Category: Safety

No help for flooded out Paradise Hills homeowners after massive June 20 deluge

An intense and fast-moving storm on June 20, 2024 in Grand Junction caused a massive flood in the Paradise Hills subdivision, filling residents’ homes, back yards, basements and crawl spaces with muddy water, ruining their drywall, carpeting, cupboards and flooring, crashing down fences in yards and drowning backyard chickens. Senior meteorologist Tom Renwick of the National Weather Service in a story on Colorado Public Radio called the storm “incredible.” He said, “We couldn’t see more than maybe five feet out the door. It was remarkable.”

Remarkable, indeed.

One affected resident, Darla Green, attended a Paradise Hills HOA meeting right after the flood and estimated that 60-70 homes were involved and the damage they described cost well over a million dollars.

So far though, Paradise Hills residents have been left totally on their own to recover from what was essentially a man-made flood caused by totally inadequate drainage.

None of the affected homeowners had flood insurance, so they are spending their savings or retirement funds to try to remediate their homes. One owner’s whole first floor was filled with mud, forcing the family to live on the second floor of their home since the flood. Darla Green said she spent $15,000, all of her savings, on cleaning up just her crawl space. She pointed out that crawl space remediation in the area costs more than it might normally be because many owners had radon mitigation measures, like plastic lining and electric fans, in their crawlspaces to keep them ventilated. The flood also rendered a large number Paradise Hills home unsellable because the inadequate drainage poses an ongoing threat of another flood whenever the next big downpour hits. Homeowners are petrified that after spending their savings and retirement funds on remediating the damage from this event, another storm will devastate their homes again.

Google Earth photo of the area affected by the Paradise Hills flood and the drainage that caused the flood (outlined in yellow lines). The storm water flowed off the city-and- county-owned G.J. airport property. The drainage on the residential side adjacent to the Highline Canal starts off big — about 50 feet wide and 20 feet deep — but narrows to just 4-5 feet wide and 3-4 feet deep by the time it hits the first bend, forcing the water and mud that poured off the adjacent desert to spill out into homes in Paradise Hills.

Trying to find help is greatly complicated by all the entities that contributed to the flood and the fractionated nature of the affected areas.

Mud and debris at this abandoned home on Catalina Drive in Paradise Corner shows the height the flood waters reached there on 6/20

The waterline at Jim Ciha’s house on Malibu Drive in Paradise Hills. So far he and his wife have paid $2,100 to get the crawl space cleaned and he admits he had far less damage than many other homeowners in the area. The entire first floor of his neighbor’s house was flooded with muddy water, and those neighbors are now living on the second floor of their home.

The water that flooded Paradise Hills came off the city-and- county-owned Grand Junction Regional Airport. For years the airport has been expanding west towards Paradise Hills and for the last several years its ongoing runway construction project has been altering the topography at the west end of the airport. The June 20 stormwater flowed off airport property into a retention pond the City of Grand Junction built around 2012 on land maintained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The purpose of the City-built retention pond, according to Chapter 4 of the Airport’s Environmental Assessment for the its runway expansion project, was to protect Paradise Hills from stormwater runoff, but it is clearly failing. After filling the City’s inadequate retention pond, the June 20 stormwater traveled under the Highline Canal through a concrete drainage structure built by the Army Corps of Engineers and into a channel created by the developer of Filing 7 of Paradise Hills, Robert L. Bray and Bray & Company Real Estate, circa 1993-94. The drainage is labeled in the original subdivision plans as “Private Open Space,” making it the property of the Paradise Hills Homeowners Association (HOA), which claims its only mandate is to manage the subdivision’s irrigation system, not any open space or drainages.

Further complicating things, Paradise Hills is made up of more than just one subdivision. Some parts are wholly separate subdivisions, like Paradise Corner, built in 1994 and formerly called “The Moses Subdivision,” which consists of 11 homes off the intersection of Catalina Drive and 26 1/2 Road, and a 4-lot subdivision adjacent to Paradise Corner called North View, built in 1978.

