Mountain Town News: A push to rename Confederate peak, Jackson readies bag ban |

Mountain Town News: A push to rename Confederate peak, Jackson readies bag ban

Jefferson Davis’ name may be be replaced on Tahoe-area peak

MARKLEEVILLE, Calif. – Locally elected officials have recommended that a volcanic plug near Lake Tahoe named after Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America during its brief existence, be renamed with a phrase used by the indigenous Washoe tribe of native Americans.

The 9,065-foot-high Jeff Davis Peak had drawn silver miners in the past, many of them Southern sympathizers. describes the mountain as “little known and rarely climbed” but “unquestionably the most impressive summit in the Lake Tahoe area.” Even by its easiest route, the plug is an “interesting, airy, and occasionally spicy class-4 scramble.”

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that elected officials in Alpine County have recommended the peak be renamed “Da-Ek Dow Go-et,” a named proposed by the local Washoe tribe. The name in their language means “saddle between points.”

The newspaper says that an insurance salesman and history buff from San Rafael, a city in the San Francisco Bay Area, proposed the Confederate leader’s name be removed. As a replacement, he recommended the name of a businessman responsible for stringing the first telegraph wire over the Sierra Nevada. Local officials instead solicited advice of the Washoe.

The U.S. Board on Geographical Names has final say. But support of the local county commissioners for a name proposed by a local Native American tribe makes it more likely to be approved, the Chronicle observed.

Alpine County also recommended the board change the name of another Squaw Ridge, near the Kirkwood Ski Resort, one of two ski areas within the county. The word “squaw” is often considered an ethnic and sexual slur, although it may have derived from a non-derogatory Algonquin word meaning the totality of being female.

So far, there seems to be no movement to rename Pickett Peak, another geographic feature near Lake Tahoe named after a Confederate general.

However, another Jeff Davis Peak — this one in eastern Nevada’s Great Basin National Park — has sparked a renaming effort. In that case, the proposal to rename it after an escaped South Carolina slave was rejected by the federal agency.

Ban on plastic bags finally in the works in Jackson Hole

JACKSON, Wyo. – Elected officials in Jackson have decided that it’s time to crimp the distribution of single-use plastic bags. Still to be decided is exactly how the crimping will be done.

“As a community, we pride ourselves on being a leader in mountain towns and try to set a good example, but we are slacking on this,” Ashley Watson told the Jackson Town Council last week. “I think we can do better and make a difference if we start with plastic bags and move to straws, move to forks, Styrofoam, and really make our community a leader in this situation.”

Watson owns a home-grocery delivery business called Mountains of Groceries. She says she was among about 10 people who began connecting within the last year about their common desire to substantially remove the presence of disposable plastic.

As a destination, says Watson, Jackson needs to set an example. “People come to us from all over the place, and maybe they’ll be impacted by what we’ve done and they’ll take (the idea) home.”

The Jackson Town Council first considered a bag ban 2011, soon after California and Colorado towns and cities began taking up the matter. But the town’s mayor, Mark Barron, frowned on what he considered too much government intrusion into the affairs of businesses.

Other ski towns have adopted a variety of bans and fees. The most restrictive apply not just to grocery stores, but to all retailers. In Jackson, that’s the preference of Watson. “I don’t think it’s fair to single out one type of store when all plastic is causing the problem,” she said.

A survey of the town’s largest merchants by a city employee showed both support and at least mild opposition. Albertson’s, the largest grocery store, already has a robust recycling program of plastic bags and aids the local community recycling program. Local bags get transported to Salt Lake City and eventually to Nevada for manufacture as plastic wood.

Even when people do collect them, plastic bags have limited use, according to a memo by Johnny Ziem, of the town’s public works department. Plastic bags are inherently contaminated with liquids, paper receipts, and food items such as onion skins,” he wrote. “Therefore, the number of plastic bags that can be recycled is limited by contamination of the bags themselves.”

The Environmental Protection Agency in 2015 found that 9 percent of all plastic bags were recycled, 12 percent were incinerated, and the remaining 79 percent ended up in landfills.

Or, as the Jackson Hole New&Guide noted, they end up in oceans. In early May, a plastic bag was found by researchers at the bottom of the Marianna Trench, 36,000 feet beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. A World Economic Forum report recently found that the world’s oceans could have more plastic by weight than fish by 2050.

What fish swim in now is ending up in the fish — and in humans. The Los Angeles Times notes a recent study by the University of California-Davis of seafood sold at markets in Half Moon Bay, between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Researchers found that one-quarter of fish and one-third of shellfish contained plastic debris.

Ireland and other countries around the world took action first. A town in Manitoba was the first in north America in 2007, followed soon after by San Francisco and then a flood of other cities, including the ski towns of Truckee, Mammoth Lakes, and South Lake Tahoe.

California now has a state-wide ban on plastic bags. The number of plastic bags collected on the most recent annual Coastal Cleanup day dropped by more than 60 percent compared to 2010, notes the LA Times.

In Colorado, Telluride took action in 2011, followed by Aspen, Carbondale, and Boulder, then Breckenridge, Vail and, most recently, Avon. Crested Butte adopted a ban in 2016 that will take effect in September 2018. Park City, Utah, also has a plastic bag ban.

As California tends to lead the United States in all things environmental, plastic straws will be up next and also plastic bottle lids. The LA Times notes that six bills were introduced into the legislative assembly this year concerning plastics.

