TELLURIDE – With 2010 sales tax revenue up 4.6 percent over the previous year, and Real Estate Transfer Tax (upon which the town depends for most of its capital improvements) outpacing 2009 by $1.5 million and 2008 by $100,000, “I see 2010 as the year we started to make a comeback in the economy,” said Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser, touching on the major themes of the State of the Town address he delivered during the Telluride Town Council meeting this past Tuesday.
“Because we’ve been in a very tight budget situation, it has forced us to really prioritize what it is that we do,” he continued. “And because of that we’re in a position where we can operate more efficiently, and it portends great things for 2011.”
Asked to narrow down a year’s worth of accomplishments to his top three picks, Fraser honed in on the creation of more affordable, employee housing as his top contender.
“I’m extremely pleased with what’s happened with our affordable housing,” he said, referring to the town’s Entrada and Gold Run projects.
Next came economic development.
“We’re working closer with the business community, and even though it’s on small things it’s a starting point,” he said. “We’re really focusing more on how we can help the economy out on a short- and long-term basis.”
Finally, renewable energy development made the list.
“I feel very strongly about the framework that we’re setting up for all of our ventures into renewable energy and the different governments that we’re working with to achieve our renewable goals.”
Click here for the full text of Mayor Stu Fraser's state of the town address.
COUNCIL SUPPORTS INSTREAM
WATER RIGHT ON LOWER SAN MIGUEL
As the Colorado Water Conservation Board prepares to decide whether or not to file for an instream water right on the lower San Miguel River at a meeting in Denver later this month, the Town of Telluride has added its voice to that of San Miguel County’s and others in support of the filing.
“The health of the San Miguel River is important to the Telluride community in terms of economic and environmental factors. The outdoor recreation industry in this area is quite dependent upon flows within the river system necessary to sustain fishing, whitewater and related activities. The health of the river ecosystem is intrinsically tied to wildlife habitat, wetland and riparian values that truly define this beautiful part of Colorado,” states a letter to the CWCB and approved by the council when it met on Tuesday.
If approved, the instream flow would establish minimum flows in a 16.5-mile stretch of the river located in Montrose County reaching from Calamity Draw west of Naturita to the Dolores River confluence, primarily to prevent three dwindling species of native fish there from being listed for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The CWCB considered filing for the appropriation this time last year, but delayed its decision at the request of the San Miguel County BOCC and other entities in order to allow downstream water users time to figure out off-stem water storage to meet their future needs and to file for any additional water rights they might require.
“We wanted to try and guarantee that the instream flow is what it should be,” said Fraser of the town government’s support.
“Some people may not agree, but we are doing what we think is right for the community and the region.”
MORE SUPPORT FOR WILD AND SCENIC STATUS
And speaking of the San Miguel River, council would also like to see sections of the waterway that have been determined eligible for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System actually protected as such.
In a letter to the US Bureau of Land Management Uncompahgre Field Office, which is currently seeking public comment concerning 11 segments of the San Miguel that were determined to be eligible for the designation following an exhaustive inventory process throughout the 675,000-acre Uncompahgre Planning Area, the town underscored its support for “prompt, extensive and reliable protection,” for every eligible segment in the river, and those segments and tributaries within proximity to the Telluride community, in particular.
“The San Miguel River system as a whole, and certainly those segments and tributaries identified, are inclusive of outstandingly remarkable values in terms of natural flows, river health, riparian habitat, recreational opportunities and scenery,” reads a letter to the agency approved by council on Tuesday.
Accordingly, the town believes that the majority of those stream segments found eligible for protection would be best preserved with designations as suitable for protection.
To date 166 river segments totaling more than 11,000 miles in 38 states and Puerto Rico have been protected as Wild and Scenic. Among them are 76 miles of the Cache La Poudre River near Fort Collins, the only Wild and Scenic designation in the state.
“There’s only one river in the state of Colorado that carries that ranking and for Telluride to be able to have our river carry it reinforces the importance of what the San Miguel River is to us,” said Fraser.
“It ends up being a way to promote who we are as we support the environment.”
A final Wild and Scenic San Miguel River suitability meeting concerning alternative management options and potential impacts resulting from a designation takes place at the Norwood Community Center on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Public comments concerning the designation are due to the BLM’s Uncompahgre Field Office by Wednesday, Jan. 20. Click here to download a copy of the comment form including directions on how to submit it.