San Luis Valley News
News and information from around the San Luis Valley
feed from Alamosa, Valley Courier newspaper
The Taos News newspaper
March 21, 2015, Taos Airport Adding Second Runway
Work has started to add a second runway at Taos Regional Airport, northwest of Taos, along Highway 64. During construction, the current runway has been
temporarily shortened by 1000 feet to accommodate construction equipment. The shorter runway means
about 50% of aircraft will not be able to use the airport during construction.
When finished, in about one year, the first runway will be shortened by only 420
feet to comply with federal safety guidelines, so it does not cross the new
February 12, 2015, Taos Airport Plans $24-million Expansion The
Taos Regional Airport is planning a $24-mllion expansion to add a second runway. A Taos judge has ruled he will not halt the expansion.
Opponents of the project are concerned about changes in land use and air traffic over the area, northwest of Taos, along Highway 64, near the Rio Grande River.
Opponents may appeal to the county planning and zoning commission and the county commissioners.
November 13, 2014, New Traffic Webcams Near Wild Horse Mesa: The
Colorado Department of Transportation has installed new traffic webcams on Highway 159, south of San Luis at the New Mexico
border. That location is about 5 miles south of the west entrance to Wild
Horse Mesa. The webcam facing northeast shows a view of Wild Horse Mesa and
provides a good indication of weather and road conditions in the
area. The webcams have been added to our webcam gallery page, along with
other new webcams on US Hwy 285 in Conejos County, at the New Mexico border, south of Antonito.
March 6, 2014, New Traffic Webcam Coming to San Luis: The
Colorado Department of Transportation has announced they will be installing a
new traffic webcam on Highway 159 south of San Luis at the New Mexico
border. That location is just 5 miles south of the west entrance to Wild
Horse Mesa and will give a good indication of weather and road conditions in the
area. We will add the webcam to our website when it is available. Webcams
in Alamosa and Antonito are already available.
January 5, 2014, 8:45 AM, Crash on US 160 at La Veta
Pass: Colorado State Patrol in Alamosa reports that traffic
on US 160, 2 miles west of La Veta Pass is currently reduced to one lane of
alternating traffic between mile markers 275-276 due to a crash involving a car
and a semi. One fatality is confirmed. Expect delays. Roads are icy
and snow packed. Temperature 4 degrees, wind 7 MPH. Update 1:45 PM:
US 160 at La Veta Pass is completely open again.
June 26, 2013, Wildfire: The East
Peak Wildfire is located in a forested area near East Spanish Peak,
in southern Huerfano County, 8 miles southwest of Walsenburg. Size is over
13,000 acres, 12 homes have been lost. Over 750
firefighters are assisting. The pre-evacuation status for Walsenburg has
been lifted. Radio station KSPK in Walsenburg is providing frequent news
updates on the wildfire. You can listen
online. Due to the dry conditions, there is a fire ban in Costilla County.
September 14, 2012, Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area
Land owner and conservationist Louis Bacon has donated a
conservation easement on nearly 77,000 acres of his 81,400-acre Trinchera Ranch
to help establish the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area, in partnership with
the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Colorado Open Lands. This is in
addition to an adjacent 90,000 acre conservation easement on his Blanca Ranch.
The new Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area will be part of the National Wildlife
Refuge System and help preserve the heritage of the land in its undeveloped
state. See press
sheet and map from US Fish and Wildlife Service.Mountain-Prairie
June 15, 2012, $2 Million Project Planned at Sanchez
A project is underway by the Sanchez Ditch and Reservoir
Company to replace the 100-year-old, 150-foot concrete gate tower at Sanchez
Reservoir, east of Wild Horse Mesa. Design work will be completed in 2013,
with construction to begin in the fall of 2014 and project completion in March
2015. The old gate tower near the dam will be demolished with explosives
and laid over into the reservoir. It will be replaced with a new tower and
gates to control water flow to the surrounding farmland in the San Luis
area. See story
in the Valley Courier.
June 10, 2012, Horse Abandonment on the Rise in the
The struggling economy, drought, rising cost of hay, closing
of horse slaughterhouses, and overflowing horse rescue centers are combining to
cause an increase in horse abuse and abandonment by owners in the
Southwest. Unwanted horses are being sold at auctions for export to
slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada. A Roswell, NM businessman is trying
to open the first horse slaughterhouse in the US in five years, but is meeting
delays in the application process due to the volatile opinions on this
topic. In Colorado, investigations for horse abuse and neglect have
increased more than 60 percent since horse slaughter was banned in the US. See story
in Albuquerque Journal.