1993 plat map for Paradise Hills Filing #7. Arrows point to the faulty drainage channel (labeled “Tract A”), created by the developer that spilled flood water throughout the neighborhood in the June 20 storm. Note that the drainage channel is labeled “Private Open Space,” while the Paradise Hills HOA seems unaware it owns any private open space.

So far the City of Grand Junction hasn’t lifted a finger to help the affected Paradise Hills homeowners. The Grand Valley Drainage District and Army Corps of Engineers also disavow any responsibility for the flood, and the Department of Local Affairs has been useless despite having a “Disaster Recovery and Resilience Program.” In March, 2024, FEMA started a program to help individual property owners recover from natural disasters, but in order for homeowners to be eligible for it, the President has to declare the area a disaster area, and no government entity has requested it.

Making matters worse, back in 2016 the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and Mesa County teamed up to sue the Drainage District to block a $3/month per homeowner stormwater fee the Drainage District had levied to generate funds to beef up stormwater drainage in the area north of the Colorado River. The Chamber and County called it an “unconstitutional tax,” won a court judgment against the Drainage District and forced the District to refund all the money it had collected to homeowners and businesses. After this, no entity in the County ever took any steps to improve the drainage situation in the area, leaving residents facing disaster.

Paradise Hills HOA President Austin Erickson seemed completely unaware that Paradise Hills owns any private open space, telling a KREX-TV reporter on June 26 that “he plans on appearing before Grand Junction City Council to learn who might be responsible for maintaining that creek.”

Given all of the entities that contributed to the flood — the city and the county via ownership of the expanding G.J. Airport adjacent to Paradise Hills, and the Bray realtors who developed Paradise Hills — and all the different entities affected by the flood, including residents of Paradise Hills, Paradise Corner and the North View subdivisions, it’s clear that this is a vastly complicated situation that will take a government to step in and coordinate assistance and modification of the drainage, and help the affected homeowners get help to fund their recovery.

By all rights that entity should be the City as the one unifying entity in all of this.

Grand Junction City code says,

28.16.120 Drainage facilities maintenance.

An important part of all storm drainage facilities is continued maintenance of the facilities to ensure they will function as designed. Maintenance of drainage facilities includes a number of routine tasks, such as removal of debris and sediment, and nonroutine tasks, such as restoring damaged structures.

All drainage facilities will be maintained to preserve their function, and shall:….

…Be maintained by the property owner, the developer and/or a homeowners’ association. Should the property owner fail to adequately maintain drainage facilities, the right is reserved [by the City] to enter the property, upon proper notice, for the purpose of performing drainage maintenance. All maintenance costs shall be assessed against the owner(s) of the property.”

So under its charter, the City can step in, do the maintenance on the drainage to prevent more damage to homes in Paradise Hills, and then levy the cost of the maintenance against all the homeowners in all the affected subdivisions.

But so far no entity has taken any steps to help the struggling homeowners, even in a non-monetary way. They’re all just turning a blind eye to the homeowners’ plight.

Paradise Hills is in City Council District B, and Jason Nguyen is their City Councilman (970-244-1504 is the City Council Comment Line) and it is in County Commissioner District 2, represented by Commissioner Bobbie Daniel. Her phone number is 970-244-1885 or you can contact her with this contact form.

Affected homeowner Jim Ciha took the video below of the flood in his backyard on June 20. He admits the damage he sustained to his yard, fence and crawlspace were far less than that other homeowners incurred:

Trump-branded weaponry being promoted in advance of 2024 election

This ad for a “Take America Back” 10-inch Trump knife was displayed alongside a Tina Peters video on Rumble.com, a MAGA extremist video hosting site, on April 28, 2024

MAGA supporters are using Trump-themed weaponry to encourage malice and division and threaten pro-Trump political violence in advance of the 2024 election, a dangerous specter that is threatening the foundations of American democracy and civil society.

D-51 employee raises a red flag about the way D-51 conducts lockdown drills compared to other school districts

A highly experienced School District 51 employee who came here from the front range with over 20 years experience in conducting lockdown drills in other school districts is raising red flags about the way D-51 conducts its lockdown drills, and the trauma it is causing students. The employee describes a heartbreaking experience during a lockdown drill with a room full of kindergarteners during the 2023-2024 school year and the lasting  effects it had on students. The employee has brought the problem up with school counselors, the D-51 School Board and Tim Leon, Director of Safety and Security for District 51, and even proposed different ways to conduct these drills that are used in other school districts that don’t traumatize students the way D-51’s drills do, and offered research by the National Association of School Psychologists on how to mitigate the negative psychological effects that lockdown drills have on young kids, but the employee’s urgings have been ignored at every turn.

