Monday, November 12, 2018

City slammed in EPA lawsuit ruling; could stormwater fees be increased?

Posted By on Mon, Nov 12, 2018 at 1:32 PM

Many creeks in Colorado Springs like this one have eroded over time and contribute sediment downstream. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Many creeks in Colorado Springs like this one have eroded over time and contribute sediment downstream.
A federal judged ruled on Nov. 9 that Colorado Springs violated its stormwater discharge permit in at least three developments, which subjects the city to possibly significant fines under the Clean Water Act.

But Mayor John Suthers and several City Council members aren't willing to discuss whether the city's stormwater fees, approved by voters a year ago, will be amended to absorb what could be multi-million dollar penalties.

The stormwater measure, which charged residences $5 per month via their utilities billings and non-residential properties $30 per developed acre, included this provision:

"... such fees may be thereafter increased by City Council by resolution only to the extent required to comply with a valid court order, federal or state permits, federal or state laws, and intergovernmental agreements [IGA] of the city entered into before June 1, 2016." (The only IGA that qualifies in that provision is the April 2016 agreement with Pueblo County to spend $460 million over 20 years on the city's stormwater drainage system.)

While City Councilor Tom Strand told the Gazette that large fines might have to come from cuts to parks, police and fire departments, the stormwater fees obviously can be increased to cover such an expense. Strand didn't respond to a request for comment from the Independent.

Councilor Andy Pico says it's too soon to talk about penalties, because the case still has "a long ways to go." Councilor Bill Murray also sidestepped the question of increasing stormwater fees, saying he wants to "rebalance" all city fees rather than raid other departments.

"In this case the public will be the loser but this lawsuit was about the development winners," he adds in an email. "We need to take a critical review on how we encourage development."
Morning Star at Break Creek extended drainage basin never worked as it was intended. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Morning Star at Break Creek extended drainage basin never worked as it was intended.

Councilor Don Knight, who opposed the stormwater fee measure, also said it's "pre-mature" to say how the city would pay a fine until the city knows how much it might be.

He also  notes in an email that a fine could represent a one-time expense, while court-ordered additional drainage work could require multi-year commitments.

Councilor David Geislinger labeled it "fear-mongering" to speculate how the city would satisfy any fines in the case.

"It is my hope, and expectation, that the city’s earlier commitment to address the known deficiencies, and subsequent approval of the stormwater fee, will be taken into consideration by the court in any subsequent findings of damages, to include a fine," Geislinger says via email.

Councilor Jill Gaebler says via email, "I have never made any comments about raising stormwater fees, but I can tell you that I will consider raising the fee before ever cutting funding for public safety. Having said that, this lawsuit is not a done deal, and I remain hopeful."

For his part, Suthers issued a statement saying the city has taken "extraordinary steps" to build the "best stormwater program in the state" and will continue to work toward resolving the lawsuit, though it has no choice if the EPA wants to continue litigating.

It's worth noting that all three of the exemplar sites considered in the first nine-day trial in September that led to the Nov. 9 decision involved development that was initiated before Suthers became mayor in mid-2015.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch ruled that the city violated its municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permit for discharging storm runoff into creeks in the Arkansas River watershed.

A September trial focused on three developments: the 150-acre Indigo Ranch North at Stetson Ridge Filings 11, 13 and 14 in the city's northeast area; Star Ranch Filing 2, a 26-acre development for 32 homes on the city's southwest side; and Morning Star at Bear Creek, a senior facility built on five acres north of Bear Creek Regional Park.

Those are among 10 claims for relief from multiple violations of the city's permit cited in the lawsuit, filed in November 2016, by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District have also joined as plaintiffs.

For the plaintiffs, the bar was low. As noted by Matsch, they only had to show the city violated its permit conditions.

In his 43-page ruling, Matsch walks through each development in detail, citing the city's failures.

But in short, he notes the city didn't require developers to file drainage reports and perform other drainage work, despite requirements contained in the city's own drainage manuals and stormwater management regulations.

It's unclear what the next step might be, other than scheduling another trial to examine other cases in which the city failed to comply with its MS4 permit.

We've asked the Lower Arkansas District and Pueblo County for a comment on the judge's ruling and will circle back if and when we hear something.

Here's the ruling:

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Weed-eating goats are baaaack in Bear Creek Regional Park

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2018 at 8:06 PM

Lani Malmberg stands among her herd in 2014. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Lani Malmberg stands among her herd in 2014.

A herd of 500 goats arrived in Bear Creek Regional Park on Oct. 26, and they'll stay there through the following weekend munching on weeds and poisonous plants.

Lani Malmberg and her son, Donny Benz, co-owners of Goat Green, are leading the eco-friendly effort in its 20th year. (We ran a profile on Malmberg, a self-proclaimed "gypsy goat herder," a few years ago.)

The herd will munch through 20 acres of the park surrounding the Charmaine Nymann Community Garden, according to a statement from El Paso County. The nonprofit Bear Creek Garden Association raises about $10,000 each year to pay for the organic weed control.

“The goats prefer the dry vegetation first—leaves, weeds and brush,” Malmberg is quoted in the statement. “They're browsers, not grazers like cows, and will only eat the green grass as a last resort. They like the dry prickly things and the herd will eat two to three tons a day. What they eat, they recycle — pure organic fertilizer — back into the soil. Plus, their 2,000 hooves work the soil, aerating and mulching as they go.”

The goats eliminate the need for harmful herbicides, and digest weeds and poisonous plants without spreading their seeds. Goat Green also does fire mitigation work in areas where dry brush poses a risk.

Planning to visit the weed eaters this week? Just keep in mind that the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department and Garden Association ask visitors to keep their dogs leashed, citing a few altercations between uncontrolled canines and goats in the past.

To help bring the goats back next year, you can send tax-deductible donations for the Bear Creek Garden Association Goat Fund to P.O. Box 38326, Colorado Springs, CO 80937.
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Friday, October 19, 2018

ReWall gets recycling grant to turn Colorado's cartons into buildings

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 4:23 PM

ReWall's products include hail-resistant roof boards made from up-cycled cartons. - COURTESY OF THE REWALL COMPANY
  • Courtesy of The Rewall Company
  • ReWall's products include hail-resistant roof boards made from up-cycled cartons.

