Citizen’s concerns prompt Grand County to mull hiring an information consultant | SkyHiNews.com
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Citizen’s concerns prompt Grand County to mull hiring an information consultant

by Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News

A request from a citizen to hire an environmental health officer resulted in the county looking into hiring a public information consultant instead.

“I’m of the opinion we need to get out more, do a better job in telling people what we’re doing,” said Grand County Commissioner James Newberry at the Nov. 13 county commissioners’ meeting.

By the next meeting, on Tuesday, a draft request for proposal to hire such a person to “create informational releases covering a variety of topics” was on the boardroom table.

A letter to the commissioners written by Grand Lake resident Lenny Brooks on Sept. 5 may have prompted the notion that citizens are in the dark about the scope of work being done in water, forest management, roads, recycling, stream management, emergency management and other areas of public concern.

Brooks highlighted the degradation of Grand Lake and the abundant use of beetle pesticides on area properties and forested lands, in addition to magnesium chloride on roads, fertilizers and other chemicals that “eventually mix and meet in our water.”

“What reaction this has on the fish, all the wildlife and the people who drink the water, no one knows,” he wrote.

He called for a county-hired environmental health officer to “look out for Grand County and preserve our most valuable resource, WATER.”

County commissioners responded, saying such a position already exists in a combination of county-supported projects as well as employees on a roster of environmental experts and watchpersons.

In a letter, the county outlined its professional assistance to-date on the environmental front:

– Grand County has three attorneys specializing in water issues; one specific to water rights and use, and two who are permitting specialists. They mostly work on the “myriad of issues” surrounding the Moffat and Windy Gap firming projects and the Colorado-Big Thompson project. For three years, the county has engaged a water engineering firm to address the modeling of the proposed stream operations.

– Grand County has one employee with a master’s degree in environmental geochemistry who has been assigned to draft proposed rules to the State Water Quality Control Division in the county’s efforts to create a water quality standard for Grand Lake and to work on the Colorado-Big Thompson nutrient study with East Slope water users. The scientist is also working with East Grand Water Quality to secure a 319 Clean Water Act grant to help capture sediment from road salting and sanding on Berthoud Pass.

– Grand County has another employee with a master’s of arts degree in environmental science and geology who heads the Natural Resource Department. She sits on the Grand County Water Information Network’s board of directors and is also working on the C-BT nutrient study, as well as burn management, weed control and pine-beetle issues.

– Grand County has solely financed a study to develop a plan for the water quality and quantity of the Fraser and Colorado rivers, at an estimated cost of $700,000, more than half of which is already spent. It also funds numerous stream monitoring sites handled by the U.S. Geological Survey.

– Grand County, along with Larmier County, paid for a Colorado State University study on the effects of magnesium chloride on roads, and that study is being assessed by Grand County’s environmental specialists.

– Grand County is a partner in financing an erosion control officer to inspect construction sites to monitor the sedimentation they cause. The county also provides seed mixtures to new home construction to help in the revegetation process.

– Grand County is one of four major funders of the Grand County Water Information Network.

Finally, Grand County has “strict regulations for development of golf courses and monitoring fertilizer use and runoff, but most new golf courses are not located in the county’s jurisdiction, but under one of the municipalities,” the letter reads.

In all, Grand County plans to spend and estimated $900,000 in 2008 for water quality and water protection, concludes the letter, and is “serious about the issues affecting our environment and has taken and continues to take aggressive action to protect the county and its citizens.”

“They’ve done a lot to monitor situations, but not a lot to mitigate situations,” Brooks said, when asked if the letter satisfied his environmental concerns.

Tax credits for xeriscaping and an anonymous county-run environmental hotline are samples of ideas that could be implemented now, he said.

“Sure, there’s plenty of things that can be done that I haven’t even thought of,” he said. “They can do studies and talk to each other, while in the meantime, we can do a lot to not add to the problem.”

Meanwhile, Commissioner Newberry is advocating better communication from each department on the county’s Web site, as well as a public relations consultant who can better get the word out about what the county is already doing.

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com.


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