, what was a river otter doing in the canals? Have otters ever been seen in the Grand Valley canals before?

Here are a couple more pictures, for a better look. Can anyone tell what it is?

Unknown animal swimming in canal

Unknown animal swimming in canal

 

Another pic of the animal

A zoomed-in pic of the animal

July 4th, 2015 Mayhem Aftermath

Illegal Fireworks cause damage in Mesa County

11.28 acres of dry brush behind several houses in northwest Grand Junction were burned last night as a result of illegal bottle rockets being set off by a family on Chestnut Ave.

Firefighting and law enforcement resources in Mesa County were stretched thin last night as Independence Day festivities got out of control and the use of illegal fireworks abounded across the County.

A major brush fire that started at around 10:00 p.m. near 26 1/2 and G 1/2 Roads was actually at the west end of Chestnut Ave. The resident whose house was most in danger from the fire reported that a family across the street setting off illegal bottle rockets in the middle of Chestnut Ave. started the fire. One of the bottle rockets drifted on the wind and fell to the ground in the field behind their house, setting the brush on fire. Fortunately no structures were burned and no one, including any firefighters, were hurt. A firefighter on the scene Sunday reported that at 3:00 a.m. last night the flames were still three feet high, and that at one point the fire jumped a paved road, but firefighters were able to stop it. By 1:00 p.m. Sunday, four fire trucks, including a brush tender called down from Rifle, were still on the scene with a hose hooked up to a nearby fire hydrant, and the fire had been substantially put out. The fire burned a total of 11.28 acres.

Fireworks caused another accidental fire perilously close to this apartment complex on 25 1/2 Road, just north of Pomona Elementary School

Scorched tree trunks and landscaping show fireworks caused yet another accidental fire perilously close to this apartment complex on 25 1/2 Road, just north of Pomona Elementary School

Evidence of a second accidental fire being set last night due to fireworks use was apparent nearby at an apartment complex at 622  25 1/2 Road, just north of Pomona Elementary School. Dry landscaping had caught fire, very nearly setting trees next to the apartments on fire.

Lax law enforcement against the sale and use of illegal fireworks, combined with careless use and usually hot, dry weather endanger hundreds of people every Independence Day in Mesa County. Report use of illegal fireworks in your neighborhood immediately after first sight by calling 911.

New Novel Tells of Right Wing Extremist Takeover of San Rafael Swell in Utah

Utah's San Rafael Swell area

Utah’s San Rafael Swell area

Kevin Jones, formerly the Utah State Archaeologist and a published novelist, is publishing his latest work, “A Quick Trip to Moab,” as a serial on Medium.com

The story is about an anti-wilderness protest by off-road enthusiasts that has gotten out of hand. The protesters, fighting closure of an off-road travel area, manage to take over a significant portion of Utah’s San Rafael Swell and find their efforts further fueled by unsavory characters who flock to the area, drawn by the excitement of facing down the government. Federal agencies back away from the confrontation, leaving a vast, lawless area loosely controlled by the protesters, known as the “Recapture Brigade.” Ordinary travelers passing through the area get entangled in the violence, and must use every tool and resource available to them to survive.

The novel raises questions about how citizens protest governmental land-use decisions and whether there is really much difference between environmentalists “monkey wrenching” and ATV enthusiasts “taking back” the land.

A QUICK TRIP TO MOAB is a fast-moving adventure that invites consideration of the complex issues facing wild areas of the west.

If you find the story and the issues it raises interesting, you can read the first installments of the novel at https://medium.com/@kevinjones_4399. Join in a discussion of the issues on Kevin’s blog at UtahJones.com

The Grand Mesa Jeep Club Cleans Up North Desert!

Grand Mesa Jeep Club cleans up North Desert

The Grand Mesa Jeep Club cleans up Grand Junction’s North Desert

Members of the Grand Mesa Jeep Club (GMJC), a collection of local four-wheel-drive and off-road enthusiasts, turned out to clean up the trash-ridden North Desert area on Sunday, June 7. The group met at 9:00 a.m. at a large dumpster out in the desert just off 27 1/4 Road and spent the morning picking up trash, electronic waste, old refrigerators, bottles, cans, tires computers, TVs and other garbage littering the off-road area. The cleanup event was not posted on their website‘s calendar or mentioned in the “Events” listing on their website, but was posted on their Facebook page a few hours before the cleanup was to take place.

The GMJC encourages its members and non-members to recreate responsibly and use public lands ethically. It encourages off-roaders to stay on existing trails, and be courteous to non-motorized users of the desert. The GMJC even has a program called “Stay the Trail” that coordinates volunteers to help with projects like cleanups and rehabbing public lands. The “Stay the Trail” project also educates off-roaders about etiquette, for example discouraging unnecessarily loud vehicles and telling users how they can make their loud vehicles quieter without losing any speed or power.

A big “thanks” to the GMJC for cleaning up the North Desert. We’ve already noticed a lot less trash in the last few weeks, too, and you’re really making a big difference.

 

Subdivision Walking Paths Lead up to Canal Banks, Beckoning Walkers/Bikers

In housing subdivisions across the Grand Valley, concrete pathways have been constructed leading up to the banks of the Grand Valley's irrigation canals, beckoning people to use the banks for non-motorized, recreational use, even though such use is technically deemed illegal

WARNING: DO NOT USE: In housing subdivisions across the Grand Valley, concrete pathways like the one running between the houses in the above photo, lead onto the banks of the Grand Valley’s irrigation canals, beckoning residents to enjoy the areas for non-motorized recreation. Oddly, despite these pathways, in 2015 recreational use of the canal banks remains technically illegal. Formally opening the canal banks to non-motorized public recreation would almost overnight create one of the most extensive, beautiful and useful off-road trail systems in the western United States. It could also be a huge tourism asset and a particular boon to Grand Junction’s urbanizing areas, where safe bikeways and pedestrian amenities like sidewalks and foot bridges over canals are still sorely lacking.