by Carolina King
The Board of County Commissioners met Wednesday, June 13, with representatives from the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership and the Trust for Land Restoration and with other stakeholders to discuss prioritization of possible projects for Idarado Natural Resource damage funds granted to Ouray County for mine cleanup.
Ultimately, the group decided to propose using the funds toward Ouray Silver Mines’ clean-up at the Atlas Mills site, with secondary projects listed also.
A natural resource damage fund was set up as part of Idarado Mine’s settlement with the state in 1993, containing about $1.1 million at the time of its establishment. Those monies were distributed by Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to the San Miguel and Uncompahgre riversheds for water remediation work and environmental restoration. Most of that fund has been spent, but about $238,000 remains and is waiting for project proposals.
Commissioner Don Batchelder opened by discussing the tight time frame they have to get the proposal submitted and that the funds would go to San Miguel County if not utilized. He stated they need a united front to present to the state.
The proposals must come from non-profit groups or government agencies but could be initially proposed by businesses and then submitted by the county to state agents who are looking for local groups and county government to be cohesive. The state does not want to have to pick from various proposals.
Three main proposals were discussed.
Eric Jacobson of the Ouray Hydroelectric Plant presented a history of the plant. He said it was the oldest in the U.S. In 1977 the plant started making less power because of a slowdown in water flow. It was discovered then that Idarado had...