McElmo Flume Overlook dedication Dec. 5 — Cortez Journal

Triad Western Constructors restored the foundation McElmo Flume historical site. The structure was stabilized with new concrete footers and the metal was restored. A pullout off U.S. Highway 160 east of Cortez allows travelers to view a piece of pioneer history. Photo credit the Cortez Journal.
Triad Western Constructors restored the foundation McElmo Flume historical site. The structure was stabilized with new concrete footers and the metal was restored. A pullout off U.S. Highway 160 east of Cortez allows travelers to view a piece of pioneer history. Photo credit the Cortez Journal.

From Montezuma County via The Cortez Journal:

Trail of the Ancients National Scenic Byway, Montezuma County and the Colorado Department of Transportation will host a dedication of the McElmo Flume Overlook at 11 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 5.

Transportation to the site is by shuttle bus from the Montezuma County Fairgrounds.

Visitors are asked to park north of the indoor arena no later than 10:45 a.m. on Dec. 5, to meet the bus. RSVP’s to James Dietrich (970)565-7402, jdietrich@co.montezuma.co.us, for planning purposes, please.

A local landmark from the last century, the flume can now be seen from viewing platform at a new highway rest stop off U.S. Highway 160 east of Cortez. The turnout includes informational panels about water and irrigation in our county.

There will be numerous speakers at the dedication. Susan Thomas, of the Trail of the Ancients Byway, will give welcoming remarks; Terry Knight of the Ute Mountain Historic Preservation Office, will conduct a blessing of the site; Les Nunn, of the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co. (retired), and Linda Towle, of the Cortez Historic Preservation board, will tell the history of local irrigation; Mike Preston, of the Dolores Water Conservancy District, will tell the modern irrigation story; and James Dietrich, federal lands coordinator for Montezuma County, will discuss the next preservation steps for the 125-year irrigation structure.

The many sponsors of the McElmo Flume Project include: Ballantine Family Fund, Colorado State Historical Fund, Colorado Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Mesa Verde Country, Montezuma County, Montezuma County Historical Society, Southwestern Water Conservation District, Southwest Basin Roundtable, Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway, and the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe.

Front Range apple cideries buy up juice from Montezuma County — The Cortez Journal

La Plata Mountains from the Great Sage Plain
La Plata Mountains from the Great Sage Plain

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

Local apples were once again pressed into juice for market during a successful pilot project held in a Lebanon orchard last month.

The event, sponsored by the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project, processed 800 bushels of apples gathered from local orchards.

“It went really well, we generated 2,200 gallons of raw juice that was sold to hard cider makers,” said MORP manager Nina Williams.

The group is studying the feasibility of using a mobile pressing unit to process apples from the many forgotten local orchards that otherwise let the fruit go to waste.

They were awarded a $42,400 planning grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to test the idea.

For two days in October, Northwest Mobile Juicing, out of Montana, set up in the Russell apple orchard in Lebanon. The unit can press, pasteurize, and package the juice for market.

For the pilot, the raw juice could only be sold to hard cider companies for fermentation. Additional permits are needed to sell pasteurized apple juice.

“We proved we can get if off the trees for sale to the hard cider market,” Williams said. “If the demand is there we can work through the regulations to sell local juice as well.”

Several orchard owners realized some profits from the project, and were paid 10 cents per pound for apples still on the tree.

A dedicated crew of twenty MORP volunteers spend 300 hours picking the apples in the weeks prior to the pressing. In all, nine apple orchard owners were paid $3,500 for their apples.

One local cider maker and four from Boulder and Denver bought the raw juice. A semi-truck was loaded with the juice for a night run to Front Range cideries.

“They were impressed with the quality,” Williams said. “The juice was a blend of local heritage apple varieties.”

Apple mash produced was hauled off by local livestock owners for feed.

MORP said they broke even on the trial run, and are studying how best to set up a local pressing facility.

“We learned that there is a lot of labor and infrastructure involved besides just the pressing equipment,” Williams said.

Commercial apple operations require warehouses, shipping docks, refrigerated cold storage to store apples, and heavy equipment such as trucks and forklifts.

