Thursday, May 31, 2007

Snake River Clean-up

State and federal water quality experts will take a close look at the polluted water leaking from the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine into Peru Creek this summer, eying designs for a treatment plant that could remove some of the toxic heavy metals.

Zinc and cadmium leaking from the mine taint the creek all the way to its confluence with the Snake River and beyond - creating a dead zone, where trout don't survive for long.

The collaborative Snake River Task Force has been working for years to develop a cleanup plan for the drainage. The biggest question marks include what sort of technology is best suited for the remote site, how to fund construction and operation, and how to deal with potential Clean Water Act liability of taking action, said Summit County environmental planner Brian Lorch.

Along with treating the water coming out of the mine, state experts will also try to determine other ways of improving water quality in Peru Creek and the Snake River, maybe by moving some of mine waste material or re-routing surface flows away from the polluted tailings piles.

Similar tactics were used at the Shoe Basin Mine last summer, where the county completed a remediation project that will reduce the amount of zinc reaching the water.

Snake River cleanup plans have started to look more promising since Trout Unlimited, a cold-water fisheries conservation group, took a lead role in the process. Fresh from a model mine cleanup in Utah, the organization hopes to bring a similar approach to table for Peru Creek.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Silverthorne Approves Blue River Crossing

The Silverthorne Town Council approved the initial plans for the Blue River Crossing development recently.

The company developing the project - the Greenwald Group - presented plans for the Blue River Crossing, a three-story mixed-use building proposed between the Blue River and Rainbow Drive next to the Alpen Hutte Lodge.

The project is a scaled back version of the developer's first attempt, the Blue River Lofts, which the council flatly denied last December for its 50-foot height and overall mass.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Frontier Airlines to Select Eagle Airport?

Lynx Aviation, a new division of Frontier Airlines, may fly into the Eagle County Regional Airport. The airport is just west of Vail and approximately 50 miles from Breckenridge. Frontier will choose nine to 12 regional airports that Lynx will connect with Denver, said Joe Hodas, spokesman for Frontier.

Sixty-two airports have applied to be selected, and a decision will be made in the next week or two, Hodas said.

Kent Myers, an airline consultant who is helping with the bid, said he was confident that Frontier would select the Eagle County airport.

“It’s not a question of if, but when,” he said.

Service could start this winter but may be delayed until next summer, he said.

“I would say that I’m confident that Vail will have service on Frontier in the next 12 months,” he said.

The Eagle County community has put together an incentive package to woo the airline. The package is probably worth about $180,000, Robinson said. Glenwood Spring has contributed $40,000 in “in-kind” services to help the airport. Aspen has offered $100,000 if its airport is selected.

But the incentives aren’t a primary factor in the decision, Hodas said.

“The incentive package is one of those pieces that can be a tiebreaker between a couple of markets,” Hodas said.

“Our goal is not to take money. It’s to create a route, a service that’s profitable from itself.”

The addition of Frontier would bring a low-fare carrier to the Eagle County airport, said Ian Arthur, vice president of marketing and sales for Vail and Beaver Creek mountains. It would also make Eagle County’s ski resorts more competitive in the West, Arthur said.

“Frontier’s planned West Coast routes include L.A., which is a top skiing market and obviously a large population base,” Arthur said.

Lynx Aviation will operate 70-seat Bombadier Q400 turbo-prop jets.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Blue River Lofts Project Gains Initial Approval

A scaled back version of the Blue River Lofts project in Silverthorne gained initial approval this week from the Silverthorne Planning Commission.

Florida-based developers Greenwald Group are proposing the Blue River Crossing at 421 Rainbow Drive, a 1.29-acre lot nestled against the Blue River.

After the town council denied the Greenwald Group’s 50-foot tall, 92, 917-square-foot mixed use Lofts proposal last December, the architects went back to the drawing board and came up with a plan that’s 13 feet lower and 30,000 square feet smaller than the previous plan.

“We think that this can really be the impetus to get a lot of development started here in the town center around the river,” architect Michael Houx said.

The town has identified the land on either side of the Blue River in the heart of Silverthorne as the ideal location for a town center.

Greenwald Group’s new plans call for an underground parking garage, 25 studio, one- and two-bedroom units spread throughout three levels and 4,645 square feet of commercial space on the bottom floor. Developers also plan to offer two large lawn areas next to the river and a connection to the pedestrian bridge that takes people to the Silverthorne Pavilion.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Independence Pass Designated Scenic Byway

Independence Pass, which starts at 9,200 feet and rises to 12,095 feet, has been added to the Top of the Rockies scenic byway.

The pass (open only during the summer months) is southwest of Breckenridge and a great scenic drive.

The Colorado Transportation Commission recently approved a recommendation by the Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway Commission to extend the route from south central Colorado near Leadville along Colorado Highway 82 to the west side of Aspen.

