Month: February 2010

Uranium mill for the River of Sorrows?

Uranium mill for the River of Sorrows?

The first new U.S. uranium mill in three decades could be coming to Colorado and the rugged valley of the Dolores River in the southwestern corner of the state. The river — originally named Río de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, or River of Our Lady of Sorrows, by Spanish priests in 1776 — and the surrounding Paradox Valley is a stunning landscape of mesas and vistas to explore (and one of my favorite drives in the country). Its ecological importance and popularity with boaters and hikers has led state environmentalists to push for national wilderness designation for parts of the valley.

A February 11 article in The Telluride Watch covers some local environmentalists’ concerns about the plans of the milling company, Energy Fuels Resources Corp., which has applied for a permit, and the potential impacts to the Dolores River and its flows should the project receive approval.

Mills process uranium once it is removed from the ground in order to make it usable for nuclear power plants, but the operation involves using lots of water and leaving behind tailings that can contaminate air and water. Western towns, including Cañon City, Colorado and Moab, Utah, are both still cleaning up from older mills and dealing with the toxic results; a 2006 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory fact sheet details the cleanups and regulations surrounding mill tailings.

I wrote a feature article (“CWCB’s Instream Flow Program matures”) about the Dolores and the ongoing process to protect streamflows within the river for biological, recreational and agricultural needs in the Fall 2009 issue of Headwaters Magazine, put out by the nonprofit Colorado Foundation for Water Education. The story covers the progress of the state board in charge of protecting these instream flows in rivers across the state, using the Dolores as a key example of Colorado’s evolution in considering river health.

Federal regulators will review the uranium mill application, but a decision is likely a ways off and highly dependent on other factors, namely the development of the domestic nuclear power industry. And regardless of regulators’ decision, it will undoubtedly face legal challenges.

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Clustershucked!

Clustershucked!

The following article appears in the Winter 2009 issue of Nature Conservancy Magazine


Bivalve Blues

Report Reveals Global Risks for Oyster Reefs

Exposed oyster reef in the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia (NOAA)

Exposed oyster reef in the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia (NOAA)

Baymen harvest an average of roughly 99,000 tons of oysters each year from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But that kind of bounty is now uncommon: Around the world, 85 percent of shellfish reefs have been lost to overfishing and habitat destruction, according to a new Nature Conservancy report, Shellfish Reefs at Risk.

“Shellfish reefs are the single most impacted marine habitat globally,” says Mike Beck, a Conservancy marine scientist and lead author of the report. Beck and his team of scientists compiled status reports from more than 144 estuaries and found that reefs were in significant decline worldwide.

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Zinn and Ludlow

Zinn and Ludlow

Howard Zinn
Howard Zinn

Among the many recorded moments of American history impacted by Howard Zinn, who died at age 87 in late January, one of the most significant is the Ludlow Massacre, a 1914 labor skirmish between Colorado’s militia and the families of striking coal miners.

Calling Ludlow a skirmish is putting it gently: In April 1914, the Colorado National Guard, called in by the mining companies, opened fire on women and children at the Ludlow tent camp, killing fourteen, and then set fire to the settlement. The incident ignited seven months of gunfights and bombings around southern Colorado’s coal fields, but the history of Ludlow remained in the shadows, partly because neither embittered families nor mining executives much wanted to remember the massacre, albeit for different reasons.

Zinn first heard about Ludlow through a Woody Guthrie song, which inspired him to learn more about the labor wars in Colorado. Here is Zinn, in his own words, talking about Guthrie’s influence and Ludlow:

Zinn later included his own telling of Ludlow in his seminal work, A People’s History of the United States (Disclosure: I’ve never read the complete tome, but have read his section on the coal labor struggle).

Before Zinn’s scholarship, the labor struggles surrounding Ludlow were “taboo,” according to Thomas G. Andrews, a history professor at University of Colorado, Denver. Andrews wrote an environmental history of the Colorado coalfield wars, Killing for Coal, America’s Deadliest Labor War, which I reviewed for Earth Magazine in July 2009.

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Obituary: Good Spirits Bar and Grill

Obituary: Good Spirits Bar and Grill

My first piece for Mountain Gazette, from August 2003: An obituary for — and defense of — a short-lived bar in Paonia that had (re-)opened its doors just as I arrived in town. The building now houses the local community radio station.


Good Spirits Bar and Grill

— Joshua Zaffos

The Deceased: Good Spirits Bar and Grill (a/k/a The Great Escape Pub and Eatery), Paonia CO
Born: August 2002
Died: March 2003
Cause of death: Teetotalitarianism

GoodSpirits sign
Good Spirits Bar, c. 2003

“Any town with more churches than bars, that town’s got a problem. That town is asking for trouble.”
– Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang

When I first arrived along the North Fork of the Gunnison River, I remember reading one of the tourist rags promoting the North Fork valley. Amid the popular trail suggestions and bed-and-breakfast listings, the paper also included notes from town meetings for the small communities of Paonia, Crawford and Hotchkiss. That month in Paonia, a proprietor went before the town trustees proposing to re-open a bar along Grand Avenue, the town’s main street.

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Winter Diversions

Winter Diversions

Winter Diversions

“Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis
Nice to see a fellow Greek getting ahead with his very own talk show
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The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
In the spirit of Garcia Márquez…probably one of my favorite fiction reads in a long time
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Errol Morris on the New York Times Opinionator blog
His series on photojournalism are provocative, and a reminder that we are always framing history
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pasta-with-fried-pepper
Pasta with Fried Peppers and Bread Crumbs (via Saveur)
Fry the peppers to a crisp and ye shall be rewarded
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Blues for Cannibals by Charles Bowden
So far, Bowden at his crankiest, which is saying something
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Residente o Visitante and Los De Atrás Vienen ConmigoCalle 13
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The Biz of Baseball
A blog tracking the financial churnings of baseball
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“Party Down” Season 1
“Are we having fun yet?”
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The Sun
Writing best appreciated while drinking morning coffee or an evening cocktail in a melancholy yet pensive mood
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Louis C.K.: Chewed Up
Ever since his appearance on Conan when he riffed on how “we live in an amazing, amazing world, and it’s wasted on the crappiest generation of, just, spoiled idiots,” I’ve been a big fan and this video didn’t disappoint
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11:11Rodrigo y Gabriela
I’m not sure if I like their music more for the flamenco or heavy metal influences
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Lady Bug
Lesser known, old-school arcade game – maybe my best worst habit

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