MORP has been documenting once popular heritage apple varieties from the days when the area was a thriving fruit market more than 100 years ago.

They have brought many of them back to life through careful grafting and propagation techniques, and are encouraging local farmers to plant heritage apple orchards.

“Our big goals is to bring back this genetic diversity to keep heritage apples from going extinct, and to get it so people can have these trees again,” said MORP orchardist Jude Schuenemeyer. “Trees that worked here for over 100 years are really well adapted to this place.”

A recent victory for MORP was the rediscovery of the rare Colorado orange apple in a Cañon City orchard in 2012. For the last several years, local orchardists have been grafting and cultivating this near-extinct apple known for its fine flavor, hardiness, storage qualities, and cider-making potential.

There are dozens of abandoned apple orchards in the county that still produce a good crop, but have a limited market. The juice market is seen as ideal because the apples do not have to be perfect and the ones that fall on the ground can be used as well.

“One of our goals is to get local orchards back in shape by hosting workshops this winter on pruning and orchard management,” Williams said.

For more information go to http://www.montezumaorchard.org

Water line construction starting up in Cortez — The Cortez Journal

Water infrastructure as sidewalk art
Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

From The Cortez Journal (Jacob Klopfenstein):

Water line construction and drainage improvement work will begin in Cortez after the Labor Day weekend, Public Works director Phil Johnson said Thursday.

About 3,900 feet of 6- and 8-inch waterline will be installed, as well as 245 feet of 12-inch storm drain line, valves, fire hydrants and other infrastructure items. Construction will start this week and is expected to continue until the end of October.

The affected areas are Henry Street from Main Street to Montezuma Avenue, Montezuma Avenue from Henry Street to Sligo Street and S. Market Street from Seventh Street to 10 Street. Storm drain work along Edith Street also will begin.

At their meeting Aug. 9, Cortez City Council members awarded a $496,774 contract for the project to D&L Construction of Cortez, which had the lowest of five bids, according to city documents.

Historic McElmo flume awarded final funding — The Cortez Journal

McElmo Creek Flume via the Cortez Journal
McElmo Creek Flume via the Cortez Journal

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

A recently constructed interpretive pullout off U.S. Highway 160 east of Cortez showcases the wooden irrigation flume, which was built in the 1890s to deliver water to the Ute Mountain tribe and pioneer farms.

The restoration grant requires a $60,000 match, and a fundraising effort is underway. Once that is raised, the flume’s main wooden trough structure will be repaired and restored, completing the multiyear project.

“Right now, people will stop at the interpretive pull-off and see that the flume needs repair, and that is what this grant will be paying for,” Towle said, adding that as much original wood as possible will be used in the restoration.

Repairing the foundation was the priority. In 2014, a $123,000 state historical grant was awarded to the county to rebuild the foundation and stabilize the structure to withstand flows in McElmo Creek. That foundation work was completed in February.

The paved highway pullout, parking lot, interpretive panels, information, kiosk, sidewalk and flume overlook were made possible by $250,000 in funding allocated by the National Scenic Byways Program in 2013.

The historic flume is an agricultural artifact that symbolizes the beginning of the city of Cortez and surrounding communities, Towle said.

“Cortez would not be here without these first irrigation systems,” she said. “It is important for visitors coming through to learn the story about how the efforts of early farmers and ranchers grew the town and got us to where we are today.”

Final interpretive panels on water history are still being created for the flume overlook. Also a regional tourism map will be installed at the kiosk highlighting local attractions.

Throughout the project, contributions have been made by many agencies and organizations, including Montezuma County, Southwestern Water Conservation District, Southwest Roundtable, Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company, Dolores Water Conservancy District, and the Ute Mountain Tribe. The Colorado State Historical grants awarded for the project are derived from a portion of gambling revenues in Cripple Creek, Central City, and Black Hawk.

Montezuma County: Four States Agricultural Forum recap

La Plata Mountains from the Great Sage Plain
La Plata Mountains from the Great Sage Plain

From The Durango Herald (Jacob Klopfenstein):

The Yellow Jacket project’s lead researcher, Abdel Berrada, spoke last week at the Four States Agricultural Expo at Montezuma County Fairgrounds.