May 31, 2012, Six Ailing Horses Abandoned in Costilla
Authorities are looking for the person
that abandoned six domestic horses near San Luis, on County Road 10 near County
Road Z. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information that leads to
the responsible party. Anyone with information can call the Costilla
County Sheriff's Office, Colorado Humane Society or Crime Stoppers. See article
in the Denver Post. Update: The horses are now getting
treatment at the Harmony
Equine Center in Franktown. One horse was so sick and malnourished it
had to be put down. They hope to nurse the horses back to health and then
put them up for adoption in several months. See story
and news video from KKTV. See story
in the Valley Courier.
February 25, 2012, Town Water Supply Contamination in
A water sample taken on February 21
showed the town water supply for San Luis is contaminated with E. coli
bacteria. Residents are under a boil water advisory until further
notice. No water-related illnesses have been reported. Centennial
School has canceled classes for next week. Free bottled water is available
to residents at the San Luis fire station, 300 Gaspar St. Municipal water
should be boiled rapidly for at least three minutes. Discard ice
cubes. Flush household water systems. For more information go to www.SanLuisValleyHealth.org
Update: Feb. 28th, 5:00 PM, End of Boil Water Advisory- The State Water
Quality Control Division has granted approval to the San Luis Water and
Sanitation District to resume services as usual. Residents must first
flush their water lines according to posted instructions before using water.
5, 2011, Hell's Gate Fire Near La Garita
A fire in Rio Grande National Forest burned 78 acres near
Hell's Gate, a rock formation in Penitente Canyon, on Saguache County Rd 40G, about 18 miles north of Del Norte,
west of La Garita Trading
Post. Fifty personnel from volunteer fire departments in Saguache, Alamosa
and Rio Grande Counties, US Forest Service firefighters, and a Hot Shot crew
from BLM in Craig responded, as well as water drops from a fire fighting plane
from Cañon City. The SLV American Red Cross provided food and
assistance. Poso and Storm King Campgrounds off County Rd 41G were evacuated.
No structures were damaged and no injuries were reported. The steep and
rocky terrain helped to limit the fire. The cause of the fire is suspected
to be human related, not weather related. Winds were not a factor, but the
area is dry. The area is popular with rock climbers.
June 2, 2011 Forest Fires Creating Smoke in San Luis
Forest fires in northeast Arizona
and Taos County, New Mexico are creating smoke which is drifting across the San
Luis Valley. In Taos County, the Osha Fire, in the Carson National Forest,
about 20 miles south of Taos, near Sipapu Ski area on Highway 518, has burned over
600 acres. It was
caused when a falling tree downed a power line, and has closed the highway and
caused residents to evacuate the area. Smoke from the Wallow Fire,
southeast of Show Low, Arizona is also migrating east. The Colorado
Department of Public Health and Environment has issued a Smoke Health Advisory
for the San Luis Valley, northeast to Colorado Springs. CDPHE has also
issued a Blowing Dust Advisory for several areas including the San Luis Valley,
due to strong southwest winds carrying dust long distances. Individuals
with heart disease, respiratory illnesses, the very young and the elderly should
limit prolonged exertion. View Colorado
Air Quality Map.
13, 2011 La Veta Pass webcam to be upgraded in July
The Colorado Department of
Transportation (CDOT) will be upgrading the antiquated black and white webcam on
La Veta Pass and several other remote locations, in July, to a new generation
camera with improved communications. The new camera will be similar to the
color camera currently used on US 285 at Jefferson
(near Fairplay). Communication improvements will include a more powerful
cellular antenna and modem. There is no standard electrical power at the
site. The camera is powered by solar panels with limited capacity. A
wind powered turbine generator may be added to provide additional power.
The new equipment will improve the quality of the webcam images from La Veta
The location is also part of a weather
station network. A regional computer server contacts the site, by dial-up
modem, and other remote locations from Raton Pass to La Junta, to collect webcam
images and weather information. The regional server then passes the collected
information on to the central server and eventually to the CDOT website at COtrip.org
to display traffic webcams and road conditions to the public. Due to the
slower dial-up technology used, the webcam snapshot is currently updated about
once every 30 minutes. More frequent updates are under
[Photo: trucks on La Veta Pass in snow storm, looking west toward Mount Blanca,
webcam photo from May 14, 2010, 8 PM]
(see WildHorseMesaColorado.com for the live webcam
from La Veta Pass)
May 9, 2011 Fatal crash near La Veta Pass closes
Highway 160; 2 Dead, 2 Hurt
A fatal head-on crash near La Veta
Pass, 10 miles northeast of Fort Garland, near mile marker 268, around 11:18 am this morning closed
Highway 160 between Fort Garland and Walsenburg, from mile markers 258 to
304. Two people are dead and 2 others suffered injuries according to the
Colorado State Patrol. Two medical choppers were called in. The road
closure began at 11:30 am and was reopened just before 3 pm. Road
conditions were dry with high winds. Alternate route is US 285, US 50.
