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I-70 westbound reopens at No Name following Saturday afternoon rockslide

A rockslide closed I-70 westbound near the No Name rest area for over three hours Saturday afternoon. 

CDOT Regional Communications Manager Lisa Schwantes said she was notified of the incident, just east of Glenwood Springs at mile marker 119, around 2:15 p.m.

Westbound traffic was being stopped at Dotsero as maintenance crews cleared rocks and debris from the roadway.       

No serious injuries were reported as a result of Saturday’s rockslide according to Schwantes. However, a semi-truck required towing and rocks scattered along the interstate were large enough to require a front-end loader, Schwantes said.

I-70 westbound reopened at around 5:20 p.m.

In the immediate area of the rockslide, I-70 westbound was limited to one lane and CDOT urged motorists to use caution.

Saturday’s rockslide was the first of the season to cause an interstate closure, Schwantes said.

Snow day: Re-1 schools, CMC campuses, Adventure Park closed Friday, PI e-edition free to read today

Editor’s note: The weather isn’t making it easy for many folks to get a print copy of Friday’s paper, so we’ve made the e-edition free to access today. Go here to read Friday’s paper.

Roaring Fork School District has canceled school Friday in anticipation of continued adverse weather.

All after-school and extracurricular activities are also canceled, although Glenwood Springs High School’s girls swim team had already left for an event in Grand Junction and would still compete.

In a statement Thursday night, district public information officer Kelsy Been said early reports point to unsafe road conditions continuing Friday.

“Although we do not usually make snow day decisions this early, we’ve received earlier than usual reports from road and highway plowing operations departments of expected unsafe and hazardous road conditions,” Been writes. “Any decision to cancel school is based on student and staff safety.”

Go here to read Roaring Fork School District’s policy on cancellations.

In addition:

  • Colorado Mountain College’s Glenwood Center, Spring Valley, Carbondale, Rifle and Leadville campuses will be closed Friday for the entire day. The Aspen campus remains open. Central Services in Glenwood is closed. For more information, call the CMC Rifle snow line at 625-6990 or the CMC Spring Valley/Glenwood Center snow line at 947-8153.
  • Glenwood Springs City Hall will open at 10 a.m. Friday, instead of 8. The Community Center will open at 6 a.m. for normal business hours.
  • Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is closed Friday. Friday Afternoon Club is canceled.
  • Interstate 70 westbound from Golden to the Eisenhower Tunnel is closed. No alternate routes are available, and CDOT strongly recommends people don’t travel during today’s storm.

A winter weather advisory from the National Weather Service remains in effect until 5 p.m. Friday, with up to 8 inches of snow expected Thursday night and up to 4 more inches expected Friday morning.

Garfield School District 16 schools in Parachute are not canceled for Friday, and Friday is a normal off day for Garfield Re-2 schools.

Call 511 for the most up-to-date road conditions.

Roaring Fork Valley in winter storm warning through Monday with a foot or more of snow forecast for higher elevations

The first major snowstorm of the season is expected to roll into Colorado on Sunday afternoon with the mountains around Aspen and Carbondale seeing up to two feet of snow by Monday evening, according to the National Weather Service.

A winter storm warning is in effect starting Sunday morning until 6 p.m. Monday for nearly all of central and western Colorado, and travel is being discouraged, especially along Interstate 70 and over mountain passes.

Along with the snow, high winds and “bitterly cold temperatures” are in the NWS forecast.

The forecast calls for snow accumulations of “7 to 14 inches, with higher amounts nearing two feet in the higher portions of the Elk and West Elk Mountains. Winds gusting as high as 40 mph,” according to the weather service’s winter storm warning updated early Sunday morning.

The NWS is predicting most of the Colorado mountain ranges will see 6 to 12 inches, and locally higher amounts are possible “with the potential for a heavier snow band to develop and, depending on where the band sets up, snowfall totals could be much higher.”

The Aspen forecast calls for overnight lows Sunday and Monday in the single digits, and the high Monday at 32 degrees.

The Colorado Department of Transportation sent out a message Saturday night discouraging travel for the next two days.

“Chain and traction laws are likely (on I-70), so motorists should check tires before traveling and have chains or auto socks on hand,” the agency said in a news release Saturday evening. “CDOT continues to ask motorists to not travel to the high country, due to wildfire operations and evacuations. If travel in the high country is necessary, be sure to have an emergency kit in the event of road closures or delays due to winter weather.”

The drastic change in weather is expected to help the crews working on the East Troublesome (192,000 acres burned) and Cameron Peak (208,000 acres) fires burning in north central Colorado.

Those traveling through the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport should check with their airlines or go to aspenairport.com for updates. Two United flights to Denver scheduled to leave Sunday afternoon have been canceled, as of Sunday morning.

