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Saturday’s Symposium: Water, Water, Water!

Water, it’s the life source in Saguache Today and the entire San Luis Valley. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell

Organizers of the very first “State of the Basin Symposium” announced one more heavy hitter will be added to the speaker list at this Saturday’s event: Former U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar.  

The Washington D.C. heavy hitter and former Colorado Senator will join the state’s new Attorney General Phil Weiser for a day of brim-filling water data. Looks like the Centennial State’s spotlight will be in Alamosa at the end of this week.

The inaugural Rio Grande “State of the Basin Symposium” will be held from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, on the Adams State University (ASU) campus. the event is free and open to the public.

Center stage will be the nearly 1,900 miles of a major waterway once described by western legend Will Rogers as “the only river I know of that is in need of irrigating.” And for San Luis Valley farmers and ranchers, that statement rings even truer today.

Ken Salazar

According to the Rio Grande’s official website: “From its headwaters in the San Juan Range of the Colorado Rockies to the Gulf of Mexico at Brownsville, Texas, the Rio Grande draws from 11 percent of the continental US, with much of that being drought-prone land. That vulnerability is compounded by scores of dams and irrigation diversions, which has left significant portions of the river dry in recent years. In 2001 the river failed to reach the Gulf of Mexico for the first time. In 2002, it happened again.”

That was nearly two decades ago. Today, the accelerating crisis has brought the waterway’s situation far beyond a startling quote or present day “meme.” In fact, it’s that uncertain future that will bring local stakeholders, along with ASU student leaders together with county, state and federal officials in Alamosa near the river’s headwaters in the San Juan Mountain Range for a day-long information exchange.

“As part of an emerging Water Education Initiative at Adams State, the Salazar Center aims to help ‘grow the next generation of water leaders,’” said Salazar Center Director, Linda Rio de la Vista. “We are working with the Valley’s many water partners to bring relevant and useful information to ASU’s students and faculty and the local community. The time is now to raise our level of knowledge on the critical water issues here, and to engage more people in community-based efforts for a sustainable water future. We need everyone’s help to make that possible.”

A number of knowledgeable local experts and teachers will address topics of Rio Grande Basin Water Management 101; Groundwater Management and Subdistricts; the Water Economy; Water and Land Conservation and Acequias; Water, Wildlife, and Restoration of Rivers, Streams and Wetlands; Water and Education; Water and Recreation; and Water and Soil Health.

Local water leaders will also present overviews and updates on key aspects of our current water conditions and challenges. Craig Cotten, Division 3 Engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources, Cleave Simpson, General Manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and Chair of the ASU Board of Trustees, and Heather Dutton, Manager of the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District (SLVWCD) and the Rio Grande Basin Representative on the Colorado Water Conservation Board will speak in the morning session in the Richardson Hall Auditorium.

Adams State University’s Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center and the RGWCD are hosts of the event. Additional sponsors include the SLVWCD, Conejos Water Conservancy District and the San Luis Valley Irrigation District.

Parking for this free event is available in campus parking lots along Edgemont Blvd. and on the east side of McDaniel Hall. Permits are not required on Saturdays.

For more information visit State of the Basin Symposium, or contact Linda Rio de la Vista, Director of the Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center, at 719-850-2255 or riodelavista@adams.edu.

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Avalanche Warnings Issued by CAIC

Remnants of an avalanche reported in the Northern San Juan Mountains on Friday, Feb. 15. Photo: Michael Ackerman/ CAIC

If you ask the locals, it’s seemed a bit more like winter in Saguache Today than in recent years. The San Luis Valley has been seeing its share of moisture this season, although more is needed to catch up with the deep reserves. But high above the valley floor is where field reporters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) have been observing weather conditions and perhaps more importantly for backcountry adventurers, avalanche danger.

And while your own winter concerns may take you no farther than getting your driveway plowed and sidewalk shoveled, it’s important to stay situationally aware of shifting snow conditions in the mountains. Not only can these storms impact traffic with an increase in snow and rock slides blocking highways and high mountain passes. But for those in the tourism industry, it’s imperative to know where to direct visitors venturing into the backcountry to find the latest conditions and tips on how to be prepared. To that end, Saguache today brings readers the following reports issued by the CAIC within the past 24 hours.

At two miles high these wind and snow whipped pines show the “powder” scars of a harsh winter. Photo: Casey Franklin/ CAIC Field Reporter.
CAIC Field Report for Sangre de Cristos Zone

By Mike Cooperstein, CAIC Forecaster (filed at 8 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 17)

Strong winds since Thursday’s storm have moved all available snow to lee-facing slopes. North through east to south-facing slopes near and above treeline are the most dangerous today and should be avoided. We have also received reports of dangerous wind-slabs in open below treeline meadows, so do not blindly jump onto steep slopes in below treeline areas either. 

