Pueblo Design
 La Jicarita

A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico

Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521

Volume XI

May 2006

Number V


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TAOS COUNTY Resolution No. 2006- A resolution opposing the transfer of any waters from the Top of the World Farm in northern Taos County


Interview with David Benavides on the 2006 World Water Forum in Mexico


Aamodt versus Abeyta Adjudications: A Comparison By Kay Matthews 

Are Some Strings Being Pulled to Develop Wolf Creek Village? By Allen Best

TAOS COUNTY Resolution No. 2006 - A resolution opposing the transfer of any waters from the Top of the World Farm in northern Taos County

WHEREAS, the Taos County Region is a rural area, has limited water resources and has experienced a large amount of growth in the last five years; and

WHEREAS, the viability and sustainability of all the communities, traditional and new, are bound by the limited natural water resources of the region; and

WHEREAS, in order to preserve and sustain the local rural, agricultural, cultural, and traditional pueblo and acequia-based communities, we must conserve the use of our resources to conform to the available natural resource base; and

WHEREAS, the large amount of growth in the region is creating problems in terms of impaired surface water flows and lowered water tables and water quality affecting existing wells by non-conformance to our natural water budget; and

WHEREAS, the region's ability to protect and preserve our communities, streams and aquifers, wildlife and agricultural lands, and provide opportunities for economic development will be greatly reduced by any transfers from Top of the World Farm; and

WHEREAS, there are significant questions regarding the amount of water rights claimed by Top of the World Farm, the priority date of those rights, and the hydrological connection between the ground water at Top of the World Farm and the Rio Grande; and

WHEREAS, Santa Fe County, which has proposed to transfer the water from Top of the World Farm, has not taken steps to curb the use of water or constrain wasteful development; and

WHEREAS; any development of this water must be considered within the framework of both the Rio Grande and the Rio Costilla compacts; and

WHEREAS, any appropriation or transfer of water out of the Top of the world Farm is inconsistent with the Public Welfare of the Region; and

WHEREAS, any transfer out of the Top of the World Farm is contrary to the conservation of water in the state.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE GOVERNING BODY OF TAOS COUNTY, NEW MEXICO, that the Taos County Board of Commissioners hereby resolves to formally oppose any transfer of water from the Top of the World Farm out of Taos County.

PASSED, ADOPTED, AND APPROVED this 15th day of May 2006.


Valles Caldera Trust Suspends Livestock Grazing for 2006

The Valles Caldera Trust announced on May 4 that it is suspending the livestock grazing program for 2006 on the Valles Caldera Preserve. On May 1, the first day of his new job, Preserve Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Cross was presented with a report from Preserve scientist Bob Parmenter with a range readiness assessment; Dr. Coss and the Preserve board of trustees quickly decided to suspend the program.

According to the assessment, with virtually no snowpack on the Preserve this winter, the surface flows in the Jemez River are only 5% of the long-term average. The elk herd did not leave the Valles for lower-elevation winter ranges but foraged within the Preserve all winter. Peak soil moisture in the Valle Grande is about 30% lower this year than in 2005. Without substantial rainfall, vegetation conditions will continue to deteriorate. Upland water sources are drying up quickly and may not be available for livestock. Forage biomass in the Preserve pastures decreased by more than 65% from October 2005 to April 2006. In normal years of snowpack this decrease would be only 20-30%. Forage nutritional values indicate that protein, nutrient, and digestibility levels of the 2005 cured forage are poor.

The Trust had intended to bring in a herd of steers this summer instead of allowing local cow-calf operators to use the Preserve. With these kinds of conditions, however, the Preserve could support a herd of only 719, or about one-third of the number needed to break even financially. The decision to bring in steers from out-of-state had already raised questions from local cattlemen and the Valles Caldera Coalition (see interview with Coalition director Marty Peale in the February 2006 issue of La Jicarita News). In the Trust's press release it lists potential benefits to the Preserve of postponing the livestock program until 2007: improvement of forage; better water quality; the opportunity to observe response from the resource without livestock; and the potential to conduct small-scale, site-specific experiments in livestock operations. This last benefit opens up the possibility that some area livestock operators could send a limited number of cattle to the Preserve this summer.