The Roaring Fork Schools are planning for grades 4-8 to return to in-person learning on Monday, along with K-3, which began last week. In-person classes could be cancelled due to inclement weather, but online coursework would still be expected under the district’s altered policies for this school year.

Aspen School District is also planning for middle school and high school students to return to in-person learning on Monday. District officials will send out a message by early Monday morning if classes are canceled.

Students, teachers at three Rifle schools latest to be sent to quarantine after positive COVID cases

The Garfield Re-2 School District has transitioned 81 students and nine educators at three Rifle schools to online instruction while in quarantine for 14 days, due to confirmed cases of COVID-19 and individuals experiencing symptoms.

The impacted schools are Rifle High School and Highland and Wamsley Elementary schools, the district said in a late Saturday news release..

“Garfield Re-2 was made aware of two separate situations that led to the quarantines,” according to the release. “The cases are not related.”

The district and building administrators are working with Garfield County Public Health on follow-up investigation and contact tracing. In the meantime:

  • Individuals diagnosed are being kept home from school until they are no longer infectious.
  • Activities when those individuals could have spread COVID-19 have been assessed.
  • The people who were close contacts of the person with COVID-19 have been instructed to stay home from school for 14 days (quarantine) after the exposure.

“Any child that was in at least one class or group as the person diagnosed with COVID-19, must follow quarantine instructions and stay home from school for 14 days from the date of exposure,” the district said in the release.

Impacted students will switch to online instruction beginning Monday, and will not be allowed back to school until their quarantine period completes, according to the release.

“Custodial staff has cleaned and disinfected the schools and they are prepared for the return of non-impacted students and staff.”

What to do if your child shows COVID-19 symptoms

Anyone who develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19 — including fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea — should:

  • Isolate until you/your child have had no fever for at least 24 hours (without the use of medicine that reduces fevers) and other symptoms have improved.
  • Wait until at least 10 days have passed since you/your child were tested or your symptoms first appeared. A limited number of persons with severe illness may require an extended duration of isolation up to 20 days after symptoms first appear. (https://covid19.colorado.gov/how-to-isolate)
  • Have your child tested.
  • Continue to keep your child home from school and avoid other activities around other people.
  • Notify the school.
  • Seek medical care and testing for COVID-19, calling your doctor before you show up.

Questions can be directed to Garfield County Public Health 970-945-6614, or in Rifle at 970-625-5200.

Source: Garfield Re-2 School District

Colorado limits more gatherings as COVID cases spike

DENVER (AP) — Citing a steady increase in Colorado’s coronavirus hospitalization caseload, state health officials announced new limits Friday on personal gatherings of people from different households in more than two dozen counties.

An amended state health order affecting 29 of the state’s counties limits personal gatherings to 10 people from no more than two households. Gatherings of up to 25 people were previously permitted in those counties, Colorado Public Radio reported.

Personal gatherings in 30 other Colorado counties, including Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle, were already restricted to 10 people. No new limits were imposed for five counties with lesser caseloads.

The Department of Public Health and Environment said it took the action after investigators determined that COVID-19 cases associated with social gatherings and community exposure had been more common since July.

“We need to keep gatherings smaller and with people from fewer households — we are asking everyone to ‘shrink their bubble’ to reduce the spread,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the department’s executive director.

On Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis appealed to residents to help stem what he called an alarming acceleration of new cases and hospitalizations. Upward trends in new confirmed cases and hospitalizations could strain hospital intensive-care capacity in December, the Democratic governor said.

There are roughly 1,800 intensive-care beds statewide for all health emergencies. More than three-quarters of those beds were occupied for all reasons over the week leading up to Monday, the state health department said.

The state reported 458 virus hospitalizations Friday. Health officials reported there were nearly 20 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents Friday, one of the highest, if not the highest, recorded rates of the pandemic.

More than 2,000 people have died of the virus in Colorado, which has reported more than 85,000 positive cases. The number of cases is probably higher because of a lack of testing and other reasons.

The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

WEEKEND COVID-19 UPDATE: Heightened concerns about coronavirus spread in Garfield County as incidence, test positivity rate increase

October 23 update from Garfield County Public Health (14-day period: 10/9-10/23):

Unfortunately, the incidence rate (amount of cases) and the average positivity (percent of tests that come back positive) continue to increase. Both are key indicators of the virus in the community.

The incidence rate is ‘very high’ at 208.1 cases per 100,000 people. Community spread decreased but remains in the ‘concerned’ tier. Test turnaround time was good with 71% of the positive test results coming back within two days. However, the influx of new cases reduced the contact tracing team’s ability to handle the volume and dipped for the first time into the ‘cautious’ category.

Recent cases both locally and statewide seem to be coming from small personal gatherings where people are less likely to remember COVID precautions such as social distancing and mask-wearing. Remember to stay committed to containment and to get tested within 48 hours if you develop symptoms.

The test positivity rate of 6.4% has also moved to the “cautious” level, while hospital capacity in Garfield County remains in the “comfortable” range.

