Friday, May 15, 2009

Mountain town news


Silverton considers heating plant fueled by woody debris

SILVERTON, Colo.—Several entrepreneurs tell Silverton town officials they should give a woody-biomass central heating plant a shot.

Unlike most towns, Silverton has no delivery of natural gas, which is cheap. Instead, buildings are heated by coal, which is messy, or by propane, which is expensive.

David Gibney, of Forest Energy Systems, a firm based in Show Low, Ariz., says that Silverton has a nice layout for a central heating system. Several buildings in close proximity burn coal for heat. As well, streets remain mostly dirt. As such, they could be dug up without great cost for installing of the underground hot-water lines.

At least one other Colorado town—Oak Creek, which is near Steamboat—has heard a similar pitch for a centralized heating system. It, too, relies primarily on propane and coal.

Energy-performance contractors tell Colorado Biz magazine in the June issue that woody-biomass heating plans, such as one being installed at a recreation center in Fairplay, Colo., compete very well with propane. The investment would be repaid in only two years.

The Silverton Standard & Miner reports that the town board there took no action. However, one trustee, Jim Lindaman, questioned whether there is enough wood available in surrounding forests, even if a bark beetle infestation hits.

Officials from the Governor's Energy Office tell Colorado Biz that guarantees of supply remain a major barrier for many biomass projects across the state.

Colorado scientist shifts thinking on climate change

GUNNISON, Colo.—Nolan Doesken wears the title of Colorado state climatologist. A meteorologist by training, he tends highs, lows, means and all the other records collected within the last 150 years with the utmost attention to detail.

The massing of detail, he told a water group in Gunnison recently, now leaves him "pretty close to a converted skeptic" in the issue of global warming. "Warming winters have outnumbered cooler ones by a whole lot," he said.

But Doesken, reports the Crested Butte News, seemed to indicate that the theoretical causes aren't iron-clad. With the global economic recession, emissions of carbon dioxide due to burning of fossil fuels might well be expected to be in decline, he noted. "But C02 continues to increase this year. I just got the results and (C02) is going up at the same rate as it was before the global recession," he said.

It's possible, he added, that there will be a lagged response in C02 emissions to the economic decline.

Doesken pointed out that one major mystery remains the role of water vapor, which is a far more effective greenhouse gas than C02.

"If a warmer atmosphere leads to more evaporation and more water vapor in the atmosphere—without increasing cloudiness—then that magnifies the greenhouse effect," he said. "If the added moisture results in increasing thick clouds, then more solar energy is reflected back to space and the overall warming could be offset to some degree."

Revelstoke considers ban on 'cosmetic' pesticides

REVELSTOKE, B.C.—A move to ban cosmetic pesticides and herbicides in Revelstoke has been gaining support, reports the Revelstoke Times Review. Cosmetic pesticides are those used for purposes such as to eliminate dandelions.

A speaker at a recent meeting, Dr. Warren Bell, a physician from nearby Salmon Arm, B.C., said adequate testing was never done to see what effects the chemicals had on animals, including humans. He said there are many alternatives to synthetic pesticides for golf courses, for example.

An anonymous blogger on the newspaper's Web site, identified as GolfGuy, accused Bell of bias. "Most of us are stewards of the environment and only use pesticides as a last resort," said the blogger, who seemed to indicate that he is involved in golf course maintenance.

The newspaper says several community groups have endorsed the ban.

Canmore rejects zoo-like grizzly conservation center

CANMORE, Alberta—The thin line between education and exploitation was explored in Canmore during recent weeks as the town, which is located at the eastern entrance to Banff National Park, considered a proposal for what was described as a grizzly conservation center.

The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, located in the gateway community of West Yellowstone, Mont., was presented as the model. Ruth LeBarga, sponsor of the idea for Canmore, said the center would attract people from around the world who would leave with more respect for the bears and less likely to come across them in the wild.

"The program is meant to break down fear and provide more knowledge on how bears behave and why," she said.

"If this project can save one human life and one bear life, is it not worth your support?" she asked the municipal councilors.

In Canmore, she found some support for further consideration. But others had heard enough.

"Canmore does not need a 'zoo' with captive bears, five in a miniscule enclose of a mere five acres (not 50-plus square miles) where they cannot get out of sight/sound/smell of each other," wrote Jean Craven, in a letter published in the Rocky Mountain Outlook. "This is not conservation; that is exploitation and the display of an 1800s' mindset that I thought was long dead."

A majority of the city's councilors agreed. "It's an affront to the dignity of bears to have tamed, caged bears in a wild area," said André Gareau. "I do not think this is a good fit for Canmore." Others also said Camore already offers sufficient opportunities for education.

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