Agriculture Revitalization Initiative

An organizational meeting of the Agricultural Revitalization Initiative (see La Jicarita News, April 2006) will be held on Thursday, July 6, 10:00 am at Farm to Table, 3900 Paseo del Sol (off Airport Road) in Santa Fe. The purpose of the meeting is to bring together individuals and organizations that are interested in forming a coalition to match "land at risk," or land that has traditionally been farmed or ranched and is currently unused, with the resources necessary to bring it back into beneficial use. The Initiative hopes to begin a pilot project in the Pojoaque/Nambe basin. For more information about the meeting please contact Lynne Velasco at lynnenambe@cybermesa.com; Paul White at paulwhite@sisna.com; or La Jicarita News.

Interview with David Benavides on the 2006 World Water Forum in Mexico

La Jicarita News: You were part of a New Mexico delegation at the World Water Forum in Mexico City in March. Who was included in the group?

David Benavides: Paula Garcia from the New Mexico Acequia Association; Eric Ames from the Western Environmental Law Center; Brian Shields of Amigos Bravos; Don Bustos of the American Friends Service Committee; Rod Ventura from the New Mexico Environmental Law Center; and Rey Garduño and Tomasita Gonzales from the Southwest Organizing Project. Our delegation was underwritten by the Panta Rhea Foundation, which supports many of our organizations

LJN: There wasn't much reporting in the American mainstream press about the Forum, except to note that there were some protests that took place outside the official meeting. Would you give us an overview of your impression of what went on.

DB: I want to start out with a disclaimer, which is that there were a lot of activities going on at a lot of different levels in terms of the formal, organized Forum itself, counter activities - and I'll explain why there would be counter activities in a minute - and also activities that were organized mainly for Mexicans around the issue of water. I'm going to give you an overview of my participation in some of each; other folks in our delegation could talk about different experiences and overviews. Another disclaimer is that folks like Brian Shields and Harold Trujillo, who attended the previous World Water Forum four years ago in Japan, came back with a story about what we were likely to face at this Forum, which was of great concern and one of the reasons why we went. What we understood from them was that the Kyoto Forum was an unabashed gathering of people who were there to divide up the world's water among themselves, or at least people who were in a position to control water. Also, they were attempting to ratify an already drafted consensus paper, which was bad for communities. It was my understanding that the New Mexico delegation and other community-based folks from around the world spent the entire time arguing against the consensus paper. And they were successful. It was never adopted. So we thought when we went to Mexico City that was going to be our role, to be engaging in a dialogue with people who weren't hearing or didn't want to hear the community perspective about water. And I mean not just about our issues here in New Mexico, but community-based water issues like those in Cochabamba, Bolivia and India, where multinational corporations are gaining control of water system, pricing people out of the system, and are not being accountable or responsive to the needs of the community. But as it turned out, that was not what Mexico was like at all. For example, I went to a panel at the official Forum called Indigenous Towns and Water, not knowing what to expect, and although it may have been atypical, that panel had an activist from Bolivia, as well as other local indigenous people. So something happened between Kyoto and Mexico City that made the organizers back off a little bit and made the panels more diverse. And there was no consensus paper put forward or attempt to bring the participants all together into some kind of conclusion or recommendation. I don't know the reason, which would be a very interesting thing to find out. The big water interests may have gotten their business done, but maybe it was done privately.

LJN: What were some of the other panels you attended?

DB: I went to another session where there were a lot of academics from Latin America that had to do with questions of water marketing and regulation of water markets. An academic from a university in Mexico spoke about the advantages of regulation of water markets and how that was legal, as opposed to it being an unlawful restraint on business. There was a question and answer period and the most vociferous person in that session for the free marketing of water rights, without any constraints, was none other than Bill Turner, who is the most visible advocate of marketing water rights in New Mexico. We expected everyone to be a Bill Turner, but in fact, there were people on some of these panels who were the antithesis of Bill Turner.

LJN: Were the demonstrators there to address the same issues that you came to address, and was there a dialogue between the community-based people attending the Forum and the demonstrators?

DB: From my perspective, no. I think what was reported here in the States was that the demonstrators were right outside the building where the Forum took place. But I didn't see that. There was an "alternative forum" that took place in a different part of Mexico City. They each got their own press, and sometimes the two stories were combined into one news story. I think that the official Forum was scrupulous about preventing unauthorized people from getting anywhere near the facility.

LJN: How much time did you spend at the alternative forum?

DB: Actually, when we initially got to Mexico City, Paula Garcia, Don Bustos and I spent a day at a third forum that was called the Taller Popular, a people's workshop held on March 14 and 15. This was a lot of groups from Mexico putting on workshops about what is going on in their communities. COMDA, or Coalición de Organazaciones Mexicanas por el Derecho al Agua, one of the organizers, was a coalition that was using the opportunity of the Forum to continue its organizing efforts and dialogue with other community-based people attending the Forum. The alternative forum, which was different from Taller Popular, was a series of events that occurred while the World Water Forum was taking place. We participated in all three events.