Garfield County’s death total since the start of the outbreak is five.

Garfield County remains in the overall “cautious” level for risk of spread of COVID-19.

READ THE LATEST GarCo PUBLIC HEALTH UPDATE IN SPANISH.

Latest Garfield County COVID-19 Statistics & Trends

Cumulative cases as of Saturday, Oct. 24: 1,125

Newly confirmed cases since Thursday: 27

Deaths since outbreak began: 5

KEY RISK INDICATORS (measures from lowest to highest risk level: Comfortable-Cautious-Concerned-Very High)

Concerned — Rolling two-week total of new cases: Oct. 10-23 – 125 (<30 needed to achieve Comfortable level)

Very High — Case rate per 100,000 people: 208.1 (<75 needed to achieve Comfortable level)

Cautious — Test positivity rate: 6.4% (<4% needed to return to Comfortable level)

Comfortable — Hospital System Capacity: >75%

Concerned — Days before seeking testing, 24-48 hours of symptom onset recommended: 50-65%% (>85% needed to achieve Comfortable level)

Cautious — Test turnaround time; results within 48 hours: 66-85% (>85% needed to achieve Comfortable level)

Cautious — Case interviews within 24 hours: >85%

Source: Garfield County Public Health

Active outbreaks in Garfield County

Garfield County Community Corrections, Rifle: Date determined, 10/19; 9 total confirmed cases, including 6 clients and 3 staff; facility in quarantine.

Rifle Housing Authority office/workspace: Date determined, 10/14; 2 confirmed cases among staff, 1 probable.

Tequila’s restaurant, Glenwood Springs: Date determined, 10/9; 3 confirmed cases among staff, 1 probable.

Source: Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment

Valley View Hospital Cumulative Stats 10/22/2020

Specimens collected through Valley View — 11,008 (+206 since 10/20)

Positive results — 520 (+9 since 10/20)

Pending results — 39

Hospitalizations since outbreak began — 75 (1 new since 10/20)

Patients discharged (incl. transfers and deceased) — 66

Grand River Hospital Cumulative Stats 10/22/2020

Specimens collected through Grand River Health — 3,945 (+69 since 10/20)

Positive results — 279 (17 new since 10/20)

Pending results — 43

Hospitalizations since outbreak began — 13 (1 new since 10/20)

Patients discharged — 7

Patients transferred — 5

Source: Hospital statistics released twice weekly on Tuesday and Thursday

Garfield County Public Health statistics are updated daily, and hospitals report their latest statistics twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday.

Current public health measures in place for Garfield County

• Facial Coverings: Required in all settings, indoor or outdoor
• Events: 100 ppl max indoor |175 ppl max outdoor
• Private Gatherings/Groups: 10 ppl and no more than two households
• Personal Services (Salon, massage, spas, etc.): 50% capacity | 50 ppl max
• Restaurants: 50% capacity | 175 ppl max
• Gyms/Fitness/Pools: 50% capacity I 175 ppl max

• Group/League Sports: 25:1 instructor ratio | parents ok; spectators discouraged

• Museums/Libraries: 50% capacity | 50 ppl max
• Retail (non-critical): 50% capacity | 50 ppl max
• Outfitters & Guides: 10:1 guest ratio
• Places of Worship: 50% capacity |175 ppl max indoor
• Life Rites (funerals, weddings, graduations): 50% capacity | 175 ppl max indoor I outdoor based on social distancing calculator

City to discuss pot, Blake and Ward 2 before the election

This week, the city of Glenwood Springs will be discussing marijuana regulations, seeking input on Blake Avenue south of 23rd Street and appointing a city councilor. All meetings can be attended via Zoom.

Marijuana regulations

The Planning and Zoning Commission will once again discuss possible changes to the municipal code regarding marijuana facilities at its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27.

At P&Z’s special meeting on Sept. 15 councilors focused on buffers of 1,000 feet around schools, parks, other pot shops and mental health and drug treatment facilities. Another idea was limiting the number of retail shops to one per 1,000 residents.

P&Z will have draft code language to review and could make a recommendation to City Council from this meeting, assistant city manager Jennifer Ooton said.

“Staff is going to put together their best recommendation for a cap based on the population and also increasing distance requirements,” assistant economic/community development director Gretchen Ricehill said after P&Z’s Sept. 15 meeting.

If a recommendation is made, it would likely go to council at its Nov. 19 meeting, Ooton said.

Should council decide on a code change, that would require an ordinance, which requires two readings before council, Ooton said.

Blake Avenue 

The city of Glenwood Springs is holding a virtual meeting from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, to discuss street configurations of Blake Avenue related to the Bell Rippy development north of Walmart; and Blake improvements from 23rd Street to Highway 82 at McDonald’s.