The 122-mile scenic byway now includes Fremont, Tennessee and Independence passes on the Continental Divide.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Breckenridge Riverwalk Center to get Roof

More than $600,000 raised in the last 12 weeks has sealed the fate of the Riverwalk Center's "Madonna" tent in Breckenridge:

The tent will be no longer.

In September, after the tent is taken down, construction on the new hardroof shell and side-walls will begin immediately. Town spokesperson Kim DiLallo said the new facility will include garage-like doors out to the lawn and improved acoustics for the National Repertory Orchestra and Breckenridge Music Festival, and will be open by May 2008.

The fundraising effort included a more than one $100,000 donation — including one from Vail Resorts — which prompted the Breckenridge Town Council to approve the project.

The latest cost projection is just under $2.8 million.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Mine Waste to be Moved

A controversial plan to move several thousand cubic yards of tainted mine waste to a managed storage site in French Gulch got a conditional approval from the Breckenridge town council Tuesday.

Several mine waste piles on the national forest Claimjumper parcel - some with concentrations of lead as high as five percent - will be removed this summer and piled atop similarly polluted material near the abandoned Wellington-Oro mine, then capped, re-vegetated and monitored.

In their current location, next to the Claimjumper condos, the piles have been deemed a direct health risk, especially for any children playing outside. The main threat is through ingestion, EPA toxicologist Susan Griffin said at the council meeting.

"The soil easily sticks to hands. It's available for hand-to-mouth contact," Griffin said.

Next, the county commissioners will take a look at the cleanup, while the EPA, Forest Service and local planners develop a specific action plan and timeline.

Local residents still had plenty of questions, but after several public information meetings and town council hearings, it appeared that many had their most serious concerns allayed.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Backcountry Re-zoning

A county plan to re-zone several hundred mining claims in the Snake River and Tenmile basins would result in new rules on development of backcountry parcels, including limits on house sizes and changes to road standards.

Based on master plan language that emphasizes preservation of the rural, natural characteristics of the backcountry, the county wants to reclassify 275 properties in the Snake River Basin and 66 properties in the Tenmile Basin into a backcountry zone.

The proposal is up for a public hearing today in front of the countwide planning commission.

Since a large number parcels, totaling 3,615 acres, is up for re-zoning, the application is being processed as a "quasi-legislative" action, with multiple public hearings scheduled.

At the same time, the planning commission will consider changes to backcountry zone district regulations that are related to the rez-oning move.

Based on public feedback from a previous Snake River planning commission meeting, county planners will revisit the proposal to specifically address concerns of a few property owners who said their parcels shouldn't be subject to the new rules.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

National Repertory Orchestra Hires New Director

Kerry Farrell, the National Repertory Orchestra’s new executive director, has known about the organization since college.

Although he never made it into the summer festival that works to prepare musicians under 30 for careers with a professional orchestra, he’s now heading up the organization.

Farrell is from California, where he worked for the Henry Mancini Institute.

In discussing his philosophy on orchestral music in today’s world, he said,

“I think that the place for orchestral music in our culture has been diminished a lot in the last 50 years or so. This summer institute that is the NRO is a great opportunity to strengthen the place of orchestral music in everyday culture, and help people to connect with a wide variety of musical opportunities.”

Farrell replaces Terese Kaptur, whose contract the NRO board of trustees decided not to renew in March.

The NRO's 2007 season debuts on June 16.

Visit for the full schedule.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Hybrid Buses coming to Breckenridge

Thanks to a $303,000 federal and state grant, Summit County’s first hybrid buses should be rolling through downtown Breckenridge by sometime next winter.

“We’re optimistic they will save gas and cut emissions,” said transit director Jim Benkelman, explaining that he eventually plans to have four of the high-tech vehicles operating in his fleet.

The exact timing depends mostly on how and when future grants come through, he said.

The 40-foot hybrid buses cost about $500,000 each compared to about $330,000 for the standard 30-foot all-diesel buses.

“This is the first chance we’ve had to do a grant-funded bus replacment,” Benkelman said, explaining that the transit department was directed some time ago by the town council to look at options for replacing its diesel buses with cleaner vehicles.

“Our intention is to do the right thing for the environment,” he said.

General estimates of fuel saving range from 12 to 28 percent for hybrids versus standard diesel buses, but there is only limited data from high elevation operations, so it’s not clear if Breck’s new buses will reach those benchmarks.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Frisco's Revitalization of Main Street

The Colorado Department of Transportation and the Town of Frisco are working on an agreement to begin the revitalization of the west end of town.

A meeting with CDOT is scheduled for May 24 to go over the plans for West Main Street, said Tim Mack, public works director for the town.

After that, the design, which is being finalized now, will go to bid.

"We expect to go to bid the middle part of June. ... If all If works out, we would like to see construction beginning after the Fourth of July holiday," Mack said.

Engineers estimate the project to take 120 days so it would be near competition by the first part of November, he added.