Boats, boulders, buds and beetles

County commissioners take up a range of issues at last week’s meeting

Montezuma County commissioners took on a variety of topics and issues at a recent meeting. The highlights are as follows:

Boat inspections

Forest Service officials are asking McPhee boaters to keep the reservoir free of the invasive quagga and zebra mussels by utilizing only boat launches that have inspection stations.

McPhee is free of the pests that have infested other lakes, clogging irrigation structures and water-treatment facilities.

The invasive mussels have been reported at Lake Powell, said District Ranger Derek Padilla, and there is a risk they could inadvertently arrive at McPhee.

“There has been an issue of boats launching at the Old Cemetery in Dolores,” he said. “We want to spread the word not to do that.”

The county may install signs along lake access points that do not have inspectors that mussel inspections are required before boating on McPhee.

Boaters should only launch from the McPhee boat ramp or the House Creek boat ramp where Colorado Parks and Wildlife contractors are stationed for boat inspections.

Forest users should be prepared to see some boulder road closures in the Boggy-Glade area of the forest as part of the implementation of a recently passed travel management plan for that area. Unauthorized roads in the Salter Y, Dolores Road, and Little Bean Canyon areas will be signed as closed and may include positioned boulders to prevent access.

Montezuma County is unfazed by Colorado voters’ decision to free the forbidden foliage for the masses under Amendment 64. On June 30, at 10:30 a.m. the commission will have a public hearing on a proposed ordinance to ban the operation of marijuana facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and retail marijuana stores within unincorporated parts of the county.

The proposed ban would add to a previous prohibition of medical marijuana commercial grow operations and sales.

If passed, the ban would not prohibit adults 21 and over from growing and using marijuana in the county for personal use under the state marijuana laws.

Beetle threat

The Forest Service will be treating 120 to 180 acres of spruce forests in Narraguinnep Canyon this summer to control beetles. Crews will use thinning and mastication on the edge of a remote section of forest ravaged by the spruce beetle in an effort to stop their spread.

Every year, the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado State Forest Service conduct aerial surveys to track the spread of various infestations of the state’s trees.

Pine beetles have killed more than 5,000 square miles of lodgepole and ponderosa pines since 1996. But last year, the aerial survey found them active on just 150 square miles.

Another 338 square miles of high-altitude forests in Southwest Colorado fell to the spruce beetle outbreak in 2013, according to an aerial survey.

Fairgrounds sign

The county fairgrounds will be sporting a new digital sign this summer to announce events to the traveling public along U.S. 160. San Juan Signs was awarded the bid to install the sign for $40,447. The county will be negotiating with CDOT to determine it if can be placed closer to the highway to increase visibility.

“It will be a vast improvement over our old sign, which is not very visible and outdated,” said fairgrounds manager Tanner Young. “The new technology will allow us to better market our facility and our events.”

Multiple events can be programmed to display on the sign, and it can be controlled remotely from an office computer.

Agriculture expands

Southwest Farm Fresh Cooperative is seeking $60,000 in USDA grant funding to expand its market and operations.

The co-op has increased to 20 producers from Dolores, Montezuma, San Miguel, La Plata, and Archuleta counties. Products include vegetables, beef, Talapia, poultry, eggs and pork.

The group plans to offer coop producers convenient, refrigerated drop-off points for their goods, including in Lewis, Cortez, Mancos and Durango. Refrigerated trucks would then distribute to the goods to wholesale markets including local restaurants, school cafeterias, and other food customers.

“The benefit is that the producer does not have to move the product, the co-op does it for them,” said organizer Vic Vanik. “It keeps dollars in the area and it makes the community less dependent on imported foods.”

The organization ramped-up operations plan is expected to move $200,000 worth of product in 2014 and create two full-time jobs.

In, 2012, its first year, the group sold $24,000, and last year sales reached $36,000.

“It is an ambitions plan, but with 20 producers on board, and our distribution network, we feel confident we can hit that mark,” Vanik said. “The lack of infrastructure has been holding us back. Our plan is to solve that by offering satellite drop off points.”

Montezuma County assured the group that they would provide a drop-off point for a refrigeration unit, possibly at the fairgrounds.

Many smaller landowners and farmers have embraced use of large green-houses to produce food year-round, helping to revive the local ag market.

“We have more hoop houses in this county than anywhere in the state,” said coop organizer Kim Lindgren. “The problem has been producers getting it to market, and that is where we come in.”