Council voted unanimously at its Oct. 1 meeting to accept staff’s recommendation to keep the Blake Gate closed until a certificate of occupancy is issued for a building at the Bell Rippy development at some point in 2021.

At the Oct. 28 meeting Engineering and Community Development staff will introduce and present different circulation options for consideration, and the city will ask for comments from the Palmer and Blake area neighborhoods. Proposed plans will be posted on the city’s website at cogs.us/blake on Monday, Oct. 26, according to a press release.

Comments from the neighborhood residents will then be presented and discussed at the city’s next Transportation Commission meeting at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3, Election Day. 

“City Council has asked staff to bring back a recommendation, and I would anticipate that it would be some version of the plans that are being finalized for the [Oct. 28] meeting. We are looking for input from the public and Transportation Commission, so there may be some revisions to the ideas that staff will offer for consideration,” Ooton said.

City Council Ward 2 seat

Last Monday, City Council interviewed Ray Schmahl, Monica Wolny and Ingrid Wussow for appointment to the Ward 2 council seat recently vacated by Rick Voorhees.

At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, council will meet to make a selection.

Public comment will be accepted, Mayor Jonathan Godes said.

cwertheim@postindependent.com

Grizzly Creek Fire grows by 150 acres since Thursday

Fire activity in the Grizzly Creek drainage since Thursday has caused the Grizzly Creek Fire to grow by about 150 acres.

The U.S. Forest Service in a news release Friday reported that spot fires have also occurred on the east side of the upper Grizzly Creek and No Name drainages, which ground crews are working to contain.

The Grizzly Creek Fire began Aug. 10 and is currently 91% contained at 32,631 acres.

“Fire behavior today has not showed much growth in acres. Mostly some isolated torching,” Incident Commander Dan Nielsen said in the news release. “Please respect the area closure of the fire perimeter and remember the White River National Forest and BLM in this area are in Stage 1 fire restrictions.” 

Air resources will focus on the west line of the Grizzly Creek Fire to slow growth while ground resources will suppress the fire “where it is safe to do so.”

“The plan for additional resources to staff the fire will continue to evolve depending on precipitation from this weekend’s predicted snowfall,” the release states.

Anyone recreating in the area surrounding the Grizzly Creek Fire should be prepared and on the alert for changes in fire behavior and stay out of closed areas. The current closure map can be found on Inciweb.

Despite pandemic challenges, some businesses still opening, expanding in Garfield County

During a period of economic uncertainty when businesses were laying off employees and the future was a big question mark, some entrepreneurs were brave enough to try to get a new enterprise off the ground.

For Valley Fuel and Sundae ice cream shop in Glenwood Springs, opening in June was neither despite nor because of the coronavirus — rather, it was more of a coincidence.

“When the pandemic hit in March we were actually very close to being able to open, so when we got the green light from our buildout team we decided to just go for it,” Sundae assistant manager Molly LaBrecque said. 

In June 1 the Glenwood shop — at 723 Grand Ave. — joined Sundae shops in Vail and Edwards providing a food that may be crisis proof. 

“Everybody loves ice cream no matter what’s going on in the world,” LaBrecque said.

For Heather Hill, opening Valley Fuel at 1304 Grand Ave. had been a project in the works for two years, and she just happened to be ready to open June 11.

“It definitely wasn’t ideal, but it’s ‘now or never,’” she said of her feelings at the time.

Eventually, she plans to base her other business, Valley Taxi, out of the gas station.

New Castle Physical Therapy opened on Aug. 10 specifically because of the pandemic.

“We were planning on starting our own business at the end of this year, but we lost our jobs due to COVID in late March and could find no more work. Rather than stay on unemployment for a long time due to no available jobs, we decided to be proactive and create our own,” Nick Peterson said in an email. Peterson co-owns the business with wife Sarah at 6420 County Road 335 Unit B.

How’s business?

At Sundae, business has been booming with a cherry on top.

“We have had a very surprising and busy year, and our Glenwood store especially exceeded our expectations of what we would open up to,” LaBrecque said. “We didn’t set our expectations as high as we would normally, but we did about the same amount of business as we would have expected without it being a COVID year.”

LaBrecque expects business to get better after the pandemic, especially when employees can offer samples to customers again.

“If we can have such a successful first summer with COVID-19 and all the regulations that we’re adhering to, without any of that we’ll succeed far more than we can imagine currently,” she said.

Growth has been slow at New Castle Physical Therapy.

“The progress has been slow, but the business is slowly growing despite startup during COVID in a small town to which we’re new,” Peterson said.

He believes business will improve after the pandemic.

“It’s hard to know how many people are holding off on getting treatment for pain or injuries at this time due to anxiety over COVID. We do offer Telehealth options, but many people may be unaware of that. Personally, I believe business will rebound post COVID. I know many are still anxious about the virus,” Peterson said.