A company that produces building materials out of used packaging received an unprecedented $1.5 million grant to roll out operations in Colorado, where it could help to close the gap between our state and the rest of the country when it comes to recycling.

"There’s a little bit of a problem with landfilling in Colorado because it’s so cheap, so people don’t feel that need [to find] an alternative to it," says Jan Rayman, CEO of The ReWall Company. "So we like to think that we’re showing people a way [to] think outside the box."

The company, which has honed its manufacturing process in Iowa for the last seven years, plans to open a facility in a yet-undetermined location, probably near Denver, by April of next year. While ReWall will only need 15 employees to start — most of the process of shredding, melting and producing building materials is automated — Rayman says ReWall will feed local economies by incentivizing waste companies to add the people and infrastructure needed to collect, sort and deliver packaging to be transformed into building materials.

The funding for ReWall's Colorado launch comes from the state's Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity Grant Program, created in 2008 to promote economic development through recycling. Funded by tipping fees from state landfills, the program has provided close to $20 million for recycling infrastructure to businesses, local governments, nonprofits, schools and universities since its start.

And ReWall is getting an unusually big share of the pie. As the program’s total yearly budget — including staff and operations — is around $3.5 million, most grants are in the ballpark of $200,000 to $225,000, says Eric Heyboer, RREO’s program administrator.

“It was definitely the biggest grant we’ve ever awarded to a single entity through our program here at the state,” Heyboer says. “But, we felt it was very much justified because [ReWall is] basically bringing an end-market solution to paper cartons.”

Normally, Heyboer says, materials such as milk jugs and orange juice containers are usually shipped out of state for processing if they’re even recycled at all. That's because these containers often consist of different materials, such as plastic caps, paper and aluminum, making them hard to recycle.

But ReWall's manufacturing process uses the entire container, Rayman says, taking advantage of the plastic coating as a binder. The process involves shredding and melting the material but doesn't require any water to separate the layers, making it more eco-friendly.

These recycled material roof boards are class 4 hail resistant, and made in custom sizes. - COURTESY OF THE REWALL COMPANY
  • Courtesy of The Rewall Company
  • These recycled material roof boards are class 4 hail resistant, and made in custom sizes.

Colorado lags behind the rest of the nation when it comes to recycling. Though its residents are known for spending time outdoors, a 2017 report by Eco-Cycle and the Colorado Public Interest Research Group found that the state only recycles 12 percent of its waste. The national average is 34 percent.

ReWall might help Colorado narrow that gap. The company's goal is to drive the "local circle economy," where waste remains in a community and serves a new purpose.

"I’m a firm believer that construction is actually one of the very few, if not the only other industry that has the capacity to absorb the volumes that we’re producing as waste," Rayman says.

ReWall's products, because they're made from FDA-approved food packaging, are also more healthy and environmentally friendly than traditional building products that use toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, Rayman adds.
"We provide a healthy alternative," he says. "We stopped calling our product green because there’s a lot of greenwashing out there. People can call green, everything that saves them a little bit of energy or a little bit of money, but no. This is a healthy product that actually a lot of people seek out — a lot of people with environmental sensitivities would seek ReWall out to build their homes from because they’re allergic to the traditional products."
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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Land and Water Conservation Fund faces uncertain future

Posted By on Tue, Oct 2, 2018 at 9:53 AM

The Land and Water Conservation Fund paid for more than $8 million in projects in Rocky Mountain National Park, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition. - NATIONAL PARK SERVICE PHOTO/ WALKER HALL
  • National Park Service Photo/ Walker Hall
  • The Land and Water Conservation Fund paid for more than $8 million in projects in Rocky Mountain National Park, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition.

Without action by Congress, a fund that's helped to pay for the conservation of public lands since 1965 is on hold.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which expired Sept. 30, bought and preserved land, water and recreation areas with royalty payments from offshore oil and gas money.

Since 1965, Colorado has received more than $268 million from the fund, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, a group advocating for its reauthorization. The money has paid for projects in Mesa Verde National Park, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Arapaho National Forest, Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge, Rocky Mountain National Park, Cross Mountain Canyon Ranch and more.

As of Oct. 2, U.S. parks had lost more than $3.6 million in funding as a result of Congress' failure to reauthorize it, according to the LWCF Coalition. (The organization has an automatically updating online counter that tracks funds "lost," based on the $900 million deposited annually.)

A total of $40 billion was deposited in the fund over its 54-year lifespan, though less than half of that was appropriated by Congress. Of the $18.4 billion spent, 61 percent went to federal land acquisition, 25 percent went to the state grant program and 14 percent was spent on other purposes, according to the Congressional Research Service. The other funds were diverted elsewhere.

A measure to permanently restore the Land and Water Conservation Fund passed in the House Natural Resources Committee in September, but the measure has not yet reached the chamber floor. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was expected to consider similar legislation Oct. 2.

Both bills would dedicate a minimum of $10 million from the fund each year to "projects that secure recreational public access to existing Federal public land for hunting, fishing, and other recreational purposes."

A coalition of more than 70 Colorado business owners and leaders in August signed a letter addressed to the state's representatives in Congress, urging them to reauthorize the fund.

"LWCF funding has leveraged hundreds of millions of dollars of state, local, and private
matching funds to contribute to the betterment of Colorado and well-being of its citizens,
and its reauthorization is critical to our future," they wrote. "Now more than ever, with the rapid
expansion of Colorado’s population and ever more common water shortages throughout
the Colorado River basin, Coloradans need the tool of LWCF to protect public land access,
critical drinking water supplies, and community resources."

Colorado legislators from both parties have jumped aboard the LWCF train. Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet are cosponsors of the Senate reauthorization measure, while Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder), Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Arvada), Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver), Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) have signed on in support of the House measure. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs), serves on the Natural Resources Committee and voted in favor of advancing the legislation, the Colorado Sun reports.

