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News from the San Luis Valley

Second solar plant on tap for the Valley

DENVER- Xcel Energy and Sun Power Corp. have announced an agreement to build a 17-megawatt AC photovoltaic (PV) solar power plant in Alamosa County.

The power plant will be the second largest high-efficiency solar PV power plant in North America and is expected to be completed by the end of 2010. The project could employ as many as 200 workers during construction.

Currently, Colorado produces a total of 40 megawatts of solar generation. With the addition of the new plant the state will be among the top five states in the nation for solar generation.

The plant is the indirect result of State Bill 177 which concerns the valuation of new solar energy facilities for the purpose of property tax valuation and passed the Senate and House and will be heading to the Governor’s desk for signature.

SB 177 requires a new solar energy facility to be valued for the purpose of property taxation in the same manner in which a new wind facility is valued for that purpose. This means that the actual value will be based on the projected gross revenue of such facilities.

Bill would extend legal recognition to ancient acequias

DENVER- State Rep. Edward Vigil of Ft. Garland has introduced a bill which would extend legal recognition to the oldest water distribution systems in Colorado.

House Bill 1233 would recognize the acequias management structure and would allow existing acequias in Southern Colorado to form into ditch corporations, formalizing the centuries old ditch management practices.

Acequias (pronounced uh-SAY-kyuhs) are an ancient system of water transport introduced to the Valley by Hispanic settlers before Colorado became a state. They consist of ditches that feed water to long, narrow lots of farmland. The system is based on hierarchal structure, guaranteeing more water in dry years for those higher in the communal structure.

It was Vigil’s great-great grandfather who filed Colorado’s first water right.

The bill has been approved in the House and the Senate, and it is currently awaiting the governor’s signature.

Conservation plan receives grant

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has announced that a habitat conservation plan focusing on 150 miles of streams in Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Rio Grande and Saguache counties will get $120,000 from a grant through the the Cooperative Endangered Species Fund.

The San Luis Valley Habitat Conservation plan hopes to conserve bald eagles, the yellow-billed cuckoo, the endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher and other species.

Summitville to get stimulus funding

The Summitville Mine Superfund site in Rio Grande County will receive up to $25 million in federal stimulus funds to treat polluted water and complete Superfund work.

The EPA took over the 1,400-acre site in late 1992 when the operator went bankrupt.

Since then, $200 to $250 million has been spent to clean, cap, plug and dike the Superfund site, according to the EPA.

The state is hoping the funds will complete the long awaited completion of the cleanup.

Saguache man still missing

A $10,000 reward is being offered for credible information regarding the disappearance of Michael Rust, 56, of Saguache.

Rust, a former resident of Salida, was reported missing to county authorities on April 2 after phoning a friend to report that he believed his home had been burglarized and was going to follow tracks leading away from his residence.

It is believed Rust left his home on a 2006 red and white Honda CRF-230 motorcycle with Colorado license plate number 966 ORE. The motorcycle has not been found.

Search parties including Saguache County Search and Rescue, DOW officals, a dog team, a Black Hawk helicopter from Buckley Air Force Base as well as volunteers failed to turn up any signs of Rust.

In 1991 Rust was inducted into the Mountain Biking Hall of Fame for his unique and innovative mountain bike designs.

Anyone with information about Rust is encouraged to contact Mark Werts with the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office or deputy Kyle Torr at (719) 655-2525 or by email:

Investigator Jerry Mosier can be contacted at (719) 221-3462.

Biomass & By-product Innovation Competiton Announced

Saguache County Sustainable Environment & Economic Development, in partnership with the San Luis Valley Development Resource Group (DRG), is launching a Biomass & By-product Innovation Competition. The competition will promote the creation of a business that utilizes existing secondary resources to create employment and contribute to local economy and will serve as a countywide business development tool by offering support and resources to the winner. The winning applicant will receive a venture capital grant (between $2500-$5000), technical support, and a professional support package including marketing, financing, accounting, legal and other resources.

For more information call 655-2775 or visit

Call for entries

The San Luis Valley Folk Arts And Fiber Festival has announced a call for entries for its annual festival in Monte Vista, July 10-12, 2009.

May 23 is the entry deadline (postmark). For more information visit –

SLV Briefs by Marcia Darnell

Banks, No Bailouts

The Rio Grande Headwater Restoration Project has proposed a different kind of bank repair – shoring up the banks of the Rio Grande for 1,500 feet where the river enters the city of Alamosa. The group, previously profiled in Colorado Central, has restored much of the river in the San Luis Valley.

In other wet news, the Rio Grande Basin snowpack is above average, even with three months of scant snow. Lots of early snowfall stuck.

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act signed by President Obama included the Baca Wildlife Refuge and the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. Appropriations are being sought for both lands.

Money Flow

Alamosa scored $300,000 in fed money for its drinking water system, which has been beset by aging iron pipes, leaking storage units and salmonella infestation. The funds will build a new elevated storage facility of approximately 750,000 gallons. The city is also getting $381,000 to build an educational facility for health careers.

In addition, Valley-Wide Health Systems in the San Luis Valley got over 1/2 million dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to keep up their good work in serving the Valley’s underprivileged. And a Valley bank got $5.5 million in TARP funds.


Former State Rep. Rafael Gallegos seems to be MIA. The former legislator was the chair of a committee to create a memorial for Colorado soldiers killed in the war on terror. Having been un-elected, current lawmakers want Gallegos to resign from his post, which has accomplished zip. Gallegos hasn’t returned phone calls from the committee or the press.

Brief Briefs

• Work has begun on Wolf Creek Pass that will last until November.

• Greyhound dropped Alamosa from its route. After intervention from U.S. Rep. John Salazar, the company extended its service for three months while alternatives are sought.

• Alamosa County kicked off the remodeling of the old social services building by inviting elected officials and other movers and shakers to swing a sledgehammer at old walls. The event marks the beginning of new housing for the Chamber of Commerce and other economic development entities.

• Students from nine universities descended upon the Great Sand Dunes for “Green Break.” The students studied eco issues during their “park break.”

• Parents in Del Norte are trying to establish a Montessori school.

• The National Guard will come to Alamosa in May for training exercises.

• Adams State College got a $25,000 grant with which the Office of Degree Completion has now been established, to bring back dropouts to get that sheepskin.

• La Puente Shelter built a dome to grow produce year-round for its homeless and needy clients. Gardening is also part of the curriculum of Alamosa’s elementary schools, thanks to a grant from Alamosa Community Gardens.

• Ground was broken for a new long-term care facility near La Jara.

• Daniel Newmyer received fellowship from the Society for Science & the Public. He teaches at Antonito High.

• Center’s Roger Christensen is the newest member of the U.S. Potato Board.

• Geri Curtis was honored for her 40 years of service to the Alamosa County Dept. of Human Services.

• Dwayne Newman is the new superintendent of Monte Vista School District. Felix Lopez will be the interim president of Trinidad State Junior College – Valley Campus.