From left, Jim Sandretto, Mike Murphy, Heather Hill and Christine Guire pose at Valley Fuel, the future headquarters of Valley Taxi.
Charlie Wertheim

Hill is not quite ready to call her new business (she has owned Valley Taxi since 2015) a success, though things have been picking up since July.

“We’re getting there. With all the construction and everything we’ve had to do it’s been hard to tell. We haven’t really had the tourists we normally get for the taxi or the gas station so that’s made it extremely difficult to be successful,” she said. “It was very hard to get through COVID, especially March, April, May and into June, then things started opening up a little bit.”

Valley Taxi was mandated to stay open to provide medical transport — which Hill said is 80% of her business — but she lost some taxi service to people opting to use Telehealth instead.

Her sales have increased fivefold since opening, and she’s confident business will continue to increase.

“We will eventually have a food truck or two there on the lot to draw people in,” she said. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure we have everything that everybody could possibly need without having the convenience store.”

Filling a niche

Part of being a successful business is filling a niche, and Valley Fuel has a claim to fame.

“We’re the only gas station in the state to offer all nonethanol fuel,” Hill said.

She said her gas is a little more expensive, but cars get better gas mileage and run cleaner. Valley Fuel also sells leaded race fuel, Sunoco 110, which is about $12 a gallon.

“Most of the toys that take this type of fuel don’t take a lot of it,” Hill said, so sales are fairly low.

The Petersons at New Castle Physical Therapy are fairly specific in the types of people they treat.

“I’m specializing in working with strength and outdoor athletes/enthusiasts primarily. My wife is catering primarily to runners. That being said, we work with a wide range of people from the community,” Nick Peterson said.

Sundae is one of several ice cream shops in Glenwood.

“Our brand is all about small batch artisan ice cream. We make everything in house,” LaBrecque said as how Sundae’s offerings stand out from the competition.

Hiring employees

While some local businesses complained of having trouble finding employees during the pandemic, Sundae didn’t have to do much recruiting and got a lot of interest from social media.

“For is it was quite easy. We were fortunate to have a massive interest from the work force early on,”  LaBrecque said.

Hill said Valley Fuel is operated as an unmanned gas station — which is permissible only if an emergency phone is accessible to customers — so needed no employees there.

At Valley Taxi she had to lay off employees as the pandemic limited her customer base.

The Petersons have no employees other than themselves.

cwertheim@postindependent.com

Grand Lake has escaped worst of the Troublesome Fire so far, but there’s extensive damage in surrounding neighborhoods

The East Troublesome Fire was over 170,00 acres Thursday evening, according to the latest figures from fire officials.

Grand Lake has reported there was no known structural damage within Grand Lake as of 6 p.m. Thursday. This includes the historic Grand Lake Lodge, which has stood for 100 years. However, there has been extensive damage in surrounding neighborhoods.

The fire grew almost 100,000 acres Wednesday night into Thursday, and officials said that growth was unheard of. The fire experienced another 50,000 acres of growth by 5 p.m. Thursday.

In a bit of good news, containment lines to the south are holding, and fire officials anticipate more work along the southern front, which is threatening Granby. To the east of Granby, crews are working to build a dozer line from Willow Creek toward the Colorado 125 corridor to prevent further spread to the south toward Granby.

Further east, fire crews are working from Willow Creek to US Highway 34 to get to the Lake Granby overlook. The latest report had crews making good progress on that front.

Also, structure protection continues along US 34 up to Grand Lake and the surrounding area. Fighting the fire along the Three Lakes has been one of the hardest things crews have had to do, and that presented a big challenge for them Thursday.

The fire has also crossed US 34 near Grand Lake and moved into Rocky Mountain National Park, which remains closed at this time

There has been at least one spot fire in Rocky as a result of the East Troublesome Fire, and the fear was that spot fire could spread to threaten Estes Park. On one side of the fire, a cold front pulled moister in from the plains and that caused the fire to fall down to the surface and “check itself.” That has kept the fire from moving toward Estes Park.

Meanwhile, the fire continues to spread on its northern and eastern fronts.

In his remarks, Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin was thankful Thursday wasn’t as bad as Wednesday, and he said the sheriff’s office would be focused on life safety for now.

Allowing people to get back into the area to assess damage is something that will take time and happen once it’s safe to do so, Schroetlin said, adding that they will also continue to watch US 40 between Hot Sulphur Springs and Granby.

Wolves, Mitsch Bush, Hickenlooper, Robinson and Soto, Trump, and water

Restore the howl in Colorado

As a decades long wolf advocate and a hiker who feels most alive in our wild lands, I care about wolf reintroduction in Colorado. Proposition 114 is on our ballots and allows Colorado to restore the howl.

I am a retired educator, who developed numerous interdisciplinary units with emphasis on our wild lands and environment. I understand the importance of wolves in the balance of nature and their value in improving our ecosystems. I also am dismayed about the wrongful history of wolf eradication in our state and our country.