Gardner and Bennet, original cosponsors of the Senate measure, co-authored a July 24 guest editorial in the Boulder Daily Camera championing the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

"LWCF is a critical tool for fulfilling our basic responsibility to give the next generation the same opportunities our parents and grandparents gave to us. It is time for Congress to stop the serial, short-term extensions of this program and make LWCF permanent with the full dedicated funding it deserves," they wrote.

Jonathan Asher, senior representative for the Wilderness Society, called actions in the House and Senate "really great signs," but predicted that legislation reauthorizing the fund is more likely to pass as part of next year's budget than as a stand-alone bill.
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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Pueblo could become "Colorado's clean energy hub" with coal plant closures

Posted By on Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 1:00 AM

  • Jeffrey Beall

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission gave Xcel Energy unanimous verbal approval Aug. 27 to close two of the three coal-fired units at Pueblo's Comanche Generating Station, 10 years ahead of schedule.

Xcel will also invest $2.5 billion in renewable energy, including wind and solar generation and battery storage, as part of its Colorado Energy Plan. The plan was approved Aug. 27 by a 2-to-1 vote, says Utilities Commission spokesperson Terry Bote.

Currently, about 80 people work at Comanche Generating Station's two coal-fired units, Xcel spokesperson Michelle Aguayo says. Some current employees will be retiring when the units close in 2022 and 2025, she adds, and the rest will be trained to work in other jobs with the company.

One future project would include a new solar facility to power Pueblo's EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel, though that project needs to secure approval from the Utilities Commission separately. Xcel and EVRAZ recently agreed to a 22-year contract that clears the way for a potential $500 million expansion at the steel plant, the Pueblo Chieftain reports.

Xcel estimates that its new energy plan will mean Colorado could get 53 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2026 — an increase from 28 percent last year. The company also predicts the plan will save ratepayers $213 million, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions 60 percent from 2005 levels (though Bote says some Utilities Commission staff members thought those figures were overstated).

In 2017, 44 percent of Colorado's energy came from coal. The new plan would reduce coal dependence to just 24 percent by 2026, Xcel claims.

“By making this step change now, we reduce future fuel costs for the long term – and we can pass those savings directly along to our customers,” Alice Jackson, president of Xcel Energy—Colorado, is quoted in a company statement from the plan's June unveiling. “Our plan takes a significant step forward in transitioning our supply mix to cleaner and more diverse resources, benefiting our customers and the environment.”

Xcel's Colorado Energy Plan also includes solar and wind projects in Adams, Baca, Boulder, Kit Carson/Cheyenne, Morgan, Park and Weld counties. Pueblo County would be a leader, with 525 megawatts of solar power and 225 megawatts of battery storage.

“With approval of this plan, Pueblo is poised to become Colorado’s clean energy hub," David Cockrell, chair of the Colorado Sierra Club's Conservation Committee, is quoted in an Aug. 27 statement from the Sierra Club.

A new partnership between Pueblo Community College and NextEra Energy Resources would also push the city closer to that goal. NextEra plans to install 52 solar panels on Pueblo’s campus, and “provide training and curriculum to help the college create a pipeline of skilled workers for the rapidly evolving industry,” according to an Aug. 24 statement from the school.

The number of solar-panel installer jobs in the U.S. was expected to more than double between 2016 and 2026, according to projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, Colorado Springs Utilities has two solar projects coming online in 2020, after which 15 percent of its energy portfolio will come from renewable sources, says Utilities spokesperson Amy Trinidad. Currently, 11 percent of Utilities’ portfolio comes from renewables.

Colorado Springs’ controversial Martin Drake Power Plant, built in 1925, is slated to close no later than 2035 — though the Utilities Board, which is made up of City Council members, has toyed with the idea of accelerating the deadline.

Trinidad says the earliest the utility could have the infrastructure in place to allow for the closure would be 2023.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional reporting.
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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

City worker berated after Hillside park funding pulled

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Activist Victoria Stone speaks to Hillside community members at the Living Word Baptist Church. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Activist Victoria Stone speaks to Hillside community members at the Living Word Baptist Church.

About three dozen people packed into Living Word Baptist Church Aug. 10 with their young children, neighbors, friends, and — in the case of Colorado Springs City Councilor Bill Murray and El Paso County Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez — their constituents, for a Hillside neighborhood meeting fraught with tension.

They were there to discuss and defend the Leon Young Pavilion, an aging wooden structure near the corner of Corona Street and Fountain Boulevard on the southern end of the Shooks Run trail. It's named for the city's first, and only, black mayor.
We reported last month on community members' efforts to use $150,000 in community development block grant money to revitalize the pavilion. Though the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department has the pavilion on a list of structures "to be addressed," meaning it's likely to be demolished at some point, and the Community Development Division was ready to give Hillside the grant money to build something new, hopes to have the structure torn down and rebuilt were rejected by Parks ostensibly on the grounds that might interfere with the decades-in-the-making Legacy Loop trail plan.

Problem is: The trail is already laid in the park, and thus it's not clear why a new structure would be in the way. And then there's the fact the city parks appears to have lavished funds on large parks or parks in wealthier neighborhoods.

In a southeast neighborhood that's long felt ignored, the change in plans made some people angry, and inspired them to rally around a piece of their neighborhood that's considered not only an integral part of its character, but also a monument to a Colorado Springs trailblazer.

For many neighborhood residents, Parks' offer to revisit the structure for the next grant cycle, looking at minor beautification projects such as adding picnic tables instead of replacing the pavilion, wasn't enough.

The Leon Young Pavilion is near the southern end of Shooks Run trail. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The Leon Young Pavilion is near the southern end of Shooks Run trail.
"$150,000 would make that park something that we could honor," activist June Waller said. "If we had the $150,000 we could take care of that now. Our babies could play in that park now."

Tilah Larson, a representative from Parks who fielded protests from community members, reiterated that the project "was not something we could accommodate at this time" because of two "pending, very large infrastructure projects": the Envision Shooks Run and Legacy Loop plans.

