The uranium mill was declared a Superfund environmental disaster more than 20 years ago after contamination was discovered in both well water and soil in Cañon City.
We weren’t allowed to film or take pictures on the tour but we did get to ask some questions.
The site manager says they’re trying to determine the usability of the mill in the future and are waiting on a quality assurance plan. Next, they’ll have to draft what’s called a remedial investigation report.
Before they’re able to recommend a clean-up plan which would be in 2020 at the earliest.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers pitched a sweeping vision Friday of bolstering the city’s short-staffed police force by 100 officers and modernizing its aging and increasingly-decrepit vehicle fleet.
It hinges, however, on voters agreeing to resurrect the city’s controversial and defunct stormwater enterprise fee in November.
Calling it “basic to our financial viability,” Suthers pitched the fee’s return during his annual summit with City Council – framing it as a means to restore several flagging or aging city services while offering Colorado Springs a powerful bargaining chip in battling a federal lawsuit over years of neglected stormwater needs.
“We have a legal obligation (to fund stormwater projects),” Suthers said. “The question is whether we’re going to fund it at the expense of other things, or are we going to fund it separately.”
Even if a fee is approved by voters in November, the outcome would not be legally binding. But, it would provide a political mandate for future Colorado Springs leaders and lawmakers to follow, Suthers said.
“Every other large city in America has a stormwater enterprise where they charge a fee to property owners and that money is what’s used for stormwater,” said Mayor Suthers.
It’s a plan that was rejected by springs voters in 2009, but as the city continues its legal battle with the EPA and the state health department, city council members like Bill Murray say continuing to fund stormwater improvements through the city’s general fund simply won’t work.
“It’s taken a big bite out of our general fund. And I’m sure that the citizens, once they’re given the opportunity, to understand it’s either the EPA or us, that they’ll select us because we actually have the solution and they don’t,” Murray said.
The city pays $17 million a year out of its general fund for storm water obligations.
“And that means we have less money available for police officers,” Suthers said. “We need as many as a hundred additional police officers probably over the next 5 to 10 years.”
Suthers says snowplow equipment also comes out of the general fund, leaving the city strapped for cash in three crucial areas.
The stormwater fee based under the previous stormwater enterprise was based in part on a percentage of total impervious area on a property—think sidewalks and driveways. But the city says that can change over time and what used to be a front law under one homeowner change to a concrete driveway under another.
“And so you would have a residential, a tiered residential structure and it would be based on the size of the lot would equate to a specific monthly fee,” said Springs Public Works Director Travis Easton.
Here’s a deep dive into the current state of the Salton Sea from Ian James and Sammy Roth writing for the Las Vegas Desert Sun. Click through to view the drone tour of the shoreline, the cool graphics, and to read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:
The Salton Sea has been shrinking for years, and fish and birds have been dying. The dry lakebed already spews toxic dust into the air, threatening a region with hundreds of thousands of people. And the crisis is about to get much worse.
The water flowing into the Salton Sea will be cut dramatically at the end of this year, causing the lake to shrink faster than ever and sending more dust blowing through low-income, largely Latino farming communities.
The Salton Sea covers 350 square miles in the desert southeast of Palm Springs. For more than a century, the lake has been sustained by water from the Colorado River.
But under a farm-to-city water transfer deal, more river water has been flowing to cities in San Diego County and the Coachella Valley — and less water has been flowing into the Salton Sea.
In 2003, California lawmakers promised to restore the lake. So far, state officials have done hardly anything, even as the Salton Sea has shrunk.
The Salton Sea has become an important stop on the Pacific Flyway, as birds and insects are opportunists.