Please read the detailed information in the blue 2020 State Ballot Information Booklet about Proposition 114 to better understand this science-based plan for reintroduction of wolves to their rightful places in western Colorado. There have been many studies about this plan over the past couple of decades with input from biologists, wildlife experts and our citizens. Plus, before it is decided where and how to restore wolves in our state, more input will be included from Coloradans.

Ranchers and hunters seem most concerned about this plan, which has a high percentage of support in our state. Statistics in neighboring states show wolves improve the health of prey like deer and elk. Wolves are an apex mammal but also selective hunters; they are not killers at random. Only the alpha male and female breed in a pack, thus wolves do not overpopulate their range. Data since introduction of wolves 25 years ago in the Northern Rockies shows livestock loss is rare. In 2015, less than 0.01% of cattle were lost to wolves. There are already funds in place for compensation to ranchers. Better yet, non-lethal tools and techniques have been successfully used in the backcountry by ranchers.

Does Colorado have room for wolves? Research shows 17 million acres of public lands in western Colorado are ideal habitat for wolves in our state. Colorado needs wolves and wolves need Colorado. Vote “yes” on Proposition 114 to gradually and safely Restore the Howl in Colorado.

Ann English
Glenwood Springs

Let’s not create complications for our wildlife professionals

As a sportsman who recognizes the holistic picture of predator-prey relationships on a landscape scale, I’d ordinarily approve reintroducing an apex predator like the gray wolf to Colorado. That said, I oppose Proposition 114 for several reasons.

First, I oppose game management not based on science. Ballot initiatives are inherently emotion based, not science based.

Second, the financing of this initiative is vague. It states that the state will pay fair compensation to ranchers for losses caused by gray wolves from monies in the Wildlife Cash Fund. It later states that the general assembly shall make appropriations as necessary to fund the programs, including said compensation for livestock owners. Nowhere is there mention of funding for the additional Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) personnel to monitor the wolves.

The mention of the Wildlife Cash Fund is unsettling. That cash fund is funded from the Pittman Robertson act and the Dingle Johnson act, both of which funnel federal dollars from excise taxes on hunting gear and ammo and fishing gear to CPW. Any diversion of those funds can trigger a removal of them by the feds. That’s a $20 million-plus loss for the state.

All this puts CPW in the unenviable position of using monies from big game license sales to fund a wolf reintroduction plan. Imagine how hunters feel to know their dollars would be used to fund a program that will lessen their chance of a successful hunt? This is unfair in the extreme and has generated serious and justified backlash from sportsmen.

And, Colorado already has its first wolf pack. A biologist has seen a pup following an adult from the pack up in northwest Colorado. This pack is under full protection from the Endangered Species Act, and monitoring and the associated costs are borne by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, not the state of Colorado.

I hope supporters of this initiative realize that it should be a moot endeavor, with the emergence of Colorado’s own pack up near Cold Springs Mountain in Moffat County. Let’s not create complications for our wildlife professionals. Vote “no” on Proposition 114.

Bob Shettel
Carbondale

Mitsch Bush will work across the aisle

We need a representative who can work across the aisle to represent western Colorado. I will choose a proven pragmatist, Diane Mitch Bush, who cares about our health care system, not an inexperienced demagogue who will simply posture, and get nothing done. Please vote.

Dale L. Will
Carbondale

Mitsch Bush and Hickenlooper for Colorado!

I am writing to urge you to vote for Diane Mitsch Bush as our 3rd Congressional District Representative. She is focused on issues that affect Coloradans, especially on the Western Slope. Affordable health care is at the top of the list. She will fight for us to lower premiums, deductibles and prescription drug prices. She will work to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions and funding of rural health care clinics, and will support expanded substance/opioid abuse prevention and treatment programs. Her opponent, Lauren Boebert, has no plan to address these issues. Let’s elect Diane, an experienced representative for CD3. Serving in Congress is a job for a person that has knowledge of the job and their constituents, not someone who sides with conspiracy theorists and disregards law and order like her opponent.

I also encourage you to vote for John Hickenlooper as our U.S. Senator. His opponent, Cory Gardner, has disregarded many requests for in-person town halls across the state prior to COVID-19. It’s not as if he wasn’t in our valley; he was, but just for photo ops for himself. Hickenlooper may not be a slick-talking politician like Gardner, but he is thoughtful and respectful. Gardner has unsuccessfully tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act repeatedly, which would leave many Colorado residents without health care coverage for pre-existing conditions, coverage for adult children up to age 27 on parents’ plans and coverage for people that may have met their lifetime maximum coverage amounts. Hickenlooper will protect health care for all of us.
Please join me in voting for Mitsch Bush for Congress and Hickenlooper for Senate. They both will stand up for Colorado, not special interest groups.