The Legacy Loop, a planned trail system that incorporates the Shooks Run Trail, and circles the greater downtown area, was first envisioned a century ago. There is no timeline for completing it, and the project is complicated by steep costs and stubborn landowners.
The Leon Young Pavilion sits near the Loop’s southern end and, as previously noted, already has a wide, smooth trail in place that goes around the structure. And Catherine Duarte, a representative from the city’s Community Development Division who worked with the city to identify the pavilion as a space for federally funded improvements, says she looked at the city’s plans and didn’t find any reason to believe the project would interfere.

Since they didn't think the pavilion would get in the way of the city's plans, said activist Mia Ramirez, community members didn't approach the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board until it was too late to work out a solution.

Replacing the pavilion, Larson says, is "not something [Parks is] comfortable with because when this planning process [for the Legacy Loop] comes to fruition, you’re going to see the possibility of adding a ton of new park elements down there... What we don’t want to do is put a new structure and then in a few years from now sit there and go, 'I wish it would have been here,' or 'If only we would have done this,' because that’s not a good use of federal funding."

But that argument didn't hold water for some neighbors at the meeting, frustrated that grant money was going to Memorial Park instead of Hillside's aging, splintering pavilion named for Leon Young.

Several women took turns raising their voices at Larson, who stayed on the defensive, backing up Parks' actions at every turn.
"The funds are there," said Hillside resident Sharon Dickerson. "It sounds like [improving the pavilion] could be done right away, but I’m getting that the city is saying, 'No, we can’t do anything about what you want to do until we decide what we’re gonna do.'"

One resident, Deborah Harvin, held up the neighborhood's damaged sidewalks as an example of why Hillside feels neglected. She says that although people visiting downtown walk through the neighborhood regularly, the city won't pay to fix the sidewalks.

"Thousands of people...come down our streets, use our neighborhood to get to that park or to get to that park, and you’re not gonna buy us sidewalks?" she said.

Joan Clemons, the director of Hillside Community Center, intervened to say that if people were upset, they should come to the city's public meetings and speak their opinion about development projects at every opportunity.

"The community needs to find out what’s going on in their community," she said. "You can’t beat somebody up for something that you’re finding out about now."

But Stephany Rose Spaulding, an outspoken attendee and the Democrat running against Rep. Doug Lamborn in the 5th Congressional District race this year, said the city wasn't making enough effort to solicit input from Hillside, a neighborhood known for poverty and high crime rates as well as racial diversity.

"(Outreach) might look very different in the way that we reach out to this specific community about what is happening," Spaulding said. "It might not be, 'come to our stuff,' it might be, I need to show up at your house to have this conversation so that you all don’t feel left out of the process....to make sure that the most vulnerable of us are brought into the conversation."

The city has scheduled an open house Aug. 21 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Hillside Community Center (925 S. Institute St.) to discuss current and planned Parks projects, CDBG grants and applications, and homelessness issues. City Councilors Richard Skorman and Tom Strand will attend along with city staff.
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Friday, August 3, 2018

Urban deer: Officials set tentative timeline for culling

Posted By on Fri, Aug 3, 2018 at 2:26 PM

A mule deer crosses a road on the Air Force Academy. - U.S. AIR FORCE/MIKE KAPLAN
  • U.S. Air Force/Mike Kaplan
  • A mule deer crosses a road on the Air Force Academy.

City Councilors' plans for dealing with Colorado Springs' overpopulation of deer are moving forward, though not quite at the pace they'd originally hoped.

At a meeting Aug. 3, officials from Colorado Parks and Wildlife met with city staff and Councilors Merv Bennett, Don Knight and Andy Pico to review staff research on deer population control.

The consensus: It's too close to the end of the season to attempt to allow urban hunting, but officials hope to get the ball rolling on Council action soon so professional shooters can "bait and cull" a few dozen does by this Jan. 31. (After that, some does will be too far along in their pregnancy to kill without raising social and political concerns, says Frank McGee, area wildlife manager for state Parks and Wildlife.)

The first step in the process is for the city to issue a request for proposal, or RFP, for an outside company to create a management plan. The plan will have to include information about the best places in the city for commercial hunters to bait and cull deer, most likely using rifles. Location is important because although hunters would work at night for safety reasons, many city parks that might be a hotspot for wildlife are also popular with homeless campers.

The city will probably be able to issue an RFP for the management plan in the next couple of weeks, says Deputy Chief of Staff Bret Waters. Money for that study could come from the city's excess revenue this year, says Councilor Don Knight, adding that funding would have the mayor's support and "we [Council] don't have to appropriate the funds before we put out the RFP." For culling to occur this January, State Parks and Wildlife needs that plan by Oct. 1, McGee says.

The next RFP would be for culling companies, who would coordinate that process.

A plan probably wouldn't be able to make its way through City Council until the end of this year — assuming the ordinance changes needed to allow culling had support — meaning that the selected company would have about one month to shoot does. Knight suggested that the goal should be to take out 50 deer in the first month of 2019. Next year, the city could hopefully allocate enough money to cull "100 to 200 for next September," Knight says.

State Parks and Wildlife has said that in order to reduce Colorado Springs' deer population (currently 2,700) by one-half, 200 does would need to be "harvested" every year for the next five years. Alternatively, 95 does could be harvested each year for the next 10 years. Cost estimates calculated in March showed that culling 200 deer would cost the city between $115,000 and $250,000.

Officials say culling deer is necessary because Colorado Springs has reached its "biological carrying capacity" of deer. Many of the animals are infected with chronic wasting disease, which apparently reduces quality of life.

Data from the Colorado Springs Police Department, according to a presentation at the meeting, shows 192 reports of incidents involving "vehicles vs. wild animals" between 2015 and 2017. (That also includes wild animals other than deer.)

The deer are also creating ecological damage by feeding on plants, McGee says.

The statistics don't mean there's not an obvious PR problem with killing hundreds of deer within city limits.

To illustrate: McGee points out that one problem possibly contributing to urban deer overpopulation is people feeding deer on their property. Sometimes, they're even indifferent to the state's $50 fine for each offense.

