The Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners met with U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton Tuesday, April 2, discussing a variety of topics pertinent to the county.
Among those topics discussed with the congressman were Piedra Road, the Second Amendment, federal funding for the county, hydraulic fracturing, geothermal matters, forest health and more.
In the short meeting, mere minutes were spent on each topic:
• Commissioner Clifford Lucero began the meeting by informing Tipton that the county was looking at applying for another grant to complete additional repaving on Piedra Road, requesting a letter of support for the paving project from the congressman.
Lucero, too, thanked Tipton for his work on helping Chimney Rock achieve national monument status.
• Next, commissioner Steve Wadley questioned federal funding to the county being hit by sequestration, with Tipton saying that the Western Caucus is working to prioritize where funding should go, adding that agencies hit with the sequestration were only starting to plan for it.
PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes), was specifically discussed, with a $40,000 reduction in funding to Archuleta County expected, and Lucero speaking of the importance of that funding in the face of large budget cuts on tap for the county.
• The possibility of hydraulic fracturing in Archuleta County, potentially at shallow depths, was also listed as a concern of the commissioners, who fear groundwater contamination should the fracking take place at depths that contain groundwater.
Tipton asserted that, out of over one million fracking operations nationwide (most at depths of several thousand feet), none had contaminated potable water supplies, while Tipton’s field manager, Darlene Marcus, agreed with the commissioners’ concerns over groundwater contamination on a February lease sale in the area that was temporarily postponed.
Tipton suggested talking to officials at the Bureau of Land Management in charge of the lease sale, whom interim county administrator Todd Starr said the county is meeting with regularly in order to improve the relationship between the entities. Starr indicated, however, that Archuleta County was still receiving, “lip service” from the BLM.
The commissioners and Starr spoke of a desire for the BLM to increase its work on an emergency plan associated with the fracking and the possibility of coal seam fires.
• “I’m touting Pagosa,” Tipton said of work taking place throughout Archuleta County on alternative energy, including geothermal and energy created from biomass gasification and the thinning of forests. “We’re pretty enthusiastic.”
Archuleta County, through a partnership with the Town of Pagosa Springs and other Colorado counties, is working to create uniform regulations throughout the state for geothermal development.
“I applaud the heck out of that,” Tipton said.
• Also under the umbrella of environmental concerns, the commissioners informed Tipton of the county’s ongoing difficulty with the Fish and Wildlife Service in an attempt to preserve enough of the Pagosa Skyrocket environment to prevent FAW from protesting the county’s grant requests for development of a 95-acre park located along U.S. 84.
“Taxpayers don’t want to subsidize the whims of the Fish and Wildlife,” Wadley said.
• Tipton expressed concern over the currently halted EAGLE-Net project, stating that the project, which obtained federal funding to run broadband fiber to public institutions throughout Colorado, had run fiber to institutions such as Cherry Creek High School — institutions that are not underserved compared to other districts and schools in the state.
The stimulus money received for the project, Tipton said, should have been used in underserved areas of the state.
Marcus presented additional concerns over EAGLE-Net’s concern with the project’s need to be in metro areas for the sake of economic viability.
• Other discussions centered on several environment bills and projects on which Tipton is currently working.