Connie Overton
Carbondale

County leadership has been stuck in the past

What will their world be like for our descendants? Be proactive and support meaningful change that will help today and into the future. With the power of your vote, you can make a difference. We can move past stale, nostalgic and partisan thinking to enlightened, fresh, more representative and adaptive decision-making. Our county leadership has been stuck in the past, “hitching their wagons” to fossil fuel extraction. Their support of and dependence on the natural gas industry ignores market realities and risks the health and well-being of our environment and residents. Opposing sage grouse protections and regulations on operations, to supporting the Jordan Cove pipeline to export natural gas are indicative of their single-mindedness.

Locally we survived the empty promise of oil shale and closure of two local coal mines. Other mines are closing with the move away from fossil fuels. Xcel, Black Hills Energy, Holy Cross and others are transitioning to renewable energy. Glenwood and Aspen use 100% renewable energy. Even China is committing to be carbon-free by 2060. Garfield County must adapt to these changes and not cling to being the outmoded “energy savior” for our country or Asia. We should no longer sacrifice our environment, wildlife and health of our residents nor allocate millions of dollars to fight against protections. Our region is successfully transitioning away from extraction dependency. The development of solar facilities has increased.

With the geography of Moab and Fruita, mountain biking has increased in popularity. Tourism and recreation are an increasing draw, without the demand to provide housing for service workers. The people, animals and environment should not be “collateral damage” from extraction impacts.
We are poised for greater successes working together, cooperating and identifying with entities less focused on resource extraction. Emblematic of the rigid, outdated and partisan beliefs of our incumbent commissioners is their support for candidate Lauren Boebert for, ”…her political ideology,” (Samson) and “…being the Republican candidate” (Martin). Prefer bluster, inexperience, dated, rigid and partisan decision-making or cooperative, visionary, flexible, energetic candidates? Use your power and vote for Leslie Robinson and Beatriz Soto for Garfield County commissioners and Diane Mitsch Bush for Congress.

Greg and Sean Jeung
Glenwood Springs

Promises made; promises kept

The Trump disinformation machine keeps cranking out the mantra, “Promises made; promises kept!” Voters should compare Donald Trump’s big four promises with the actual results:

  1. “We are going to have the best health care in the world with more options at a lower cost than ever before!” (Trump 2016). Actually, Trump has worked to eliminate health care for the 20 million young, poor, and elderly Americans covered by the Affordable Care Act, while providing no real alternative to replace it. In the meantime, health care costs continue to rise.
  2. “I will not be touching your Social Security and Medicare” (Trump tweet, February 2020). According to the Congressional Budget Office, Trump’s 2020 budget cut $1.5 trillion from Medicaid, $25 billion from Social Security, and $845 billion from Medicare. His 2021 budget also includes steep reductions in all three programs.
  3. “I will balance the budget in four years!” (Trump, 2016). Under Trump, the deficit has climbed higher and faster than at any other time in U.S. history. The Republican tax cut for corporate America added $1.5 trillion to the deficit before the COVID-19 crisis, and it has gotten much worse since then.
  4. “I’m going to bring beautiful, clean coal back!” (Trump, 2016-18). Actually, coal production was at a 40-year low in 2019 and demand is projected to continue dropping as coal-fired plants are shutting down all across the country. Trump gutted long-standing environmental protections to help the industry, but coal still couldn’t rebound.
    Bonus: Trump’s, “Big beautiful wall that Mexico’s going to pay for,” (Trump, 2016) has received no funding from Mexico, and mainly consists of upgrades to existing barriers on a very small portion of the 2,000-mile border.
    This is just the short list of Trump’s promises broken. America can’t afford another four years of his fantasy land.
    Cliff Colia
    Glenwood Springs

If there is no water for the Western Slope, nothing else will matter

This year is notable for its challenges — COVID-19, extreme heat, drought and huge wildfires. But there’s another challenge out there that we on the West Slope need to address that to my mind is the most urgent one. It’s about our water supply and the Colorado River. As Board President of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, and a lifelong student of the river, I am most concerned with the long-term ability of western Colorado to enjoy the benefits of our namesake river. The finite supply of water flowing down this waterway is being reduced by the continuing demand from burgeoning East Slope cities and the downstream states of Arizona and California. A decades-long drought is grimly and sequentially reducing rainfall and snow, and driving increasing demand for this most precious and globally valuable resource.

So, what can you do? You can make a difference by voting “yes” for ballot measure 7A.

By supporting 7A you’ll be helping the Colorado River District to protect our West Slope supply of drinking water for communities, water for agricultural uses, and ensuring there will be a healthier quantity and quality of water for all river users. The cost is modest when you compare it with other things — $1.90 per $100,000 of home value.

Why is it needed? A combination of the effects of the state’s Gallagher and TABOR amendments, as well as the decline in the energy industry, is having an impact on the revenue available. None of the money will be used for new staff positions, and 86% of it will be used as a catalyst for projects with local partners in the 15-county district, ranging from forest health to reservoir and ditch improvements and advocacy for the Colorado River watershed.

