News from the San Luis Valley

by Patty LaTaille

An Update to the Saguache Solar Saga

SolarReserve, an international alternative energy company, applied for a permit to set up a 200-megawatt solar power-generating facility – consisting of two 100-megawatt, 656-foot tall solar thermal power generating units based on concentrating solar-thermal power technology that uses molten salt. Approximately 4,000 acres of a larger 6,200-acre area of privately owned county land, located north of Center between Saguache County Roads D and G and 53 and 57, are being considered for the location for the facility.

The county has supposedly received 517 letters in support of the project since the preliminary application July 2010. According to Saguache County Land Use Administrator Wendi Maez, “It (SolarReserve) will help the grocery stores and the gas stations. They will hire local people and upgrade roads.”

An estimated monthly work force of approximately 250 – 450 workers will be needed for the 30-month construction period. Once fully operational, 50 full-time employees are needed for a 30-plus year period, as stated in the application.

A public hearing will be held on Feb. 2 at the Center Consolidated School District Auditorium from 2 – 8 p.m. to consider the final permit request.


Southern Colorado’s Hispanic Heritage Worthy of Attention

The National Park Service recently released a study that identifies areas such as parts of Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla and Saguache counties, and across the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with parts of Huerfano and Las Animas counties, and extending south into two northern New Mexico counties – considered worthy of being included in the parks system.

According to The Pueblo Chieftain, “The settlement of a 5,100 square-mile area, once part of the Mexican frontier, made up a significant chapter in American history that has left a legacy found today in the region’s language, art, religion and agriculture.

San Luis, founded in 1851, would become the state’s oldest town, while the People’s Ditch that runs across the town’s southern end to neighboring farms would mark the state’s first water right. Often settled around a plaza, the communities included irrigation ditches, known as acequias, that watered long narrow lots.”

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar commissioned the study – including the state’s oldest parish – Our Lady of Guadalupe (just north of Antonito) and the oldest church in the San Acacio Mission (just west of San Luis).

The Park Service, with direction from Congress, determines whether it would be feasible to bring the area into the park system – and whether it requires direct management from the agency.

Salazar, Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet and Colorado Governor John Hickenloooper will be at Adams State College in Alamosa on Jan. 4 to discuss the study.


Celebration of Revitalization

The town of Saguache and ScSEED marked the completion of the Saguache Downtown Revitalization project with a ceremonial ribbon cutting and first ever tree-lighting ceremony on Dec. 3 on historic Fourth St. The sidewalks and pavement were refurbished and “Shepherd’s Hook” streetlights were added, along with benches and new trees (to be planted in the spring) as the main improvements to the aesthetics of downtown Saguache.


A Recall Election?

The recall election of Saguache County Clerk and Recorder Melinda Myers is scheduled for Jan. 24. The recall is the latest in the epic 2010 election.

Two questions on the ballot: 1. Should Myers should be recalled? 2. Choose between two candidates – Carla Gomez and Patricia Jenkins.

Carla Gomez, a victim’s advocate with the district attorney for the 12th Judicial District who ran against Myers in the 2010 election, is the Republican nominee.

Patricia Jenkins, who currently works in the Rio Grande County Clerk and Recorder’s office, is running as an unaffiliated candidate.


Sub-district Plan Approved

On December 19, 2011, the Colorado Supreme Court handed down a ruling affirming approval of the San Luis Valley’s first sub-district water management plan, according to The Valley Courier.

The sub-district was designed to replace negative depletions to users of surface water by well pumpers, to meet Rio Grande Compact obligations to state’s downstream, and assist in restoration of the San Luis Valley aquifer. The sub-district was sponsored by the Rio Grande Water Conservation District.


Mushroom Farm to Remain Open

Rumors of closure were dispelled by management of the Rakhra Mushroom Farm near Alamosa, according to The Valley Courier. The fungus farm, which has been operating since the mid-1980s, has had a few rough months, according to General Manager Michael Smith, but he insisted they will continue operations.

“It’s going to be a very difficult January because of some of the missed crops, but right now there’s a shortage of mushrooms because of the holiday time. We believe we should be able to work with other producers to make sure we can fulfill the needs of our customers until we have brought up production again …” Smith stated.

The mushroom farm employs as many as 280 when operating at peak capacity and is one of the largest employers in the area.


Creede Rep Director Wins Major Award

Maurice LaMee, Artistic Director of the Creede Repertory Theater, was named The Denver Post Theater Person of the Year at an awards ceremony held in late December.

LaMee, who has been running the Creede Rep for 11 years, won the title in the 11th Annual Ovation Awards for his work with the theater company that resides in a town of 400 and contributes more $6 million a year to the state economy, according to The Denver Post.

Post staff determine the annual award winners but LaMee was also chosen for the award by additional “readers choice” in an online survey.