S.J. Citizens Alliance announces 'Riverkeeper'
• S.J. Citizens Alliance announces 'Riverkeeper' • LPEA talks nickels, dimes of local renewables

S.J. Citizens Alliance announces 'Riverkeeper'

S.J. Citizens Alliance announces ‘Riverkeeper’

Local river-lovers have one more seat at the table when it comes to protecting the Animas watershed. Last week, San Juan Citizens Alliance announced the addition of a full-time “riverkeeper,” Marcel Gaztambide, to its roster. In partnership with the Waterkeeper Alliance, a global movement uniting more than 300 “Waterkeepers” across the world, Gaztambide will help advocate for clean water, safe recreation, reliable access and accountable water management. He will also work at mobilizing public involvement and engaging in the Superfund process at the Bonita Peak Mining District, essentially serving as a river “watchdog.”

The Citizens Alliance is hosting a launch party and chance to meet Gaztambide from 5 – 7 p.m., Thurs., Sept. 14, at the Rochester Hotel Secret Garden. The event is free and open to the public and will include music, appetizers and a cash bar.

Like many rivers in the American West, the Animas River faces some difficult challenges, including the toxic legacy of more than 150 years of mining. This threat was underscored, most famously, by the 2015 Gold King Mine Spill. It’s important to note, however, that the Animas River has been heavily polluted from inactive mines for decades. Water quality is so poor down-stream from Silverton that the river has been unable to support aquatic life. Below Baker’s Bridge, the river is artificially stocked with fish that survive but are unable to reproduce and maintain viable populations, according to the Citizens Alliance.

Other threats to the river include development, resource extraction, drought and a growing demand for limited water resources. All these highlight the need for community involvement and smart river management, which is what Gaztambide will be fighting for.

“As the Animas Riverkeeper, my aim is to provide strong advocacy to improve the quality of life for everyone who relies on the Animas River, whether for drinking water, recreation, agriculture or those who simply value the river’s health,” he said.

“Our program will provide a platform for people to engage with river issues, voice their concerns and celebrate our region’s most important resource.”

Gaztambide joined the Alliance in January 2017. He was born and raised in Salt Lake City where he earned a degree in geo-science from the University of Utah. He spent five years working as an editorial assistant for the Journal of the American Chemical Society, worked as a geologist for the USGS in South Carolina and as a volunteer organizer for the Grand Canyon Trust. He has studied polluted water systems in South America and in the American Southeast and said he is eager to advocate for water security and sustainable on his home turf, in the Southwest.

“Waterkeeper Alliance is thrilled to have San Juan Citizens Alliance as the eyes, ears, and voice for this vital water- shed and community,” Waterkeeper’s President Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (yes, that Kennedy), said. “Every community deserves to have swimmable, drinkable and fishable water, and San Juan Citizens Alliance is the right leader to fight for clean water in the region.”

– Missy Votel 

LPEA talks nickels, dimes of local renewables

As the local discussion over renewables heats up, La Plata Electric Association will host the third in a series of workshops meant to shed light on the topic. “Economics of Integrating Renewable/Distributed Generation” will take place at LPEA head-quarters (45 Stewart St.) from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Tues., Sept. 19.

“For this third session, we will specifically focus on the ‘economics’ of installing renewable systems and the financial impacts to LPEA and our membership as a whole,” Dan Harms, manager of rates, technology and energy policy, said.

Harms, who will lead the workshop, also plans to include an explanation of net metering and infrastructure expenses that LPEA incurs as a result. “Balancing the recovery of expenses with the proper incentives for renewables can be challenging, and we will be taking a look at the numbers,” he said.

LPEA, like many utilities across the country, is being pressured by the public to increase its renewable offerings. Recently, San Juan Citizens Alliance, backed by Sierra Club and Local First, began circulating an online petition requesting the City of Durango to commit to using 100 percent locally generated renewable energy by 2050.

According to proponents, doing so would not only keep energy dollars local and create local jobs, but will protect the area’s air, land and water.

As businesses in your community, we ask City Council to commit to obtaining 100% of the City’s community-wide energy needs in addition to City Operations with renewables by 2050, with 80% of electricity generated locally by 2030. We will be there to support you on the path ahead to realize this energy future.

Other cities and towns also circulating such petition include Salt Lake City, Moab, Park City, Fort Collins, Boulder and Pueblo. Last year, 53 percent of Tri-State’s electricity came from coal, although 27 percent came from renewables, and more is coming on line all the time, according to Tri-State spokesman Lee Boughey. Seventy-five megawatts of wind generation from south-eastern Colorado will go on-line later this year and a major solar plant on the South-

ern Ute reservation has also been added. About 5 percent of Durango’s power comes from local renewable sources – the cap allowed under LPEA’s cap with Tri-State. A request from LPEA’s board to rework the co-op’s contract and  extend the cap from 5 to 10 percent was denied last month and put off for another two years.

A so-called “white paper” from LPEA’s chief executive, Mike Dreyspring, detailed the reasoning behind the request. The paper describes the evolution of markets that will allow “slow-cost electrons” from renewable sources to be moved around the grid to match demands. This locally produced power, aka distributed generation, “shifts the balance sheet risk from owners of central station bulk power generation assets to DG owners,” the paper says. “The traditional, vertically integrated electric utilities that adapt to this changing market place will financially thrive.”

In other words, the renewables train is out of the station – it’s just a matter of accommodating it.

Space is limited for the LPEA workshop. To register, call 970-382-7170 or email smaxwell@lpea.coop.

To sign the San Juan Citizens Alliance petition, go to www.sanjuancitizens.org.

– Missy Votel & Allen Best