Water Watch Alliance Press Releases

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 PRESS RELEASE from Water Watch Alliance, Crestone, Colorado                                               2/23/08

    The well-being of Colorado water and Colorado citizens is now threatened to an unprecedented degree by toxic pollutants, potential “blow-outs,” and mismanagement by government agencies.  While residents in Leadville are fighting for their safety and the life of the Arkansas River, residents in the San Luis Valley are fighting to protect and preserve one of the largest fresh water aquifers in North America.  This irreplaceable treasure, containing an estimated 140+ million acre-feet (or 45+ trillion gallons) of potable water, is threatened by the proposed drilling of three 14,000-foot gas test wells on the new Baca National Wildlife Refuge (BNWR) by Lexam Explorations, Inc., a Canadian company.

    The San Luis Valley of southern Colorado is considered a sacred place by the Pueblo, Ute and Navajo Indians and by internationally-aclaimed Tibetan spiritual leaders.  Senator Ken Salazar states:  “I have always told people that the San Luis Valley is more than a home to me.  It is a spiritual place unlike any other on earth.”
    
    Rather than protecting the Wildlife Refuge, however, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) actually attempted to circumvent the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process until they were ordered by a federal judge to comply with NEPA.  Lexam then hired the private firm, ENSR, to complete an Environmental Assessment (EA).   Not surprisingly, the Draft EA, released on January 18, is a “FONSI” or “Finding of No Significant Impact.”  If USFWS approves the Draft EA without recommending an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Lexam could begin drilling this summer.  

    Local citizens are challenging the Draft EA and demanding that a full EIS be commissioned by a neutral source.  They are also asking Colorado Governor Bill Ritter to impose a moratorium on the drilling in the San Luis Valley until potential impacts to the Refuge and to the aquifer can be fairly evaluated.  The Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public input on the Draft EA until March 2.  More information is on this website: http://WaterWatchAlliance.googlepages.com

    Interested parties are encouraged to write, call and/or email the following:

Michael Blenden, USFWS, 8249 Emperius Road, Alamosa, CO 81131, (719-589-4021),    Baca_EA@fws,gov
Governor Bill Ritter: 136 State Capitol, Denver, CO 80203-1792 (303-866-2471)
Senator Ken Salazar: 609 Main Street, #110, Alamosa, CO 81101 (719-587-0096)
Senator Wayne Allard: 411 Thatcher Building, Pueblo, CO 81003 (719-545-9751)
Representative John Salazar: 609 Main Street, #6, Alamosa, CO 81101 (719-587-5105)
Senator Gail Schwartz: 200 E. Colfax, Denver, CO 80203 (303-866-4871)
David Neslin, COGCC, 1120 Lincoln Street, Suite 801, Denver, CO 80203 (303-894-2400)
David B. Martin, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 4300 Cherry     Creek Drive South, Denver, CO 80246-1530, (800-886-7689)
Saguache County Commissioners, P.O. Box 655, Saguache, CO 81149
Jay Slack, USFWS, 134 Union Ave., Lakewood, CO 80228
Robbie Roberts, U.S. EPA Region 8, 1595 Wynkoop St., Denver, CO 80202-1129
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PRESS RELEASE  (long version)  - Water Watch Alliance, Crestone, Colorado                             2/23/08

    The wellbeing of Colorado water and Colorado citizens is now threatened to an unprecedented degree by toxic pollutants, potential “blow-outs,” and mismanagement by government agencies.

    While residents in Leadville are fighting for their safety and the life of the Arkansas River, residents in the San Luis Valley are fighting to protect and preserve one of the largest fresh water aquifers in North America.  The aquifer in the San Luis Valley is an irreplaceable treasure containing an estimated 140+ million acre-feet (over 45 trillion gallons) of potable water.  Twice before, local citizens went to court to protect this aquifer; both  cases were settled in favor of those in the Valley trying to save the water.  

    Now two crises threaten the water again.  Lexam Explorations, a Canadian firm, owns the mineral rights beneath the new Baca National Wildlife Refuge (BNWR), the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and residents in the San Luis Valley.  Lexam wants to drill three 14,000-foot exploratory gas wells through sensitive wetlands into the aquifer on the Wildlife Refuge.  Despite the nearly 50,000 letters of protest submitted during the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) scoping process last fall, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is poised to allow Lexam to proceed with the drilling.   The other threat is that Gary Boyce of Stockman’s Water, Inc., is now suing the Colorado Supreme Court to reverse the State Water Engineer’s ruling that prohibits extraction and export of our groundwater.  If successful in this third bid to export San Luis Valley water to the Denver area (dubbed “AWDI-3” by some), Boyce and his backers could reap 100’s of billions, even trillions of dollars.

    The spectacular and still pristine San Luis Valley of southern Colorado is considered a sacred place by the Pueblo, Ute and Navaho Indians.  This valley is also considered sacred by internationally-acclaimed Tibetan spiritual leaders.  Colorado Senator Ken Salazar himself stated:  “I have always told people that the San Luis Valley is more than a home to me.  It is a spiritual place unlike any other on earth.”   Farms and ranches produce hundreds of millions of dollars a yeat.   Forty-five rare, threatened, or endangered species live here.  All of this is threatened if government agencies cave in to pressure from private, corporate interests and fail to protect this Valley. 

    Time is running out.  The Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public input on the Draft Environmental Assessment (a “finding of no significant impact,” commissioned by Lexam) until March 2.  Please write to the officials below and request a moratorium on drilling in the Refuge until a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the Refuge, and new water studies are completed.   Please write, call, and/or email today:

Michael Blenden, USFWS, 8249 Emperius Road, Alamosa, CO 81131, 589-4021,     Baca_EA@fws,gov
Governor Ritter: 136 State Capitol, Denver, CO 80203-1792 (303-866-2471)
Senator Ken Salazar: 609 Main Street, #110, Alamosa, CO 81101 (719-587-0096)
Senator Wayne Allard: 411 Thatcher Building, Pueblo, CO 81003 (719-545-9751)
Representative John Salazar: 609 Main Street, #6, Alamosa, CO 81101 (719-587-5105)
Senator Gail Schwartz: 200 E. Colfax, Denver, CO 80203 (303-866-4871)
David Neslin, COGCC, 1120 Lincoln Street, Suite 801, Denver, CO 80203 (303-894-2400)
David B. Martin, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 4300 Cherry     Creek Drive South, Denver, CO 80246-1530, (800-886-7689)
Saguache County Commissioners, P.O. Box 655, Saguache, CO 81149
Jay Slack, USFWS, 134 Union Ave., Lakewood, CO 80228
Robbie Roberts, U.S. EPA Region 8, 1595 Wynkoop St., Denver,CO 80202-1129

For more information, our website is: http://WaterWatchAlliance.googlepages.com