"We've had people tell us before, 'I'll continue to pay these tickets'" in order to keep feeding deer, McGee says.

Councilor Merv Bennett recalled a time when he and his wife would have "40 to 50" deer a day on his Cedar Heights property near Garden of the Gods, because "we could not get [a neighbor] to stop feeding them."

One solution officials have proposed to placate deer-loving citizens is to donate the deceased animals (that have tested negative for chronic wasting disease) to Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado. Potentially, they could give deer meat to animal sanctuaries such as the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide, but Knight thinks feeding the meat to humans would make a culling plan "easier to sell" to the public.

Officials mulled having state Parks and Wildlife cull a few deer in a city park, such as Ute Valley Park, sometime in the near future as "proof of concept." Parks staff would keep a low profile for such a test run.

Additionally, councilors plan to look at cracking down on deer feeders, possibly raising fines or creating new regulations.

A town hall on the deer issue will be held Aug. 15 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. (A previously scheduled meeting for Aug. 23 has been canceled.)
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Thursday, August 2, 2018

Colorado's new vehicle-emissions standards in question

Posted By on Thu, Aug 2, 2018 at 3:19 PM

Traffic along Interstate 25 near Interquest Parkway. - U.S. AIR FORCE/DON BRANUM
  • U.S. Air Force/Don Branum
  • Traffic along Interstate 25 near Interquest Parkway.

Barely a month after Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announced that Colorado would join California and 11 other states to adopt stricter vehicle-emissions standards, the Trump administration has tried to hit the brakes.

A 978-page document from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department, unveiled Aug. 2, proposes repealing Obama-era guidance for automakers that requires all new vehicles produced after 2025 to have an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon. The new policy would continue increasing requirements until 2021, freezing mandatory fuel efficiency at 36.9 miles per gallon.

The Trump administration's announcement also creates a potential roadblock for the states that have joined California in creating a Low-Emissions Vehicle Program under the Clean Air Act to imposes stricter standards for automakers. The EPA says it wants to withdraw the states' waiver to depart from federal standards, in part because "[a]ttempting to solve climate change" is "fundamentally different from [the Clean Air Act's] original purpose of addressing smog-related
air quality problems" (see p. 31).

Those states include Colorado, as per Hickenlooper's June 19 executive order that came in response to news that the administration was rolling back requirements.

According to the statement, Colorado will:
• "develop a rule to establish a Colorado LEV program, which incorporates the requirements of the California LEV program; and
• propose that rule to the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission during its August 2018 meeting for possible adoption into the Colorado Code of Regulations by December 30, 2018."

Hickenlooper doesn't plan on backing down in light of the proposal's release:

The Trump administration is making the odd claim that allowing automakers to make their cars less environmentally friendly could save 12,700 lives by 2029. The numbers are based on an April report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The reasoning? Looser regulations will make it easier to produce new cars, which are safer than old cars.

"Already, the standards have helped drive up the cost of new automobiles to an average of $35,000—out of reach for many American families," reads a statement from Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao and Andrew Wheeler, the acting EPA administrator. "Compared with the preferred alternative outlined in the proposal, keeping in place the standards finalized in 2012 would add $2,340 to the cost of owning a new car and impose more than $500 billion in societal costs on the U.S. economy over the next 50 years.

"Due to these increased costs, Americans are holding on to their older, less-safe vehicles longer and buying older-model vehicles."

Conversely, the Obama administration found that improving standards would lead to about 100 fewer auto-related casualties, the New York Times reports.

The proposal won't be finalized until the end of this year, after a period of public comment, and is likely to meet opposition from states, activists and industry groups.

Colorado Moms Know Best, an activist group that has been vocal about vehicle emissions, released a statement Aug. 2 condemning the administration's actions.

"Trump is reversing protections for our kids, and parents demand to know why," Jen Clanahan, the advocacy group's "Head Mom," is quoted in the statement. "Trump ought to be ashamed of himself.

“A bright spot in the country right now is Colorado with Governor Hickenlooper’s leadership and his recent Executive Order that encourages Colorado to adopt low emission vehicle standards. We hope to see strong standards that help ensure Colorado has the cleanest air in the nation. Our children deserve it.”
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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

EPA invites community members to speak about PFC contamination

Posted By on Tue, Jul 24, 2018 at 8:57 AM


Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency will visit Colorado Springs on Aug. 7 and 8 to hear from community members about perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), toxic chemicals used by the Air Force for firefighting, that contaminated water supplies in Colorado.

Members of the public who've been affected by PFCs in their drinking water can sign up online for three-minute speaking slots Aug. 7 between 4 and 10 p.m. A working session, also open to the public, is set for Aug. 8 from 9:45 a.m. to noon.

Both events will be held at the Hotel Eleganté, located at 2886 S. Circle Dr.

The Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition and Fountain Creek Water Sentinels are among organizations speaking at the Aug. 7 event, says Liz Rosenbaum, cofounder of the coalition.

Rosenbaum says the Clean Water Coalition has been working with the EPA to ensure there's plenty of time for residents to voice their opinions.

"I absolutely think something good will come out of this," Rosenbaum says. "Because it’s the first time the community can be heard."

The Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition was among organizations across the country that protested the EPA's unwillingness to let community groups, journalists and even legislative staff attend a national summit on PFCs in May.

Since then, EPA representatives have visited a New Hampshire community affected by PFCs, and will visit Pennsylvania on July 25.

Aquifers in the Security, Widefield and Fountain areas that were affected by PFCs are now safe for drinking, officials say, after the city of Fountain began treating water through a new process. The Clean Water Coalition is still pushing for health studies to learn more about the effects of the contaminants, Rosenbaum says.

And tests recently showed PFCs in several groundwater wells that supply drinking water to north metro Denver, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced July 12.

The Denver Post reports that South Adams County Water and Sanitation District officials found levels of PFCs ranging from 24 parts per trillion (ppt) to 2,280 ppt in 12 wells along Quebec Parkway near Interstate 70. That's up to 32 times more than the EPA's current acceptable limit for PFCs, which is 70 ppt.