The research center received almost $250,000 from a grant to fund the study, which examines how cover crops can improve soil quality for dryland farmers.

Although Berrada said he and other researchers have a long way to go before they find out what works in the region, he told a crowd of about 25 people that cover crops can increase organic matter in the soil, suppress weeds and prevent erosion.

“Cover crops make sense,” Berrada said. “We’re looking at factors to see what works best for the area.”

As part of the study, five farmers in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah are administering plots of cover crops such as yellow clover, winter peas and others.

After three years, researchers hope to quantify the effects of cover crops on ground moisture, soil health and weed control, Berrada said. Another goal of the project is to determine which cover crops are most profitable. Those goals will help determine if cover crops can enhance the sustainability of farming in Southwest Colorado and southeast Utah.

Colorado State University Dolores County Extension director Gus Westerman said researchers will collect a second round of data in the next year. They’ll use data collected at the end of the three years to compare the effects of cover crops in the region with results from other areas, he said.

Westerman said more people in the industry are becoming aware of water issues.

But the study runs for only three years, and Westerman said that’s a short time in terms of soil science. He said the project hopes to extend the grant to get more time for study.

CSU Extension West Region Specialist John Rizza said there hasn’t been much research on cover crops in the region to date. Few studies have been done to examine which cover crops are most successful for dryland farmers, he said.

Rizza and Westerman said the level of interest in cover crops is increasing regionally. More farmers are participating and it’s now easier to show people how they work, Rizza said.

“We’re getting good momentum,” he said.

Cortez: Solids from county jail causing back ups

Wastewater lift station
Wastewater lift station

From the Cortez Journal (Tobie Baker) via The Durango Herald:

Montezuma County inmates are under suspicion, but not for unlawful activity.

Cortez Sanitation District officials suspect that inmates at the 104-bed Montezuma County Jail are flushing items in their jail cells, plugging a pumping station or contaminating the wastewater-treatment facility.

“We get a ton of Ramen noodle packages,” CSD manager Tim Krebs told board members at a monthly meeting last week.

Krebs initially relayed his concerns to CSD board members in December, reporting that plastics and other debris from the detention center had been an ongoing problem.

Vici Pierce, detention captain at the Montezuma County jail, confirmed that inmates were allowed to purchase Ramon noodles from the commissary, but said she was unaware of any sanitation district complaints until notified by The Journal.

“Garbage bags are provided in each unit, and inmates are instructed to use them for the disposal of their trash items,” Pierce said.

Several years ago, a garbage grinder was installed in the jail’s sewer system to help alleviate improper trash disposal.

According to Krebs, that grinder pump on Driscoll Street failed, and after it was repaired recently, sanitation officials started to observe bits of plastic in the district’s treatment facility on South Broadway about four miles south.

Krebs said the grinder pump was recently taken offline at the district’s request to help staff determine whether the inflow of debris could be minimalized.

“The smaller plastics have disappeared in parts of the plant, but now larger plastics are filling up the bar screen at the lift station,” Krebs said.

Krebs said sanitation crews now make two trips per day to the district’s north pumping station to manually clear a screen that captures the plastics. Officials indicated the screen was routinely plugged when crews responded.

McElmo Flume restoration project update

From the Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

“It could take a year or longer for construction to be completed,” once bids are approved, said county planner James Dietrich.

The roadside attraction will have an entrance and egress road, parking lot, sidewalks, information kiosk and a handicap-accessible trail to an overlook of the flume, built in 1890.

Two grants are helping to pay for the project.

A $253,000 grant from the Federal Highways Administration was awarded to the Trails of the Ancients Scenic Byway, a section of which includes U.S. 160 that goes by the flume.

The Colorado State Historic Fund provided a $123,840 grant to restore the flume foundation.

Several groups chipped in for a $41,280 match, including Montezuma County, Southwest Water Conservancy District, Ballantine Family Fund, Montezuma County Historical Society and Southwest Roundtable.

The flume is the last of 104 built in the area from 1890 to 1920. It delivered irrigation water south of Cortez and to the Ute Mountain Tribe.

McElmo Creek Flume via the Cortez Journal
McElmo Creek Flume via the Cortez Journal