LJN: Who organized the alternative forum?

DB: The impression I got was that it was more of an international coalition of nongovernmental organizations, including Maude Barlow's organization from Canada [co-author of Blue Gold, The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World's Water]. Our New Mexico delegation spent a lot of informal time in the evening with folks who were attending the alternative forum. It seemed to me that the idea behind the alternative forum was that regardless of what was happening at the official Forum, this was a place where people who are struggling with issues of water in their communities could come together to get mutual support, could strategize, could learn from the struggles of other people, and could be comfortable in that environment; the same couldn't be said of the official Forum. I actually thought the Taller Popular was the most interesting part of the trip because we got to see how well organized people in Mexico are around the issue of water. That was a humbling experience for us as activists in New Mexico. They were very well organized, putting a lot of time and bodies into their efforts. We learned a lot about the wide variety of issues and the history of water, and who has power over the water in Mexico. We had the privilege of spending evening time with some of the organizers of COMDA and learned how they've been able to pull together disparate groups, both rural and urban, into their coalition. From an organizing perspective, this was fascinating and instructive for us, who deal with a lot of the same questions about how to unify ourselves geographically, urban and rural.

LJN: All we hear in the United States about Mexico are the horror stories: poverty and polluted water. Is your sense that improvements are actually happening on the ground?

DB: Most definitely. There's no question about the poverty in Mexico, but I think these grassroots groups are being very strategic about organizing from the ground up, with community people coming forward and speaking for themselves, acknowledging that the organizers' role is to provide a forum.

LJN: You mentioned previously that these organizers had been successful in bridging the urban/rural divide. Did you learn anything that might help us address that problem here?

DB: One example that we heard about was that as coalitions began to be built around water issues, urban-based organized labor was not very involved early on. By the time organized labor felt these issues were something it should be involved in, the movement already had an identity that wasn't threatened by the inclusion of another strong identity group such as labor. There is an increasingly rich and strong movement in local communities on local issues, at the state level, national level, and international levels. There is a growing movement around water issues, which was inspiring to us. Having said that, we also heard about campaigns that were lost, pollution, health problems, and water being taken by the powerful from the powerless. So I certainly don't want to give the impression that there are only victories. But most importantly, I never realized the extent to which that we in New Mexico have colleagues and allies throughout the world.


The third in a series of Rinconada billboards sponsored by the peace group Embudo Paz.































Aamodt versus Abeyta Adjudications: A Comparison

By Kay Matthews

The state of New Mexico was there. The county of Santa Fe was there. The city of Santa Fe was there. The pueblos &emdash; Tesuque, Nambe, Pojoaque, and San Ildefonso &emdash; were there. And the lawyers &emdash; too many to count &emdash; were there. Who wasn't at the signing of the Aamodt water rights lawsuit &emdash; the federal government &emdash; was what everyone was talking about, however. Without its $150 million contribution &emdash; reduced from $218 million &emdash; to pay for the water delivery system to the Pojoaque Basin, there will be no settlement. Not to worry, though, according to Bill Hume, Governor Bill Richardson's point man on water issues: all the Aamodt power brokers are going to Washington D.C. to arm-twist the New Mexico congressional delegation to get Congress to cough up the money.

Members of the Pojoaque Basin Water Alliance didn't attend the settlement signing ceremony, either. They have nothing to celebrate in a proposal they see as a Pandora's box of unresolved and inequitable issues. Members of the Alliance broke away from the Rio Pojoaque Acequia and Well Users Association because their interests as non-pueblo well owners were not being represented at the settlement negotiations. They have tried to bring their issues to the attention of the public and have urged local governmental agencies to address them before finalizing the settlement.

Meanwhile, 70 miles north in the Taos Valley, the parties to the Taos Pueblo water rights settlement, or the Abeyta Adjudication, released a proposed settlement that so far has elicited approval from all the negotiating parties &emdash; Taos Pueblo, the town of Taos, the Taos Valley Acequia Association, El Prado Water and Sanitation District, and 12 mutual domestic water associations &emdash; and the general public. Why? Because in the spirit of compromise the parties to the settlement recognize the importance of traditional and ecological management of water resources and their equitable distribution.