Colorado’s abortion rights ballot measure surpasses its signature goal, putting it one step closer to being on the 2024 November Ballot

Coloradans for Protecting Reproductive Freedom announced that it has surpassed their campaign’s goal of collecting 185,000 signatures to put Ballot Initiative 89 on the November, 2024 ballot, putting Colorado voters are one step closer to seeing a constitutional amendment on the November 2024 ballot that will protect abortion from government interference. The announcement comes just a few days after the Arizona Supreme Court upheld an 1864 law banning abortion, a law that was enacted when Arizona was still a territory and long before American women had the right to vote.

The campaign needs 124,238 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, including 2% of the total registered electors in each of Colorado’s 35 state senate districts. As of now, the coalition has collected over 225,000 signatures of which 48,175 were collected by over a thousand volunteers, and has qualified in all 35 state senate districts.

The text of proposed Initiative 89 says:

“A change to the Colorado constitution recognizing the right to abortion, and, in connection therewith, prohibiting the state and local governments from denying, impeding, or discriminating against the exercise of that right, allowing abortion to be a covered service under health insurance plans for Colorado state and local government employees and enrollees in state and local governmental insurance programs.”

Jess Grennan, Campaign Director of Coloradans for Protecting Reproductive Freedom, said “The news of Arizona’s near-total abortion ban ultimately

Jess Grennan

exposed just how vulnerable every state is, and will remain, without passing legislation that constitutionally secures the right to abortion. Ballot measures like Proposition 89 are our first line of defense against government overreach and our best tool to protect the freedom to make personal, private healthcare decisions — a right that should never depend on the source of one’s health insurance or who is in office, because a right without access is a right in name only.”

Current law is discriminatory

Because of a 1984 constitutional measure that barely passed, public employees and people on public insurance in Colorado are barred from having their health insurance cover abortion care. By establishing abortion as a constitutional right, Ballot Initiative #89 would remove that discrimination, providing access to teachers, firefighters, and other state employees who cannot currently get coverage for abortion care through their insurance. Private employers in Colorado are required to cover abortion in their insurance plans.

“Recent events have made it even more critical that we in Colorado restore what the Dobbs decision took away from us and secure abortion rights in the Colorado Constitution,” said Cobalt President Karen Middleton, Co-Chair of Coloradans for Protecting Reproductive Freedom. “As a fundamental, shared value, Coloradans trust people and their doctors, not politicians, to make decisions about abortion. That value has been reinforced in 2024 with the overwhelming enthusiasm for our ballot measure, as demonstrated by thousands of volunteers in every corner of the state collecting signatures. And we firmly believe that this energy and enthusiasm will carry us through to winning in November.”

Karen Middleton

“Abortion is legal in Colorado, but still not accessible for all pregnant people who need these services. Abortion may be legal in Colorado, and that’s due to our leadership passing the Reproductive Health Equity Act in 2022 to codify a person’s fundamental right to make reproductive health-care decisions, but statutory protections do not mean we are any safer from government interference than Arizona is,” said Dusti Gurule, President and CEO of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) and Campaign Co-Chair. “This is why our community is fighting to enshrine abortion rights in the Colorado state constitution, along with the more than 225,000 Coloradans who have signed on to support this measure. Crossing the signature threshold is a critical step forward in securing a future where abortion rights are protected, respected, and accessible for all Coloradans, regardless of which elected or appointed official is in power.”

Dusti Gurule

 

Colorado Republican legislators who oppose all gun safety legislation make the strongest case for why it is needed


Colorado Republican Rep. Don Wilson of Monument accidentally left a loaded Glock 9mm handgun in a restroom at the state Capitol last week.

In an apology on Twitter/X, Wilson claimed he “takes firearm safety very seriously,” which his behavior contradicts.

