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San Luis Valley Briefs

Brief by Marcia Darnell

San Luis Valley – September 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine

Swine Questions

Residents of Costilla County are raising questions about a hog farm proposed by Bowman Farms. Members of SANGRE (Sustainable and Nurturing Growth through Responsible Economics) are asking the county commission to take six to 12 months to devise a master plan for the county’s economic development. Issues such as employment of locals, pollution and taxes are under discussion.

Bowman wasn’t represented at the meeting — a member of the county economic development office is acting as liaison with the company. Commissioners are researching the issues and plan to tour a hog operation in North Carolina before making a decision about the operation.

Initial Round

A more appealing industry has been proposed for Conejos County. A Colorado State University project has determined that the San Luis Valley is an ideal spot for a micromalting operation. The malter would process wheat and barley grown in the Valley and sell it to microbreweries.

According to economics professor Stephan Weiler of CSU, private investors are interested in the project.

Recall Update

All three Conejos County Commissioners face recall in an election set for Sept. 10. The commissioners outraged many of their constituents by firing popular County Health Nurse Lois Booth last year. Charges of racism, nepotism, and theft have ensued.

The second set of recall petitions garnered enough signatures to set an election date. A previous effort failed, as too few signatures remained after review by the county clerk.


The government stepped up to answer questions, and nobody came to ask.

Representatives of the big, bad federal government held a public meeting to inform the public of cleanup and reclamation projects of the Summitville mine site, but turnout was virtually nil.

Reclamation of 120 acres is expected to be completed by the end of the summer. Adits are being closed and the area is being leveled and covered with crushed limestone and compost. Revegetation (i.e., planting grass at 11,000 feet) is scheduled for next summer.

How Many?

The Colorado Department of Local Affairs says that the U.S. Census Bureau has underestimated expected growth in Colorado in the next 20 years. The department estimates the San Luis Valley’s population will grow by 20,000 people. The statistics were revised due to a larger population base than the bureau estimated; greater longevity of residents; and the sizzling state economy.

Those Valley residents who are alarmed at the thought of 20,000 new neighbors can take comfort in the fact that neither government entity took the infamous Valley winters into account. Forty below cures a host of population problems.

More Water Fights

If you can’t beat ’em in court, fight ’em in the legislature. Colorado Water for Colorado, a political advocacy group started by Gary Boyce of Stockmen’s Water Co., is trying to get two initiatives on the November ballot. One requires water meters on “large production” wells, the other proposes payment for water pumped from the San Luis Valley’s aquifer.

Citizens for Colorado’s Water is opposed to these measures, citing cost to state taxpayers. Some claim that Stockman’s is trying to get the Valley to spend all its lawyer money on small skirmishes so it’ll have nothing left for the war.

Lower Water Quality

While residents battle to keep the wet stuff that’s in the ground in the ground, the fight to keep what’s above the Valley clean isn’t going well. The state Water Quality Control Commission has lowered the water quality standard at the Summitville site. However, the commission reduced the amounts of copper, aluminum and manganese allowed below the site.

The state says it’ll be monitoring the Alamosa River for another three years. Critics say the reduction in pollution standards at Summitville is a means to reducing cleanup costs at the old mine.