The contrast between the two water rights adjudications is profound. It is a reflection of several factors, perhaps the most important being the geographic location of each case. The Aamodt suit governs water in one of the fastest growing areas of northern New Mexico: the Pojoaque/Nambe/Tesuque communities that are being gentrified with new money and Santa Fe spillover; and the pueblos, whose hotels, golf courses, and casinos have made them big-time players in the economic development game. Pojoaque Pueblo, in particular, has become one of the main power brokers, and the guarantee of water rights for future development in the Aamodt settlement reflects that. The Santa Fe urban area is where the money is, and the city and county are actively buying water rights wherever they are available, including the Top of the World Farm rights, which are located in northern Taos County (see page 1).

The Abeyta Adjudication, on the other hand, governs only one pueblo &emdash; Taos &emdash; and the Taos Valley remains largely agriculturally intact. While the town of Taos has its own growth and development issues, it's still small by comparison to downstream urban areas.

Taking a detailed look at the way each water rights settlement proposal plans to manage and distribute water resources reveals the basic disconnect between the two settlements: the Aamodt calls for the strict enforcement of the state-mandated system of prior appropriation, whereas the Abeyta recognizes the historic system of Spanish and Mexican water sharing, or repartimiento.

Where is the Water Coming From?

The Aamodt adjudication is looking for out-of-basin water to settle its water rights commitment to both the pueblos and non-pueblo residents. Santa Fe County intends to transfer 588 acre feet per year (afy) of water from Top of the World Farm (TOW), in northern Taos County, to help meet its obligation of 750 afy of water to non-pueblo residents. The county recently bought the remaining TOW land and attendant water rights and will apply to transfer approximately 1,100 afy to help meet its obligation of 2,500 afy to the pueblos. The settlement also proposes giving Tesuque Pueblo 100 afy of the 750 afy of transferred water to offset pumping from new county wells or the Buckman well field. This constitutes a move of water across Otowi gauge, which will affect the Rio Grande Compact.

The Abeyta adjudication, however, will use a "mitigation well system to offset the surface water depletion effects resulting from future groundwater diversions and consumption," or in other words, will attempt to keep the valley in hydrologic balance without relying on the transfer of water rights from other areas. In Section 3.4. Rio Grande Mainstem Depletions, the proposal reads: "Rio Grande Compact compliance and minimization of this Agreement's effects on water users outside the Taos Valley have been central negotiation goals." Mitigation wells, which reach a 1,000 feet or more into the deep aquifer, will be used by the town of Taos, El Prado Water and Sanitation District, and the mutual domestics to offset at least 50% of any Taos Valley tributary surface water depletions resulting from future groundwater pumping. Because pumping water from these deep wells does affect stream flows in the Rio Grande, users will have to obtain offsets of water to compensate for these depletions. These offsets may be acquired by changing the point of diversion of water taken from Rio Grande tributaries (water purchases from wells) or using San Juan/Chama project water. All of these groundwater and surface water depletion effects can be calculated using a groundwater flow model that is incorporated into the proposal, called the Settlement Model (see Attachment 3 of the Abeyta settlement document).

Protection of Acequias and Wells

The use of mitigation wells in the Abeyta settlement also provides protection for the valley's acequias because groundwater pumping will not have to be compensated by retiring acequia rights, as has been the practice in the past. The Taos Valley Acequia Association (TVAA) ably advocated for parciantes in the settlement negotiations, particularly under the leadership of former director Geoff Bryce (who died in a car accident in 2004). The 55 acequias represented by TVAA will continue to provide irrigation water to the acequia communities in the valley as they always have, without fear of priority calls. Taos Pueblo has agreed to temporarily use only about half of its irrigation rights on its historically irrigated acres (5,712 acres).

Unfortunately, parciantes in the Aamodt adjudication were never adequately represented by the Rio Pojoaque Acequia and Well Water Users Association. The attorney for the association agreed to an initial settlement proposal in 2004 that would have required non-pueblo residents in the Pojoaque Basin to cap their wells and hook up to the water delivery system. Many members of the association had repeatedly told their lawyer that what they wanted was a septic system, not a water delivery system. Many believe a water delivery system, owned by the county or a regional water authority, could lead to the privatization of water and unregulated growth in the area. When their concerns were ignored by the association and its lawyer, some of the members resigned and formed their own organization, the Pojoaque Basin Water Alliance. They hired attorney Fred Waltz of Taos, who represented the TVAA in the Abeyta negotiations, to represent them.