The remaining money — 14% — will be used to address the ever-increasing cost of operating. The district has already cut staffing and reduced expenses.

Again, I urge you to vote “yes” on 7A.
If there is no water for the Western Slope, nothing else will matter.

David Merritt
Glenwood Springs

Protocols questioned as coronavirus outbreak at Garfield County Community Corrections center in Rifle grows to nine cases

A Garfield County Community Corrections client on Thursday criticized the facility’s handling of an outbreak of COVID-19 cases over the past week, as state health officials were on hand to further assess the situation.

The number of confirmed cases also increased to nine late Wednesday when another staff member tested positive. No new cases were reported Thursday, Garfield County Public Information Officer Renelle Lott said.

To date, the confirmed cases involve six clients and three staff members, she said.

“All three staff have been released to quarantine away from the facility, and all six clients have been either furloughed or transferred to parole for quarantine,” Lott said.

A Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment rapid response team was on-site Thursday and completed testing on all remaining staff and current clients. The collected samples will be tested at the state lab, Lott said.

Meanwhile, Aaron Braatz, a client in the Rifle-based criminal justice facility, said the outbreak is not surprising given what he claimed have been weak safety protocols within the residential work-release program.

Last Saturday, Braatz said he was among 10 people on the facility’s transport van in the south Rifle area when he learned that one of the passengers was symptomatic and was being taken to Grand River Health to be tested.

He said he began questioning staff when he returned to the facility why other passengers would be allowed on the van if they knew someone was symptomatic and en route to be tested.

“No one even bothered to make me aware, or give me a choice to take the van, or not,” Braatz said. “I would have walked back to the facility if I’d known.”

Even within the facility on Sunday and Monday, after he said it was known that there was at least one confirmed case, it was business as usual during a community dinner.

Braatz said there was little attempt to prevent people from touching the same food items and utensils in the grab-and-go style community meal. Throughout the facility, he said there was little effort to keep people separated, and that the clients were still responsible for cleaning common areas, rather than a professional cleaning crew being brought in.

Braatz’s first COVID test taken earlier this week came back negative, and that he was tested again when the rapid response team came in Thursday. He said several residents have been sent home to quarantine, or to isolate if they tested positive, but that about a dozen male and female clients remain in the facility.

Garfield County Criminal Justice Services Administrator Rodney Hollandsworth said via an email response from Lott that ample safety precautions were and are being practiced.

“The facility had an established cleaning structure in place before COVID-19 occurred and strengthened it with the risk of COVID-19,” Lott said in the statement to the Post Independent. “Surfaces were and are cleaned and sanitized daily, including with supervision and oversight of these operations.”

Lott noted in an email to the Post Independent that clients of the Garfield County Criminal Justice facility are in the oversight of the courts.

“Upon entry to the community corrections facility they are notified that at any time they may initiate a complaint through the grievance process provided,” she said in response to Braatz’s claims.

The internal grievance process involves at least two levels of review, in which clients are requested to make a complaint verbally to a staff person first.

“If they feel the outcome does not meet their concern, they may initiate a formal written grievance that will be reviewed at the director level. This allows review by more than one staff member,” she said. 

Hollandsworth said Thursday that no such grievance has been filed.

Back in March of this year, when the COVID outbreak first showed up in Colorado, sanitizing at the facility was increased to include making sanitizing wipes available for commonly touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, in restrooms and in common areas.

“As a result of the first positive test over the weekend, all cleaning supplies were provided in the common areas for both the male and female areas inside the living facility,” she said. “Clients had access to supplies 24 hours a day over the weekend and are continuing to have this.”

As for the transport vehicles, “sanitizing is done for both of the vehicles and surfaces in which people have routine contact.”

County corrections officials were notified Tuesday of four positive COVID cases at the facility. Notifications of positive test results for three additional cases were received later Tuesday and another on Wednesday, according to a Wednesday news release.

A quarantine remains in place for all individuals who were in the facility and may have been exposed.

The community corrections program is designed as a transitional program to prepare clients convicted of crimes to live independently after incarceration. Many of the clients work outside of the facility and are closely supervised when they return.

Personal responsibility is a big part of that arrangement, the county’s news release went on to state.

“Frequent and routine cleaning is a part of the requirements of clients to meet the standards of preparing to live on their own after their release,” the release stated.

Facility staff has also increased cleaning protocols to include cleaning after every single use of the restrooms, and after any use of the common areas, according to the release.

Staff also regularly wear protective masks, and clients are “encouraged” to do so, the release states.

Lott said Garfield County Public Health staff began working on contact investigations in the correctional facility over the weekend. However, the matter did not come up during the weekly Public Health update to county commissioners on Monday.

“The department was awaiting test results early this week to identify and determine whether or not there was a COVID outbreak in the facility,” Lott said.

jstroud@postindependent.com