Wilson is the latest in a string of Colorado Republicans who have mishandled guns in and around the Capitol.

Mesa County Commissioners ignoring safety concerns & quietly working to tweak land use code to advantage large scale solar development, citizens say

Commercial solar development on east Orchard Mesa (Photo: High Noon Solar)

On January 9, Mesa County Commissioners Janet Rowland, Cody Davis and Bobbie Daniel voted to put a moratorium on large-scale solar development in the County supposedly to take time to address the community’s growing concerns over these developments. Citizens are worried that the current county Land Development Code (LDC) contains no provisions protecting agricultural and irrigated land, wildlife, water sheds and view sheds from these developments, as well as no requirements for fire protection, buffers, setbacks or plans to decommission these installations that will assure solar plants that get destroyed by inclement weather or live out their expected life spans are cleaned up in a way that minimizes  environmental harm and expense to local taxpayers.

Signature-gathering effort for ballot initiative to guarantee abortion rights in CO kicks off 1/23 in Grand Junction

States where abortion rights may be on the ballot in 2024 (Chart: Washington Post)

The effort to get Amendment 89, a constitutional amendment to protect the right to an abortion from government interference in Colorado, onto the November ballot will kick off on Tuesday, January 23 at an event in Grand Junction from 6:00 – 8:00 pm at The Mesa Theater, 538 Main St, Grand Junction, CO 81501. Currently abortion is protected in Colorado, but only by a statutory law enacted in 2022 called the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which confers only weak protection that could easily be changed by a vote of Republicans trying to further restrict women’s rights.

Amendment 89 will assure that all Coloradans, regardless of occupation or source of health insurance, have access to reproductive healthcare. Currently, teachers, firefighters, other state and local public employees and people enrolled in state health insurance plans lack insurance coverage (pdf) for abortion care, an inequity that

Republicans are passing laws to restrict womens freedom in the U.S., leading to the need for states to pass constitutional amendments to guarantee women keep those hard-won rights.

Amendment 89 aims to address. As a constitutional amendment, Amendment 89 will also be a stronger buffer against future attempts by politicians in Colorado to limit abortion access in our state.

Redlands residents oppose City building new sewer lift station and piping on unstable land

In this memorable example of a very bad local development decision in the 1990s, the Mesa County Commissioners approved construction of this home on a geologically unstable cliff above the Colorado River just west of the Redlands Parkway. The decision led to the home eventually sliding down the bluff towards the river. Redlands residents now believe the City is making a similar mistake by planning to build a new sewer line and lift station on  similarly unstable land in the Redlands.

Redlands area residents are concerned that the City of Grand Junction and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) have give preliminary approval to build a huge sewage lift station on private land in a geographically unstable area, and they are warning of its potential for failure and environmental catastrophe.

The proposed lift station will replace a 6-foot diameter lift station said to be “reaching the end of its useful life” at the Ridges Subdivision, and consolidate a 4-foot diameter lift station that “is in adequate condition” on Power Road. The proposed budget for this new lift station is currently $7.1 million.

But homeowners in the area contend the new lift station and sewer lines will be built on unstable land, will destroy huge swaths of riparian habitat above Connected Lakes State Park and, in the event of a failure, could lead to huge amounts of raw sewage being dumped into the river.

Schwenke is helping realtors and developers oppose City plan for more pedestrian & bike-friendly development

Many Grand Junction streets lack curb, gutters, sidewalks and other pedestrian and bike-friendly amenities. City Council is trying to fix this by making transportation corridors safer and more user-friendly for pedestrians, bicyclists and people using public transportation. Realtors and developers oppose the effort, assisted by former Chamber president Diane Schwenke.

Former Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke, who has a consulting business now called “Schwenke Solutions,” is working as a consultant for the Grand Junction Area Realtors and Homebuilders Associations, helping them oppose the City’s new proposed Transportation Engineering Design Standards (TEDS) that are designed to make streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and people taking public transportation.