It may be a few days before we know the extent of the avalanche cycle that this unusual snow event triggered, but from what we can tell it seems like most avalanches broke within or just underneath the storm snow. These avalanches were two to three feet deep and were large and dangerous. As you would expect with a storm with this high of precipitation intensity, we have also received reports of dangerous avalanches breaking near the ground or on mid- to upper-pack layers such as near-surface facets and facets around crust. The crust-facet combos are more prevalent on sunny slopes and could be buried 3 to 5 feet deep at this point. If you trigger an avalanche on one of these persistent weak layers it will most likely be inescapable.

Snow continues today with up to 10 inches possible by Monday afternoon. The new snow will be low density., and will most likely not add enough weight to trigger another natural avalanche cycle. Slopes that continue to receive wind-drifted snow will continue to be dangerous and loading will have to stop before these slopes become more stable.

The bottom line is that this was a very large load in a short period. The general trend of the snowpack is good on a seasonal scale as we are building a deeper and stronger snowpack. For today, very dangerous conditions exist and the snowpack needs some time to adjust to this rapid load.

If you are traveling in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, these mountains received about a foot of snow with strong winds. Although this a lot less snow than the San Juan Mountains, the snowpack is much, much weaker and avalanches on deeper layers or the ground are more likely. This problem in the Sangre de Cristo zone will be slow to change.

CAIC Report for Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019 at 6 AM

This morning the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) issued the following Special Avalanche Advisory for the surrounding mountains near Saguache Today:

“A strong storm on Thursday night brought 1 to 2 feet of dense snow with strong winds to the mountains. Avalanche conditions remain dangerous especially in the Central and Southern Mountains. You can trigger avalanches that break in the new and wind drifted snow that will be large enough to bury or kill you. You may even be able to trigger very large very dangerous avalanches that break deeper in the snowpack. If you trigger one of these deeper avalanches it will most likely be inescapable. Consult the Zone Summary for the areas you are planning to travel for specific information and travel advice. Make sure you carry an avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe and know how to use all of your gear. You can always limit the chance of being caught in a dangerous avalanche by sticking to lower angle terrain without steeper connected avalanche slopes above you.

February Avalanche Accident Trends

Over the last 10 years, February has proven to be the single most dangerous month for avalanches in Colorado. Over a quarter of the fatal avalanche accidents happened during this month. In the past decade, there have been 15 fatal avalanche accidents in the month of February. Eight of those accidents occurred in the middle of the month, and 4 between Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day. Historically, this weekend has been a dangerous period for avalanche accidents. But avalanche education and safety awareness can help to break that pattern.

Close Calls in January: How It Compares?

As of January 31, the CAIC has documented 57 people caught in 42 separate avalanche events. Seven of the people have been critically (head under the snow) or fully buried, and two have died. Of those, 60% of the involvements occurred in January, including both fatalities. The 56 cumulative involvements this year are far more than recorded for all of 2017-18, 2015-16, and 2014-15. Projections indicate that the 2018-19 winter season will tally the most avalanches on record with the CAIC.

About the CAIC

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) is a program within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Executive Director’s Office. The program is a partnership between the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Department of Transportation (CDOT), and the Friends of the CAIC (FoCAIC) a 501c3 group. The mission of the CAIC is to provide avalanche information, education and promote research for the protection of life, property and the enhancement of the state’s economy.

History of The CAIC

Since 1950 avalanches have killed more people in Colorado than any other natural hazard, and in the United States, Colorado accounts for one-third of all avalanche deaths. The Colorado Avalanche Warning Center began issuing public avalanche forecasts in 1973 as part of a research program in the USDA-Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station. The program moved out of the federal government and into the Colorado state government, becoming part of the Department of Natural Resources in 1983. The CAIC joined the Colorado Department of Transportation’s highway safety program in 1993. The Friends of the CAIC (a 501c3 group) formed in 2007 to promote avalanche safety in Colorado and support the recreation program of the CAIC.

Funding for the CAIC

About half of the CAIC’s funding comes from an intergovernmental agreement with CDOT to provide training and forecasting for highway maintenance operations. As part of the Department of Natural Resources, close to 40% of the Center’s funding come from the Severance Tax Fund. The rest of the funding to run the program comes from the United States Forest Service, local governments, the Friends of the CAIC, and from donations from people like you.

SLV Tourism Conference Next Week

Have you started a new business in the valley and are wondering how to get the word out? Are you interested in what’s happening with tourism in Saguache Today? Have you been wondering what’s hot at the Sand Dunes, and what’s not in Alamosa?