However, a study released June 20 by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry suggests that safe drinking water should contain less than 12 ppt.

All together, the contaminated wells in Denver supply water to 50,000 residents across 65 square miles, the Post reports.
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Monday, July 23, 2018

Springs Utilities to power 30,000 more homes with solar

Posted By on Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 9:25 AM

Clear Spring Ranch 10 megawatt solar array. - COURTESY OF COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy of Colorado Springs Utilities
  • Clear Spring Ranch 10 megawatt solar array.

Colorado Springs Utilities
 recently signed contracts for two solar energy projects totaling 95 megawatts, enough to power 30,000 homes annually. The Palmer Solar Project and Grazing Yak Project will increase the Springs Utilities solar energy production to 130 megawatts when both projects are online by the end of 2020. That will bring the Springs renewable energy portfolio to 15 percent of summer generating capacity.

The 60 megawatts Palmer Solar Project will be built by juwi Inc. of Boulder, and supply Springs Utilities under a 20-year contract. juwi will develop and operate on a 500-acre site on Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District property in El Paso County, north of Monument. The Palmer Solar Project breaks ground in the first half of 2019 and plans to be online by December 2020.

North America's largest generator of solar and wind power, NextEra Energy Resources, will develop, build and operate the 35 megawatts Grazing Yak Project. That project, beginning in early 2019 and operational by late 2019, will operate under a 25-year contract with Springs Utilities.

Springs Utilities will purchase the energy generated by the new projects for a 20-year fixed rate of less than $31 per megawatt hour. Colorado Springs Utilities spokesperson, Amy Trinidad, tells the Indy the utility does not expect the projects to result in a rate increase from the current $87 per month average electric bill, and any potential increase will not exceed one percent of the current bill.

"We are under guidance from the utilities board that no more than one percent of our customer's residential electric bill can be used for the purchase of renewable energy," says Trinidad. Springs Utilities' Energy Vision's goal of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020 could fall short because of the one percent cap, which the Indy reported on in more detail last December. 

"Well, it's an either/or. It's 20 percent renewables for our generation or we hit that one percent bill impact cap," says Trinidad. Upcoming renewable energy options presented to the Springs Utilities' Board could provide the opportunity to meet that 20 percent.

Colorado Springs Utilities is updating its Energy Vision between now and May 2019 to update renewable energy goals and include long term planning. The public comment period has yet to be announced. 
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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Recycled goods from Colorado Springs find many end users

Posted By on Thu, Jul 19, 2018 at 12:40 PM

#2 plastics, mostly laundry detergent containers, likely to become drain material in Ohio. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • #2 plastics, mostly laundry detergent containers, likely to become drain material in Ohio.

Recently, we published a post on the ways China's National Sword policy is affecting recycling in Colorado. Now we're looking at where your waste becomes a valuable commodity.

As mentioned, most waste enters the stream via single-stream recycling. From there it goes to a sorting facility where it's separated by a combination of machines and manual labor. The sorted material is bundled together where it's sold and sent elsewhere to become a new product. Most of the time that transaction is facilitated by a third-party broker.

For example, most of Colorado Springs' Bestway Recycling transactions go through Chicago-based National Fiber, which moves 10,000 tons of material per month.

"[Take] a 20-ounce soda bottle, that's PET- polyethylene terephthalate #1," says Clint Cordonnier, Logistics Manager of Bestway Recycling. "I send approximately three loads of that a month to various mills in [places] like Richmond, Indiana, it goes a lot to Mohawk Industries in Athens, Georgia, where they make carpet out of it." Bestway generates about three 40,000-pound truckloads of #1 plastics per month.

Cordonnier says #2 plastics, High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), are separated into two categories: colored and natural. The colored #2s are mostly laundry detergent containers, while milk jugs comprise 99 percent of the naturals. About 40,000 pounds of HDPE plastics leave Bestway every month. Most of it will go to Advanced Drainage Systems in Waterloo, Iowa, to become drain material, according to Cordonnier.

Even before the National Sword policy, Bestway worked to keep products domestic.
Cordonnier in front of a bail of #1 plastics, the majority of which will be sent to Georgia to become carpet. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Cordonnier in front of a bail of #1 plastics, the majority of which will be sent to Georgia to become carpet.
"I personally would prefer to keep it here (the US). It seems the freight is a lot less when you're not sending it to one of the coasts or a port and them putting it on a sea container and sending it to another country," says Cordonnier. "It creates jobs here."

Right now, paper is the only product leaving Bestway that ships abroad. Before standards changed last year, it mostly went to China. Now it ships to Mexico. Cardboard mostly goes to Lawton, Oklahoma, to where it's pulped and turned into drywall.

Marcus Redden, Floor Manager at Bestway Recycling's Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), has a unique perspective on recovered materials. He points at a bundle of crushed can with "702" written on the side and says, "at 45-cents for aluminum and 702 pounds, that's over $300 right there."  

All metal products leaving Bestway stay in Colorado Springs and go to either Western Scrap or Colorado Industrial Recycling. Colorado Industrial Recycling, which processes 60 million pounds of metals per year, sends all of its aluminum cans to Atlanta where Novelis, the world's largest recycler of used beverage cans, turns it into another aluminum can. An aluminum can is infinitely recyclable with an average "can-to-can" lifecycle of two months.

Surprisingly, with all the recent changes, prices have remained consistent for Bestway. However, they have had to purchase a new optical sorting machine to try and get cleaner products.

It all depends on the quality of material according to Cordonnier. "I can speak for this facility," he says. "We invest a substantial amount of time and money on our end to get the best product possible, so we're able to sell it at a higher price."

(The Indy reached out to a number of recycling services for comment on their end users, but citing the competitive industry, many declined to share that information.)
Bails of aluminum. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Bails of aluminum.
Materials not recycled are products wasted. The Integrated Solid Waste and Materials Management Plan estimates Colorado throws $267 million worth of recyclable material into the landfill every year. That's largely because 40 percent of Coloradans don't recycle at all.