After the federal government reneged on its commitment to fund the Pojoaque Basin regional water system, the negotiators realized they were going to have to scale down the system and abandoned the requirement that non-pueblo residents cap their wells, making participation in the water system voluntary. This quickly dispelled the notion that the Rio Pojoaque Acequia and Well Water Users Association had "gotten the best deal it could" for its constituents and validated the Alliance's claim that it was not being adequately represented.

The Aamodt proposal also includes a provision that countermands the recently enacted water banking legislation that allows acequias to bank any of their water rights not being put to beneficial use and protect them from forfeiture. Under the terms of the settlement, unused water rights would lose priority protection after five years, without notice.

San Juan/Chama Water

On paper, there is 2,990 afy of uncontracted San Juan/Chama project water available for the settlement of Indian water rights claims. The Abeyta settlement proposes to allocate 2,440 afy of that to Taos Pueblo, 500 afy to the town of Taos, and 50 afy to El Prado Water and Sanitation District. According to the Aamodt proposed settlement, however, "the Pueblos, the City and the County assert that the water supply to be provided to the Pueblos must include a portion of the uncontracted San Juan Chama water." In a status conference with the protestants to the Top of the World water transfer application, the county attorney warned the protestants that if the second transfer application of the additional 1,100 afy of TOW water is protested, the pueblos in the Aamodt adjudication would definitely try to acquire the San Juan/Chama water that is proposed for settlement of the Abeyta. Of course, while the Abeyta and Aamodt parties argue over access to San Juan/Chama water, the settlement of the Navajo water rights lawsuit may trump them both, and the Navajo Nation may well end up controlling all San Juan/Chama diversion waters.

The pueblos of Pojoaque, Nambe, Tesuque, and San Ildefonso are allocated existing and future water rights in the Aamodt settlement; the criticism has always been that these will be used to underwrite the continued development of golf courses and hotels. If there is a shortage of imported water to support this development, the pueblos would be allowed to pump from wells within the basin, which could impact both domestic wells and acequias. The Abeyta proposal, on the other hand, would use San Juan/Chama water for offsets that may be caused by the Buffalo Pasture recharge project on Taos Pueblo. This project would restore and maintain surface and subsurface water levels in this traditional wetland that has cultural and religious importance to the Pueblo. The Pueblo would be allowed to divert surface waters from the Rio Pueblo de Taos in an amount not to exceed 1,000 afy from October 1 through March 15.

Despite Governor Richardson's veto of the $75 million appropriation to settle Indian water rights claims in the 2006 legislative session, the word is that the state of New Mexico is looking at the Aamodt settlement as a template for other adjudications in the state. If there is any hope of managing our water resources in a sustainable and equitable way, however, the state should look to the Abeyta settlement proposal, which is an attempt to maintain long-standing custom and tradition.

Are Some Strings Being Pulled to Develop Wolf Creek Village?

By Allen Best

Reprinted from the May 2006 issue of Colorado Central and Mountain Town News, with permission from Colorado Central Publishing Company and author Allen Best

Billy Joe "Red" McCombs, the billionaire from Texas intent on building a part-time city at Wolf Creek Pass, now has a permit to build a road across the national forest. Whether he'll keep it is the question in what has become a major story of big bucks, thin air, and allegations of unethical meddling by Bush administration appointees in Washington D.C..

As had been expected, the Forest Service gave McCombs a permit in early April to build a 750-foot road connecting Highway 160 with his private land, which he obtained 20 years ago in a land exchange. The agency also gave him authority to extend a road from the Wolf Creek Ski Area for 250 feet, although this latter road could be used only for shuttles and emergency vehicles during ski season.

Peter Clark, the supervisor for the Rio Grande National Forest, told reporters that federal law left him no option but to allow access to the inholding. On that 237-acre parcel, McCombs, a one-time used car salesman who now is considered among the richest Americans, plans to build nearly 2,220 housing units, or theoretically enough housing for 10,000 people. The planned configuration would have 400 single-family homes and 1,800 weekly time-share units.

Wolf Creek currently has no overnight lodging, one of only a few ski areas in Colorado with that distinction. Others include Monarch, Ski Cooper, Arapahoe Basin and Silverton Mountain. Until recently, it also had no snowmaking, also a rarity, and only one high-speed chairlift, which has become the ski industry's standard for expensive comfort.

Clark insisted that he, and he alone, made the decision. "At no time during this process did I receive direction, influence or pressure from higher levels on how or what decision to make," he said pointedly in a letter published in The Denver Post.

