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REGIONAL NEWS ROUNDUP (and other items of interest)

Helicopter Stranded on Mountain

A Colorado Army National Guard helicopter that was diverted from a rescue effort June 15 on Mt. Shavano to another on Little Bear Peak in the Sangre De Cristo Range, made a precautionary landing after striking the mountain and will have to be removed in pieces, according to an AP story.

The CH-47 Chinook was originally dispatched from Ft. Carson to help rescue a 40-year-old Denver man who was suffering from altitude sickness on the ridge between Mt. Shavano and Mt. Tabeguache in Chaffee County. It was then diverted to assist an 18-year-old from Highlands Ranch who suffered a fatal fall from a rock face while attempting to climb Little Bear Peak.

Two Major Fires Erupt in June

Two fires in the region kept firefighters busy this June. The Medano Fire, which was ignited by lightning June 6 in Great Sand Dunes National Park, continued to burn as of press time, June 26. It has so far consumed 5,517 acres involving 216 firefighters, 11 crews, eight engines and three helicopters. No structures have been damaged so far and there have been no reports of injuries.

Meanwhile, Fremont County firefighters had their hands full with the Parkdale County fire that began June 21 in the Royal Gorge area. It was contained June 27 but not after burning 628 acres as well as a private residence and barn, forcing some mandatory evacuations of some residents. The fire required a total of 275 personnel to contain with one injury involving minor dehydration reported. It reportedly cost more than $1.4 million to contain.

The fire, believed to be human-caused, completely destroyed a home belonging to Fremont County Coroner Dorthy Twellman.

Two Die in Rafting Accident

SALIDA – Two men in their 70s died after their private raft plunged over a diversion dam, throwing them and their wives into the Arkansas River about two miles north of Salida, according to the Mountain Mail.

The two men, Milton Crosby, 79 of Sayer, Okla. and Lonnie Mills, 75 of Waterville, Ore., were pulled from the river after being spotted in downtown Salida June 23.

Crosby was pronounced dead that day in Salida and Mills died at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Denver the following day. Neither man was wearing a life vest on the boat. Their wives, Wanda Crosby, 77, and Myrna Mills, 74, who were wearing life vests, managed to swim to shore and were treated for minor injuries.

Motorcyclist Dies after Lightning Strike

SALIDA – A Florida motorcyclist died of injuries sustained after being directly hit by lightning June 12 near Centerville. William John Carr, a firefighter from Pompano Beach, was riding with several friends in a heavy thunderstorm when he received a direct hit and lost control of his motorcycle, according to witnesses. He died of his injuries June 17 at St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver.

Lamborn Co-Sponsors Drilling Bill

WASHINGTON D.C. – 5th District U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn was part of a delegation that introduced legislation to lift the moratorium on deep-water oil drilling, put in place by the Obama administration in response to the massive oil leak caused by a ruptured line on a BP drilling operation in the Gulf. H.R.5519 is being touted as a “jobs preservation act,” by supporters.

“Just as you wouldn’t shut down the airline industry while a single plane crash is investigated, you don’t shut down the offshore drilling industry at this time,” Lamborn said in a release.

The oil spill is being called the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history and is still dumping millions of gallons of raw crude oil into the Gulf as of press time.

Settlement Reached on Rafting Dispute

DENVER – Gov. Bill Ritter announced on June 15 that a deal has been made regarding a dispute between a private landowner on the Taylor River in Gunnison County and two rafting outfitters.

Texas-based developer Jackson-Shaw was trying to prevent boaters from using the stretch of the river adjacent to their property, which prompted Rep. Kathleen Curry, I-Gunnison, to introduce a bill to assure rafters they could float through private lands.

The opposing sides reached a truce on the matter effectively ending a combined 24 potential ballot initiatives over the issue. In the agreement, the landowner gave permission to the rafting companies to keep floating through their property but the issue of “floaters rights” is not settled on a statewide basis and the issue will probably continue to arise in other parts of the state. Constitutionally, boaters have a right to run rivers that abut private property but cannot trespass on the streambed or riverbanks.

Governor Signs Marijuana Bills

DENVER – Two bills regulating Colorado’s medical marijuana industry were signed by Gov. Ritter June 7. House Bill 10-1284 and Senate Bill 10-109 are designed to provide regulatory oversight of the new industry and create a legal framework for the distribution of medical marijuana (MMJ) in Colorado.

SB 10-109, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, regulates physicians authorized to prescribe medical cannibas. The bill requires prescribing physicians to have a “bona fide” relationship with MMJ patients including conducting a full medical history and discussing possible alternative treatments. The law also prohibits dispensaries from providing compensation to prescribing doctors.

HB 10-1284, also co-sponsored by Massey, requires licensing of dispensaries at both the state and local level. It allows municipalities and voters to ban dispensaries and large-scale growers. Convicted felons are prohibited from running a dispensary and operators must have been residents of Colorado for at least two years before opening a dispensary. Lastly, dispensaries must now grow at least 70 percent of the MMJ they sell.

The Colorado MMJ chapter isn’t quite closed just yet. Lawsuits challenging the laws’ constitutionality are currently being prepared, especially the matter of local governments’ ability to ban dispensaries outright.

One Lucky Puddytat

COLORADO SPRINGS – The owner of a VW Beetle who was having difficulty shifting on a drive between Cañon City and Colorado Springs discovered a big surprise at her mechanic’s shop.

Seems a cat had lodged itself on top of the transmission and somehow survived the hour long drive, according to KKTV-TV.

The mechanic dubbed the lucky cat Links, because she was stuck on the shifting linkage and has decided to keep her if her family isn’t located.

Funnel Cloud Spotted on Mount Massive

LEADVILLE – A rare funnel cloud was spotted and photographed close to the top of Mt. Massive near Leadville on June 13.

The National Weather Service Office in Pueblo described the event as “an impressive case of a cold air funnel. A cold air funnel cloud, which can rarely develop into a small, relatively weak tornado, can develop from a shower or weak thunderstorm when the air aloft is unusually cold.”

A video of the event has been posted on YouTube at:

Depot Granted Historic Designation

WESTCLIFFE – The Colorado Historical Society has granted historic designation to the old railroad depot in Westcliffe. The local group heading the restoration of the depot, All Aboard Westcliffe (, is searching for grants and other funding to purchase the depot. Meanwhile they are priming, fixing rotting wood and doing a general cleanup of the depot site.

Biomass Competition

Saguache County Sustainable Environment & Economic Development (ScSEED) is seeking applications for the 2010 Biomass & By-Product Innovation Competition. Applications are available online at and by mail upon request. Completed application deadline is August 9, 2010 at 12:00 pm. Top three finalists will be invited for an interview throughout the week of August 23rd. A final winner will be announced at the Crestone Energy Fair on August 28, 2010.