"Last year, for the first time ever, Colorado set voluntary recycling goals for the state as a whole and then for the Front Range and rural communities," says Ecocycle Communications Director Harlin Savage. "That was a big step forward because we didn't have goals before that time." Ecocycle's 2017 State of Recycling in Colorado says collecting better data is the number one recommendation for achieving recycling goals.

The Colorado Solid and Hazardous Waste Commission's goal is to meet the national average diversion rate of 35 percent by 2026, and become among the national bests at 45 percent by 2036. Compare that to California, who currently has a 47 percent diversion rate with a 2020 goal of 75 percent.

It's worth noting, the Colorado Association for Recycling (CAFR) chose Colorado Springs for a pilot recycling program starting at the end of last year and aimed at attracting young people to recycle more paper and cardboard. The program shows the clear environmental and economic benefits of recycling.

Colorado Springs does not collect recycling data.
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Monday, July 16, 2018

National Sword recycling program's impacts on Colorado commodities

Posted By on Mon, Jul 16, 2018 at 2:03 PM

Editor's note: This post has been updated to correct misreported information and figures. We regret the errors.

"The amount (of plastic) that we're producing is supposed to quadruple by 2050. So we're producing this stuff super fast, it never goes away... a lot of it we don't know how to turn into something else, and yet we continue to churn it out at an astronomical rate," says Communication Director Harlin Savage, of Boulder-base Eco-Cycle.

Commenting more specifically on China's National Sword policy, Savage adds, "So that is something that with China doing what it did is kind of a blessing, or a wake up call, that we need to change our relationship to plastic to something that is more sustainable, or healthier, for the planet."

That National Sword policy began on Dec. 31, 2017, banning several types of solid waste, and increasing inspection of recyclable imports to a .3 percent contamination rate. According to University of Georgia research, China has taken 45 percent of the world's plastic waste since 1992. And 4000 shipping containers of recyclables per day from the U.S. alone.

Only nine percent of all plastics ever produced have been recycled the same research shows. Eight million tons of plastic goes to sea every year, according to Ecowatch. By 2050, that will mean more plastic in the ocean than fish. And plastics are six percent of global oil consumption, projected to be 20 percent by 2050. UGA projections estimate the National Sword's restrictions could leave 111 million metric tons of displaced plastic by 2030.

China's reason? Cleaning up pollution issues by reducing the amount of potentially valuable recycling that ends up as waste. Simply put, dirty recycling, a negative effect of single-stream recycling.

The Indy wrote about single-stream recycling when it came to the Springs back in 2009. At the time it led to a 100 percent increase in participation for the simple reason that it's easy to throw all your recycling in one bin and then put it on the curb once a week. Then sorting facilities, aka materials recovery facilities (MRF), separate each individual item of waste, aka commodity.

"We take the separation — I don't want to say headache — out of the customer's hands," says Clint Cordonnier of Bestway Recycling in Colorado Springs. Bestway offers their curbside pick up and sorting service to 50,000 residential customers for an additional $5.50 a month on top of trash.

Bestway relies mostly on manual sorting off a conveyor belt to sort materials. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Bestway relies mostly on manual sorting off a conveyor belt to sort materials.

According to Vice President of Recycling Brent Hildebrand of Denver's Alpine Waste & Recycling, as part of National Sword, China is seeking a .5 percent contamination rate on cardboard and 1 percent on paper.

Bestway's contamination rate is .6 percent. Cordonnier says that's either due to dirty material, or waste that isn't properly sorted. He says they measure by actually opening bundles of sorted material, going through it again and seeing what doesn't belong. So the National Sword's original .3 percent rate was extremely difficult to achieve, that rate changed to .5 percent beginning in March.

Sorting recycling. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Sorting recycling.

"It's kind of hit us in a number of different directions," says Hildebrand, adding that quality restrictions have forced Alpine's Altogether Recycling to slow down its system so materials are easier to sort. On top of slowing down, Hildebrand has had to add labor to help with sorting material. Machines do most of the sorting at Altogether, but they are imperfect and need quality control to pull out any unwanted items. Hildebrand says the recent changes have led to a 15 to 20 percent slow down in production.

Beyond slowed production, an increase in the supply of plastics in the U.S. have driven prices down. "The quality restrictions have created what I would call a glut of tons domestically," says Hildebrand. "So you have local mills that have plenty of materials coming out of them, good material, too. That's driven the price down, of course."

Bestway has seen the biggest impact in the export of paper.

Clint Cordonnier at Bestway Recycling showing how much excess paper he had at one point. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Clint Cordonnier at Bestway Recycling showing how much excess paper he had at one point.

"Now paper on the other hand, paper has dropped. You can't send it over there, it doesn't leave you a whole lot of options," says Cordonnier. "So we are still able to move paper like we want to just at less of a price and it's going to Mexico." He says at one point excess paper was backing up his MRF, crowding a bay door and encroaching on the dock. Now two train cars sit outside Bestway filled with paper waiting to be transported south.

Overall, the National Sword's impact on Colorado has been minimal due to the efforts of MRFs to distribute domestically.

"Fortunately, I have worked extremely hard to develop domestic relationships to where it has not his us like it has other people," says Cordonnier. He says for long time he hasn't sent plastics overseas, but kept them in the U.S.

For the time being, Hildebrand says Alpine has avoided any excess supply at their facility. He credits keeping a high quality of material since they opened 11 years ago. "Alpine is known for high quality. So it's material that has a good reputation so typically mills or buyers want our material."

In Colorado, the bigger issue may be the amount going to waste. Estimates by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment show Coloradans recycle about 12 percent of total waste, well behind the national average of 35 percent. Which makes Colorado one of the 20 most wasteful states in the country, tossing $267 million worth of recyclable material every year.

Colorado Springs may be even worse, Ecocycle's 2017 State of Recycling Colorado estimates El Paso County diverts 11 percent. Those numbers are not clear because the Springs does not track recycling rates. 

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

City Council passes creekside camping ban

Posted By on Wed, Jul 11, 2018 at 6:00 PM

A trash pile near the confluence of Shooks Run and Fountain Creek. - MATTHEW SCHIPER
  • Matthew Schiper
  • A trash pile near the confluence of Shooks Run and Fountain Creek.