A Pueblo woman, Natasha Garcia-Reed, 25, driving
a 2005 Chevrolet Colorado pickup, headed westbound, was apparently speeding and
passing in a no-passing zone, and collided
head-on with a 2005 Ford F-250 pickup, driven by Henry Vasquez, 59, of Elbert. Both drivers
were killed. The truck was also hauling a horse in a horse trailer. The horse
was not injured. Vasquez's wife, Louise Vasquez, with
moderate injuries, and a child in the Chevrolet, with critical injuries, were
taken by helicopter to Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. The crash is
(see WildHorseMesaColorado.com for the live webcam
from La Veta Pass)
May 7, 2011 Wild Horse Inmate Program (WHIP) in Colorado
Wild horses tamed by prison inmates in Canon City, Colorado
are being used by the US Border Patrol. Read
Sept 2, 2010 Air Force Proposing Flight Training
Over Southern Colorado
FORCE BASE, N.M. (AP) - The Air Force is proposing a low-altitude training area
over northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. The Air Force is seeking
public comments about its intent to do an environmental assessment to evaluate
potential environmental consequences.
The Clovis News Journal (www.cnjonline.com)
says the training area, called a low-altitude tactical navigation area, would
provide airspace for training operations involving C-130 and CV-22
aircraft. The airspace would be used by Air Force Special Operation Forces
at Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis in eastern New Mexico.
The Air Force says training would consist of
about three sorties in a 24-hour period, or about 688 flights annually. It
says aircraft would fly 200 to 3,000 feet above ground level, and most flights
would be after dusk and on weekdays.
July 22, 2010 Costilla County Sheriff to Provide
San Luis Police Services
Due to a city budget deficit, the town of San Luis,
population 739, has laid off its police force of 5 part-time officers, police
chief and maintenance staff. Sales tax revenue and property tax revenue
are both down due to the slow economy. The town's board of trustees has
signed an agreement giving the Costilla County Sheriff the authority to provide
police coverage to the town, including patrol services and criminal
investigations. Another decision to rehire the police force will be made
once the budget deficit is cleared, hopefully by the end of the year.
March 2010 Weather Spotters Wanted in
The National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Office
(WFO) is looking for additional weather spotters in southern Colorado. During winter season, these citizen volunteers are asked to primarily report snow depth and occurrences of ice, wind, and fog, and during the warm season, severe weather conditions such as
severe thunderstorms, large hail, heavy rain, flash floods, high winds and tornados, etc. and directly report them to the weather service in Pueblo via their toll-free number.
No special skills are needed. SKYWARN training is available. Useful
equipment includes a ruler or yardstick to measure snow depth and hail diameter,
wind gauge, rain gauge, weather log book, weather radio, and a good observation
point. If you are interested in being a weather spotter please call NWS at
719-948-3371 (Pueblo) or 719-589-3232 (Alamosa). For more information
Spotter Field Guide.
December 30, 2009 Colorado Resources to
Help You Quit Smoking
Make a resolution to quit smoking and there are some free and low
cost resources to help you save money, save your health and save your
life. The Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Alliance (CTEPA) and
the Latino Statewide Tobacco Prevention and Education Network (LSTPEN) want you
to know about the resources available to Colorado residents that use
tobacco. Programs include the free Colorado Quit Line (1-800-QUIT-NOW)
with coaching support in English and Spanish and nicotine patches.
Medicaid also offers low cost stop-smoking medications. An estimated 18%
of Colorado residents are smokers, costing the state more than $1.3 billion per
year in health care expenses. Stop smoking. Call for help.
the full press release
December 2009 Family Dollar Store Grand Opening
on January 14th in San Luis
Low priced national retailer, Family Dollar, plans to open
their new 8,000 square foot store on Main Street in San Luis on January 14th. Started in 1959,
the chain currently is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It has over 6,600
stores in 44 states. (See FamilyDollar
October 7, 2009 Western Wild Horses May Be Moved
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is proposing to move wild horses
– for many an iconic image of the wildness of the West – to controlled
preserves in the East or Midwest. More than 33,000 wild horses live in 10
Western states, where they have no natural predators.
