Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District chasing USDA dough to build a new wastewater treatment plant

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From the Pagosa Sun (Jim McQuiggin):

The board previously rejected the idea of pursuing USDA funding when it was brought to the table last summer. At that time, the USDA had set forth two requirements that the board found insurmountable: designing the plant to be outside a 500-year floodplain and conducting an environmental assessment that would have driven initial costs for the USDA application up (with no guarantee of securing USDA funding). However, according to [Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District supervisor, Phil Starks], the USDA has changed its requirements and appears to be more flexible in working with the PSSGID toward offering up funding. Seemingly entrenched with criteria stipulating a 500-year floodplain last year, the USDA now appears to offer an out, allowing the plant to be built within a 500-year floodplain “if no reasonable alternative exists.” Furthermore, Starks said, costs for preliminary environmental assessments have dropped significantly, from cost estimates between $70,000 and $100,000 last year, to between $30,000 and $60,000 for current estimates…

According to Starks, the PSSGID would likely receive a $3.3 million loan and a $2.7 million grant to go toward a $6 million plant — about $700,000 more than estimates for a previously rejected project. Starks added that the plant would be a facility that would last at least 20 years and, when time expired on the plant, would merely require an upgrade as opposed to construction of an entirely new plant. Previous wastewater treatment plants in Pagosa Springs have been, in Starks’ words, “stopgap measures” that required entirely new construction once the plants became obsolete.

More coverage from the Pagosa Daily Post (Bill Hudson):

Lately, we have been polluting the river. Just a little. That normally happens in the winter months, due to the Town’s aging lagoon-style sewer treatment plant; in cold weather, the bacteria that live in the lagoon and do the heavy work of breaking the raw sewage down into non-toxic materials, simply aren’t active enough to keep the sewer effluent from violating Colorado state standards. So we dump a little too much ammonia or solid waste into our local river — and we risk fines from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, CDPHE.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here.

Say hello to the San Juan River Workgroup

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From the Pagosa Sun (Chuck McGuire):

The San Juan River Workgroup (SJRW) became reality last Thursday evening, as approximately 50 individuals attended an organizational meeting at the Ross Aragon Community Center in Pagosa Springs. A few participants reportedly came from as far away as Denver and Silverton. According to program coordinators, interest ran high among a diverse crowd of ranchers and property owners, water service providers, photographers, anglers, whitewater enthusiasts, oil land gas developers, and conservationists concerned with protecting a wide array of intrinsic river values. To address their concerns on a local level, attendees agreed to form the SJRW and meet monthly through December…

Once the SJRW became official at Thursday’s meeting, the group discussed a three-phase process it will undergo, and how its program relates to the above-referenced forest management plan. Basically, anyone interested in the river will have a seat at the table and will be considered a stakeholder throughout the process. While respecting all opinions expressed, even when different than their own, group members will consider future actions that meet the interests and/or needs of a diversity of stakeholders and water users. All will receive factual information and tools necessary to lead productive talks resulting in creative problem-solving. Group discussions will be open and transparent, and everyone will be heard.

More San Juan Basin coverage here.