The bills were motivated, in part, to studies documenting the broader plastic pollution in water, not just in oceans. The LA Times points to a study by Patagonia, the clothing manufacturer, that found that microfleece jacket could release more than 1,000 milligrams of microfibers each time it is washed. Laundry machines today are not equipped to filter out microfibers, usually less than 5 millimeters long, and up to 40 percent of microfibers pass through wastewater treatment plants.

Legislators say no one wants to drink a glass of water and wonder if they’re also downing a glass of plastic.

A time for beer, polka and a 21-gun salute in Crested Butte

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – On Memorial Day, explains Mark Reaman, editor of the Crested Butte News, his town has a different feel. It’s then that the old-timers or their descendants return, those who were in Crested Butte when it was a mining town, not a ski town. That shift occurred in the 1960s.

“Veterans from the old Crested Butte families will squeeze into their old military uniforms” and “greet their old friends, reminisce about the previous year and chat about their old stomping grounds that are now the site of million-dollar houses.”

Writing in advance of the holiday, he predicted a Catholic mass at the cemetery in the morning following by a 21-gun salute and then a potluck. Then later in the afternoon would be a polka.

“There you will be taken back to a simpler time in Crested Butte. No one will be talking about increasing visitor numbers or appropriate density. The afternoon will be full of solid people, beer, and dancing,” he wrote.

They will not, he added, complain about changes in Crested Butte, having long ago accepted that their town is a different town than when they or their parents labored in the local coal mine.

More beans and higher garlic prices in this year of drought

SANTA FE, N.M. – Burgundy, maroon and other colors of distress continue to spread on maps of drought in the American Southwest.

The Colorado towns of Telluride and Durango are in the distressed splotch of maroon. In New Mexico, so is Taos and other communities along the Rio Grande as it flows toward Santa Fe.

Originating in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, the river is carrying only one-sixth its average springtime flow.

“The river should be in runoff, but it’s really, really low,” orchardist Danny Farrara told the Santa Fe New Mexico. “Old-timers say they have never seen the Rio Grande completely dry up, but it might.”

At Embudo, between Taos and Santa Fe, the river flow in mid-May was 340 cubic feet per second, compared with 3,390 cfs on the same date last year. The U.S. Geological Survey data has shown worse, but not much.

Some farmers are planting beans and other crops that require less water. Others are sticking with their usual, but planning to charge more.

Stanley Crawford, a garlic farmer at Dixon (and author of several acclaimed books, including “The Garlic Testament,” is among the farmers who sells at the farmers market in Santa Fe. He has an acre planted in garlic but expects modest results, a shortcoming he intends to counteract with a price increase of 25 percent.

The New York Times explains that the Rio Grande is a classic “feast or famine” river, with a dry year or two typically followed by a couple of wet years that allow for recovery.

But climate change may well make recovery more difficult if the accumulating greenhouse gas emission make wet years less wet and dry years even drier.

Temperatures in the Southwest increased by nearly two degrees Fahrenheit (one degree Celsius) from 1901 to 2010, and some climate models forecast a total rise of six degrees or more by the end of this century, notes the Times.

The paper also points out that warmer temperatures in winter produces more precipitation that falls as rain rather than snow in the San Juans. Again, that diminishes the springtime runoff.

Aspen ready to relinquish reservoir sites on creeks

ASPEN, Colo. – What will Aspen do for water if, in the future, the climate turns both drier and hotter, as most models indicate?

That is not clear. But town utility officials have indicated they’re ready to abandon plans laid in the 1960s to possibly build dams on two creeks that flow through the town. The water rights filed by the city and then affirmed formulaically over the years would have resulted in two relatively small reservoirs back up into the Maroon Bells Wilderness Areas, several miles from the city. If relatively small, the reservoirs could have required dams of up to 15 stories in height.

But the settlement agreement scheduled to be reviewed by the city council members this week would end the possible dams.

Aspen currently gets water for its 6,000 permanent residents and crowds of up to 30,000 from the surface of the two creeks, Maroon and Castle Creek. Plus, it has a 9-acre-foot holding pond at the city’s water treatment plant. The reservoirs could have been much bigger, together holding 13,500 acre-feet.

Two years ago, Aspen Journalism drew attention to the plans, causing an uproar in the local environmental community. The settlement agreement has been agreed to by five groups, including the local Wilderness Workshop and the Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates. Settlement with five more groups will be needed before the deal is sealed – and the if the city council signs off. The council meeting was to take up the issue Tuesday evening.

Rob Harris, an attorney for Western Resource Advocates, said the over-riding lesson from the Aspen case is not that all dams are bad. Rather, it’s that water planners got carried away during the dam-building splurge of the mid-20th century.

“We don’t have to be bound to what people saw over a half-century ago, in terms of meeting water challenges, in terms of climate change impacts, and in economic and regulatory realties. WEe should be having modern solutions to modern problems.”

Where could water be stored for a dry day if these reservoir sites are abandoned? Climate models have forecast much longer summers in coming decades. However, the models are unclear whether there will be more precipitation or less.

“Storage reservoirs, which can retain water from season to season and year to year, can provide water supplies even during times of shortage,” said Margaret Medellin, in a memo to the city council. “Without water storage, the city will have no meaningful back up if surface supplies are greatly reduced. To mitigate this risk, the city has included future reservoir storage in its long-range plans.”

Assuming the agreements are reached, the city will file in Colorado water courts for relocation of their reservoir water rights to one or more new locations. The city has identified several possible underground aquifers suitable for storage.

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