City Council voted 6-2 to approve a creekside camping ban that's generated both outspoken support and bitter opposition since city employees introduced it in May.

The ban, targeted at the homeless camps near creeks, will specifically ban all municipal camping within 100 feet of a public stream. Violations would be punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and/or up to 189 days in jail.

It's already illegal in Colorado Springs to camp on public property, and has been for years. But police currently have to give camp occupants 24-hour notice (under department policy, not city code) and ensure there’s shelter space available before dismantling camps. The new ordinance
will presumably do away with those requirements.

Councilors Yolanda Avila and Bill Murray were the two "no" votes, with Councilor Andy Pico, who has supported the ordinance, the lone absentee.

Murray was unsatisfied with the ban, he said, because he hadn't "heard a clear explanation of how we’re going to enforce it." The actual text of the ordinance doesn't mention enforcement specifics.

Before the final vote, Councilor David Geislinger moved to amend the ordinance to delay implementation until Aug. 10. That motion failed 5-3, with Councilors Geislinger, Murray and Skorman voting in the minority.

Before that vote, Councilor Jill Gaebler emphasized other steps the city was taking to address the homeless issue, including the possibility of a "homeless court" to address infractions by those experiencing homelessness, and Mayor John Suther's alleged statement that local nonprofits will add around 300 low-barrier beds this fall.

Gaebler said one primary reason she supported the ban was trail safety, a topic that supporters of the ordinance brought up at a recent town hall.

"It is a huge issue for our community members who pay their taxes and want to be able to use their trails and open space and feel safe in those areas," she said.

Currently, the Colorado Springs Police Department's Homeless Outreach Team, along with several other designated officers, is responsible for issuing most citations for the public camping ordinance that already exists.

Lt. Michael Lux, who oversees the HOT Team, said he wasn't sure what changes the new ordinance would bring.

"I’m waiting for clarification on how they want to address this issue," he said. "It's kind of confusing for everybody right now."
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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Celebrate Bike to Work Day winners with Mayor John Suthers

Posted By on Tue, Jul 3, 2018 at 2:05 PM

The city's PikeRide bike share program launched last month. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • The city's PikeRide bike share program launched last month.

Bike Month may be over, but let's not forget about the stars of this year's Bike to Work Day.

Mayor John Suthers will announce the winner of the Corporate Challenge, the best breakfast station, the 2018 Commuter of the Year, and the winners of head-to-head competitions on Monday at Trail's End Taproom.

The Corporate Challenge offered businesses the chance to prove their commitment to health and the environment, as measured by employee participation. Companies were separated into “classes” based on the size of their workforce and given a score.

This year, 45 companies and organizations ranging in size from 2 to 5,000 employees went head-to-head, according to a statement from the Bike to Work Day Steering Committee.

The suspense is mounting: Initial calculations of the corporate winners were incorrect, due to an error in the formula that counted participants who'd registered in two or more breakfast locations. The city will update its website with the correct winners in coming days, according to the announcement.

The Bike to Work Day Awards and Recognition Celebration will be held Monday, July 9, from 5:30-7 p.m. at Trail's End Taproom. Bike parking will be available, and organizers encourage guests to ride.

In other cycling news: The city just launched PikeRide, a bike share program that allows riders to check out a pair of wheels for free. Brave reporter Bridgett Harris tested them out for last week's cover story.
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Monday, July 2, 2018

Fireworks: All you need to know about fire and fun on the Fourth of July

Posted By on Mon, Jul 2, 2018 at 2:50 PM


As wildfires rage across Colorado, several cities and towns have decided to call off their public fireworks displays this year. But there's still places to get your Fourth of July fix:

Summer Symphony: Memorial Park 
All of the streets in Memorial Park and many of the surrounding streets are closed from 2 to 10 p.m. July 4. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • City of Colorado Springs
  • All of the streets in Memorial Park and many of the surrounding streets are closed from 2 to 10 p.m. July 4.

The Colorado Springs Philharmonic headlines this annual free event, also featuring activities, concessions and a 5:30 p.m. performance from Air Force Academy band Wild Blue Country to kick off the night. The Philharmonic plays at 7 p.m. and fireworks start at 9 p.m. Get there early to snag a prime spot.

Rollin' on the Riverwalk

The Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo hosts its 15th annual show on the AMR Confluence Plaza, proclaiming that "the show will go on" despite a 217-acre fire this weekend in Pueblo County (now 100 percent contained). Gates open at 5 p.m., with a 7 p.m. performance by rock 'n' roll band Doctor Fine and fireworks at 9 p.m. Admission is $3, but military and kids under 3 get in free. Vendors will have food for purchase.

Sky Sox vs. New Orleans Baby Cakes

The first 1,000 fans participating in this great American pastime — baseball — get mini flags, and everyone can enjoy a fireworks display following the game. Tickets start at $12.

Fireworks have been canceled in Cripple Creek, Manitou Springs and Woodland Park.

That's due to dry, windy conditions fueling fires across Colorado. The Spring Creek fire west of Walsenberg has burned over 50,000 acres and was 5 percent contained as of July 1, the Denver Post reports. Northwest of Cripple Creek, the Chateau fire has burned more than 1,500 acres and was 0 percent contained. And north of Buena Vista, the Weston Pass fire has burned over 4,000 acres and was also 0 percent contained, according to the Post.

Then there's the Sugarloaf fire west of Denver, the Badger Creek fire on the Wyoming border, and the 416 and Burro fires in southwestern Colorado.

So remember, leave lighting up the night to the experts this year. The El Paso County Sheriff's Office reminds residents that unincorporated parts of the county are under Stage II fire restrictions, meaning it's against the law to light campfires, sell or use fireworks, smoke outside an enclosed vehicle or building, engage in public prescribed burning, or cook outdoors on private property (propane and gas grills are allowed).

All fireworks are prohibited, and burn restrictions are in place, in Colorado Springs, Monument, Fountain, Manitou Springs, and all of Teller County.
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