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A mess on the river

When a tractor-trailer truck full of furniture dumped its load in a fatal accident in Glenwood Canyon earlier this fall, it not only sullied the Colorado River, but created a bureaucratic mess as well.

For a good month, nothing happened in the way of a cleanup, as questions arose over who should pay for it – and who should be in charge of making sure the job gets done and the bills get paid, since the incident involved federal, state and county lands.

Watching the head-scratching that has surrounded efforts to clean up the river has been difficult for river-lovers. The delay has only made things worse. The river current has spread debris for miles, meaning that river inspection, and even cleanup, could extend as far downstream as Rifle, making the problem and the cost of addressing it even worse.



The spill creates a safety concern, both to those who would clean it up and to river users. Sharp objects lurk below the surface, waiting to snag boats, arms and legs, and the danger is accentuated by the ever-present force of the current.

But beyond danger, the spill is an assault on the river’s natural beauty. Rivers used to be dumping grounds, but in recent decades, river enthusiasts have worked hard to clean them up. Now, the Colorado in Glenwood Canyon is a top state venue for rafting and kayaking, and its view is enjoyed by bike path users and Interstate 70 travelers.



Area tourism depends on the river’s beauty being maintained.

Thankfully, cleanup is beginning, due to the efforts of volunteers and particularly Ben Cartwright, co-owner of Environmentally Friendly Services, a private contractor. He decided to start on the job now and worry about recouping expenses later.

But deeper issues remain unresolved. State law apparently doesn’t govern the situation because there was no intent by the trucking company to pollute the river. But intentionally or not, that was the end result. Consideration should be given to revising the law to hold motorists and, where pertinent, their employers responsible for their actions in these cases.

The revision to the law also could clarify the enforcement role – most likely giving it to the Colorado State Patrol – in these cases in which numerous jurisdictions ended up being impacted.

– Dennis Webb, News Editor


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