Diane Schwenke lobbies against higher wages

Former Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke appears in a 2016 TV ad opposing an increase in Colorado’s minimum wage

To that end, Schwenke authored a strange letter to the editor to the Daily Sentinel November 26 that praised a new housing development on former farmland in Nebraska that lack curbs, gutters and walkable sidewalks. She praises the beautiful agricultural setting of the development, saying it has “a layout that maximizes the view of fields of corn and soybeans on the adjourning hillsides,” but doesn’t seem to understand that such developments destroy the lovely fields and farms she likes to look at, and will cost taxpayers in the long run as cities have to add curb, gutter, drainage, adequate sidewalks and other amenities to make them safer and more attractive.

School Board candidate forum cancelled after threat of violence posted on Facebook


A school board candidate forum that was planned for last evening, Monday, October 16, was cancelled abruptly the day of the event after the venue hosting the event, Good Judy’s Bar & Club downtown, received a violent threat on Facebook.

District 51 School Board candidate rundown for the November 7, 2023 election

For this article, information was taken from Colorado Tracer (the state’s campaign finance disclosure website), Little Sis (a free database that tracks key relationships between politicians, business leaders, lobbyists, financiers, and their affiliated institutions), the subscription background check site Truthfinder.com, Zillow.com, the archives of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the subscription newspaper archive Newspapers.com, the candidates’ own social media accounts and campaign websites if they have them, and the social media pages of other people and groups in Mesa County where the candidates might have posted, or where they might have been mentioned.

I would urge readers to particularly look at which candidates have hired professional agents and campaign consultants, who they’ve hired to do these jobs, and which candidates are serving as their own registered agents and managing their own campaigns.

The candidates running for the two open seats on District 51 School Board in 2023 are:

District A: José Luis Chavéz, CynDee Skalla and Jessica Hearn

District B: Barbara Evanson and Cindy Enos Martinez

CU Anschutz environmental toxicologist: Ascent Classical Academy’s lead remediation will have to meet tighter EPA standard of 3 micrograms/sq. ft. for floors, instead of the current standard of 10 mcg/sq. ft.

The former Rocky Mountain Gun Club building at 545 31 Road, where Ascent Classical Academy plans to open a new charter school eventually, after missing its initially-proposed September 5 date for occupancy. The gun club signs were still on the building as of early August.

Michael Kosnett, M.D., M.P.H., at CU Anschutz School of Public Health in Aurora, CO, an expert in medical toxicology, occupational and environmental health who specializes in occupational and environmental toxicology of heavy metals, including lead, weighed in about the type of post-remediation lead testing that should be used at the Ascent Classical Academy building (swipe or bulk testing), and what the residual lead levels are allowed to be in this situation.

Lead is a highly poisonous element that, according to UNICEF, is responsible for 1.5% of global deaths. Children are particularly susceptible to its effects.

CDPHE now says Vertex used an approved test for lead at the Ascent Classical Academy building; lead levels still in question

How much lead exposure does it take to poison a child? This much.

AnneLandmanBlog received the following email from Bradley Turpin, Milk and Institutions Program Manager in CDPHE’s Division of Environmental Health and Sustainability saying the company that performed the post-remediation testing for lead at the new Ascent Classical Academy building (the old Rocky Mountain Gun Club at 545 31 Road) did in fact use a test that they are allowed to use in this instance. He apologized for the confusion caused by their former statement that bulk testing would be appropriate in this situation. The official did not comment on the current lead levels in the building, but CDPHE does appear to be involved in overseeing the remediation.

Ascent Classical Academy used the wrong kind of post-remediation lead testing in the Rocky Mountain Gun Club building, according to CDPHE

How lead is dispersed at shooting ranges (Georgia Dept. of Public Health/Seattle Times)

The Vertex Company LLC of Denver, which Ascent Classical Academy hired to test the old Rocky Mountain Gun Club building for lead contamination after the building was remediated, did the wrong kind of testing, says an specialist with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

Caren Johannes of CDPHE’s Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division Compliance Unit, who oversees closed shooting ranges, looked over online remediation report (pdf) that Ascent posted its website on August 11, 2023, and concluded that the Vertex Company did the wrong kind of testing for lead in the building, so their results will not be valid.