Link from NewWest.net online news source
September 4, 2009 Viaero Wireless to Install 3
Cell Phone Towers Near La Veta
Huerfano County Commissioners approved 3 new cell phone towers
near La Veta that will improve cell phone service in
Huerfano, Custer and Las Animas counties, and the San Luis Valley. The La
Veta guy wired tower will be 120 feet high, northwest of La Veta airstrip, .4
miles from Highway 160. The Sangre guy-wired tower, near Old La Veta Pass,
will be 185 feet high, off Highway 160 (see map for tower
site). A "strong" tower,
without guy wires, will be 185 feet high, along Highway 69, near Badito,
northwest of Walsenburg. The towers may each hold up to 6 microwave dish
antennas, each 6 feet in diameter. Construction is planned to be completed
before winter. Viaero is a roaming service partner for AT&T and
T-Mobile. Broadband Internet service is also being considered by the Fort Morgan based
company that provides wireless services to rural areas. www.viaero.com
September 2, 2009 Family Dollar Store Coming to
Low priced national retailer, Family Dollar, plans to build a
new 8,000 square foot store on one acre on Main Street in San Luis.
Construction should start soon and take about 120 days. Started in 1959,
the chain currently is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It has over 6,600
stores in 44 states. (See FamilyDollar
September 1, 2009 Valley-Wide Health Systems
Closes Old Health Clinic in San Luis
The old San Luis health clinic, built in 1957, has closed.
A new health clinic was built last year, but will not be operational for months
until Medicare licensing is approved. Meanwhile patients will need to
travel to Alamosa or elsewhere for medical services. Valley-Wide may bring
in a mobile health clinic, if funds and staff are available.
August 17, 2009 UnitedHealthcare Launches Rural Telehealth Program
Connected Care Telehealth uses
advanced two-way audio, video and medical equipment technology to connect
patients in rural areas with physicians and specialists located many miles
away. Equipment will be installed initially in early 2010 at 4 rural
health clinics to be selected. Eventually may be available for in-home use for a
high-tech "house call". Read Connected
Care article (See video
section for Connected Care demonstration)
Follow-up: November 28, 2009 Buena
Vista, Del Norte, Lamar and Leadville chosen as pilot Telehealth sites.
August 12, 2009 Excellent 2009 Potato Harvest for
San Luis Valley
Near ideal weather this season has helped to produce an excellent potato crop
that will be harvested soon from 56,000 acres. Peak shipments should occur
in mid-September. Recent USDA reported prices were $14 per 50-lb carton
for Idaho russet 40-70s, down from $22 last year.
Link The Packer
July 20, 2009 Colorado accepting grant
applications for rural broadband internet
The state will accept the applications
until August 14. The applications will help Colorado get its share of
more than $7 billion in federal stimulus money designed to improve the
nation’s high-speed internet infrastructure. The announcement last week
is only one of several efforts that the state is making to attract as much money
as it can from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA).
The state is promising to give priority to applications that provide internet
services to community anchor institutions such as schools, libraries and medical
providers, use existing infrastructure, enhance internet services to underserved
areas, and show long-term sustainability.
Release Announcing Federal Grant Applications for Broadband Internet in Colorado
Internet Grant Public Meetings, streaming videos from Denver
Colorado, non-profit working to bring broadband Internet service to
all areas of Colorado
July 1, 2009 Colorado Water Laws Permit Rain Water Collection in Rural Areas-
New water laws effective on July 1, 2009 now
permit limited rain water collection on residential properties in rural areas.
Rain Water Collection Laws. (So far, 2009 has been a very good
year for spring run off, precipitation and recharging of well levels, lakes,
reservoirs and the aquifer in the Rio Grande Water Conservation District.)
July 2009 US Highway 160 Resurfacing, east of Alamosa-
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) started a 7-mile long
resurfacing project on US 160, east of Alamosa, on July 13, with a
scheduled completion date of September 21. The section runs from
mile point 233, just west of SH 17, to mile point 240. Motorists will
encounter single-lane, alternating traffic from 8 am to 7 pm, Monday through
Thursday, (and some Friday work). 20 minute delays possible.
Funding is from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). For
more information, visit www.cotrip.org.
Please drive safely and "slow for the cone zone".
July 2009 Second Runway Under Study at Taos Regional Airport-
A draft version of an environmental impact report is being written in July 2009
to study construction of a second runway at Taos Regional Airport. A new
east-west runway would reduce safety concerns of crosswinds. Winds
frequently blow perpendicular to the existing north-south runway, sometimes
making landings challenging. Hearings and comment periods will follow
before the FAA makes a final decision.
July 2009 Four Solar Energy Study Areas in San Luis Valley-
The US Department of Energy (DOE) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are
studying four areas on BLM lands in southern Colorado for utility-scale solar
energy development. Some of the study areas may become solar energy zones
in the future. The public comment period ends on July 30,
2009. Map of Colorado
solar energy study areas.