This insistence flew in the face of claims by critics, who for many months had been saying that McCombs had unethically gained influence over Bush appointees who oversee the Forest Service. In March, The Denver Post presented evidence that circumstantially supported them. McCombs had given generously to candidates for Congress, mostly Republicans from Texas. In turn, he had lobbied for the appointment of Mark Rey, a former timber industry representative, to the position of undersecretary of agriculture in charge of the Forest Service. The Post also found that McCombs representatives had met with Rey - although Rey, in a letter to the editor, curtly noted that he had also met with opponents.

Far more damning was the allegation by recently retired Forest Service employee Ed Ryberg. Ryberg, who had overseen ski areas in Colorado for many years, said that Dave Tenny, an assistant to Mark Rey, had intervened with regional officials, indicating he wanted "movement" on the road case at Wolf Creek. Ryberg told The Post that "it's not often you get a deputy undersecretary involved in an easement issue." In this case, a conference telephone call was held, and "we were basically told by Tenny to help these guys and address their issues," said Ryberg. He added: "The ski area was being obstinate, and they needed to be able to demonstrate they already had access so the project could move along." Ryberg also argued that the environmental impact statement was flawed, because of an implausible no-action alternative.

Ryberg's statements were widely noted in the ski industry, partly because he was known as a "company man." Fiercely devoted Forest Service employees are said to "wear green underwear," and Ryberg's underwear was as green as they come. Within the agency, he was known as someone who could be counted to stand up for ski areas, although he also argued against ski areas he believed were not good uses of public land, such as Cuchara, located in Colorado southwest of Pueblo. (It was, he said, a poor site for a ski area because of lack of snow cover).

In this case, however, McCombs is not the ski area operator. That is the role of the Pitcher family, descendents of Otto Mears, the orphaned immigrant from Russian who after the Civil War established a fortune in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado as a road-builder. And the Pitcher family has its own ideas about how to operate a ski area. The family's patriarch, Kinsbury Pitcher, had been among the first to scope out Snowmass and he helped set up what is now Ski Apache, located at Ruidoso, N.M. He also had the ski area at Santa Fe. At one point he had agreed with McCombs on a joint venture real estate project, but they parted company - bitterly - over the size of the project. The Pitchers wanted a smaller project, and McCombs aimed for a Texas-sized project. The two are now tangled in federal court.

Two other lawsuits have been filed by Colorado Wild, a Durango and Denver-based watchdog group of the national forests and, in particular, ski areas. Colorado Wild may be the only player so far with a clear victory. Whether deserved or not, a few years ago the group was seen as somewhat wild opponents of everything. In this battle, though, Colorado Wild is gaining influential allies and credibility. U.S. Rep. John Salazar, who generally weaves a moderate path politically in the somewhat conservative Third Congressional District, has been a sharp critic of Wolf Creek, basically echoing the concerns expressed much earlier by Colorado Wild. And, when Colorado Wild was pointedly not invited to be a panelist at an April 7 "informational" meeting in Creede, both Salazar, a Democrat, and Mark Larson, a Republican state representative from Cortez, refused to attend in a show of support for Colorado Wild. With the lineup notably stacked in favor of McCombs, the Durango Herald mischievously likened the event to the Zen koan of one-hand clapping. Earlier, Larson had tried to get the Colorado Legislature to pass a resolution opposing the Wolf Creek development. "The whole thing from beginning to end smells to high heaven," he told the Herald.

But the safe money on this dispute is with McCombs. Opponents claim procedural problems with the approvals, but not substantive problems, such as violation of the Clean Water Act or another powerful federal law. Still, at one time Denver's Two Forks Dam seemed inevitable. After all, when had Denver Water ever lost a case? But it did - dealt a veto by an appointee of President George H. W. Bush. But that president had at least vowed to be the environmental president. George W. Bush has never claimed such a goal.

Water sufficiency contested

The Durango Herald reports substantial disagreement about whether there is enough water at Wolf Creek during an extremely dry year.

The newspaper reports a case of dueling water engineers. Martin & Wood, the firm hired by the developer, said the resort village could survive with 64 acre-feet of water storage, if necessary, although plans call for double that amount. But a firm hired by the ski area operators, which is fighting the project, foresees too little water in the late summer and fall in the very dry years.

Bob Honts, the development's front man, said the lesson is that you can hire experts to say what you want them to say. Of course, he was just talking about opponents to the development.

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