Ascent Classical Academy’s lead remediation report shows 30 of 66 areas tested in their new school do not meet HUD requirements

How much lead exposure does it take to poison a child? This much. And so far no one has  guaranteed there isn’t this much lead remaining in the old Rocky Mountain Gun Club building, which is being repurposed to serve as Ascent Classical Academy’s new charter school in Grand Junction

Notice: Since this article was written, AnneLandmanBlog has found out from Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)’s Hazardous Waste department expert in charge of dealing with closed firing ranges that Ascent contractor Vertex Companies of Denver utilized the wrong type of post-remediation testing technique for this facility, rendering the results in the report Ascent posted on August 11 invalid and essentially useless. Read more about it here.

The 8-page, post-lead remediation testing report that Ascent Classical Academy Grand Junction posted on its website August 11, 2023 (pdf) shows that 30 of the 66 sites tested for lead in the old Rocky Mountain Gun Club building at 545 31 Road, which is to serve as the new charter school, still have lead levels 5-23 times above HUD allowable limits.

And Ascent did not test the air inside the facility.

Derek Shuler, CEO of Ascent Classical Academies, in 2018 (Photo: YouTube)

The post-remediation testing was performed by the Vertex Company, which included a disclaimer in the report that essentially says it wasn’t feasible to test all areas of the building, so there may still be areas where lead dust levels exceed HUD limits.

Why we need to worry about County Commissioner Janet Rowland’s takeover of Mesa County Public Health Dept.

A Facebook post by Janet Rowland during her 2020 campaign. The Washington Times is owned by the Unification Church and is noted for spreading misinformation about Coronavirus, climate change, the harmful effects of secondhand smoke and other issues. As of May, 2023, there have been 1.13 million deaths from Covid in the U.S., a number far from “ridiculously low”

In the wake of Commissioner Janet Rowland’s recent coup over the Mesa County Public Health Department, if the the past is a predictor of future behavior, under Rowland the Health Department is likely in for a significant reduction in its ability to respond to public health threats, and area residents will likely face more danger from emerging health threats.

Ascent Classical Academy still has not provided proof to the public that their new school building is lead-free

UPDATE as of 8/11/2023, 4:00 p.m.Ascent Classical Academy updated it’s blog today with a link to a report (pdf) provided by remediation project manager, the Vertex Company. The actual remediation was performed by Hudspeth Environmental Remediation Company based in Centennial, whose website says they specialize in asbestos and lead paint removal. According to the chart provided in the report, many areas remain 5 to 23 times above HUD’s recommended lead clearance cleanup standard of <10 µ/sq.ft. (less than 10 micrograms per square foot). Among these are the men’s bathroom on the first floor, which had 71 µ/sq.ft,  the floor of the first floor “men’s restroom in the tactical area,” with 83 µ/sq.ft., the former “Handgun range – floor in NE corner” at 68 µ/sq.ft., “Handgun range – floor in middle by west wall” at 57 µ/sq.ft., the “Handgun range – center of floor in room south of handgun range,” which had 130 µ/sq.ft., the “Handgun range – floor in SE corner” at 98 µ/sq.ft. and “Handgun range – floor in room south of range” with 230 µ/sq.ft.

The “Discussion” part of the report states,

“As it is not feasible to sample all areas of all surfaces, the wipe sampling strategy utilized by VERTEX does not provide for, nor ensure that all surfaces within a subject property undergo wipe sampling; thus, the possibility exists that lead-in-dust concentrations on surface locations not sampled during an assessment may be in excess of HUD and/or CDPHE Regulation 19 cleanup standards.”

Translation:” It’s not feasible to test the whole property, so there may be lead concentrations in places we didn’t check that may be in excess of HUD and CDPHE’s cleanup standards.”

Ascent does not yet have a Certificate of Occupancy for the building.


The Ascent Classical Academy charter school is planning to move into the old Rocky Mountain Gun Club building at 545 31 Road, which formerly served as an indoor shooting range for 7 years. The inside of the building is currently being rebuilt and their website says the first day of school will be Tuesday, September 5, 2023, but to date, Ascent still hasn’t provided the public with documentation from a government health authority that their building poses no threat of lead poisoning to occupants, and they appear to be withholding information on the remediation status of the building.  [See above update.]