The opportunity to network with other businesses and find out what’s new regarding tourism in the San Luis Valley abounds at the annual conference. Come and get your name tag on next Thursday.

Then it would be worth your while to attend the San Luis Valley (SLV) Tourism Association’s annual Tourism Conference next Thursday, Feb. 21 at Adams State University in Alamosa. Did you know that the Colorado Tourism Office recently re-designated the area as the Mystic San Luis Valley Region? Come and find out what that will mean for tourism at this year’s conference, which will feature presentations about:

  • A Discussion Panel regarding the new Colorado Tourism Office region: Mystic San Luis Valley.
  • Representatives will provide updates regarding each county’s tourism efforts as well as the San Luis Valley.
  • Teamwork with Zombies – there’s always a surprise at the SLV conference?!
  • Dark Skies Updates and Discussions
  • Guest Speaker – Chris Castilian, Exec Director Great Outdoors Colorado

The mission of the San Luis Valley Tourism Association is to preserve our environmental and cultural resources by unifying our marketing efforts to promote the San Luis Valley as a tourism destination and thereby developing responsible economic growth for the six counties of the San Luis Valley.

Saguache Chamber President Barry Van Sant provides an update regarding Saguache tourism during the 2017 San Luis Valley Tourism Conference. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell.

Registration will begin at high noon and the conference will be from 12:30 to 7 p.m. on February 21. Cost for the conference is $40, annual membership in the Association is $35, or you can do both for $65.

Colorado’s 8th Highest Peak Honors Abe

Judge Wilbur F. Stone is the man most notably connected with this Colorado peak which can be found in Park County located northeast from Saguache Today. As a young man, Stone ventured west like many at the height of the big push, joining a wagon train headed for Denver which paved his path to the Rocky Mountains, ultimately landing him in the mining community of Tarryall located in South Park. It’s where he would spend the next five years as a prospector, miner, and a practicing lawyer. While Stone’s future endeavors would elevate him as far as the Colorado Supreme Court, as well as having a hand in the drafting of the state’s constitution, his early days of rugged high-alpine living carved out his love of mountaineering. And ultimately, gave a name to the lofty Presidential Peak: Mount Lincoln.

Honoring Abe: Mount Lincoln is Colorado's 8th Highest Peak at 14,286', find out more about this mighty Rocky Mountain.
Mount Lincoln is Colorado’s 8th Highest Peak at 14,286′

It was one June night in 1861 around the evening’s campfire when Stone recanted his first trek up the peak which towered above the remote mining camp. It would be one of several summits Stone would make which would eventually inspire him to submit the mighty 14er to be named after President Abraham Lincoln, who was in the midst of a Civil War at this point in American history.

In fact, it may very well have been the assassination of the beloved leader that inspired Wilbur Stone’s trek up the peak several years later in the summer of 1865 to officially record its altitude.  The following was written by Judge Wilbur F. Stone reciting the history, not only of the ascent but in the naming of the peak: Mount Lincoln.

Wilbur Stone

“One warm day in August, three summers ago, the writer of this, in company with a gentleman from Omaha, made an ascent of this peak for the purpose of taking its altitude.  Starting early in the morning we slowly wound our way from the village up through the dense pine forests until we reached the limit of timber where the pines dwindled into dwarfs a foot in height, twisted into fantastic contortions by the storm blasts of winter. Then came the carpeting of grasses and flowers, of the vegetation which terminated at the snow-line in mosses and lichens.”

While Stone originally thought the peak to be over 15,000 feet in elevation, when all was said and done he calculated the mighty Rocky Mountain giant in at 14,286′, making it Colorado’s 8th in line. And directly after his official work was recorded, like many mountaineers, Stone also discovered first hand that the weather can move in quick at that altitude, and recorded the following:

“A the end of an hour after our arrival, a storm approached from the west and swept over the mountain. In less than 10 minutes and from the time the clouds struck us, the mercury fell from 50° to zero. Fierce blasts of wind roared and shrieked among the crags and snow darkened the air. In the midst of this, we commenced our slippery descent. We soon became charged with electricity so that the hair of our heads stood on end, sparks flew from the ends of our fingers and cracked at every step with a hissing sound that could be heard a distance of 100 feet. Forked lightnings leapt two from rock to rock, and played about our heads, almost blinding the sight, but as our bodies were charged equally with the clouds and mountain, there was of course, no danger.  Black clouds rolled and tumbled over each other, a mile below us, like the uncouth with the gambols of terrible monsters in this upper ocean.  Descending through the strata of clouds, we at last reached sunlight and entered the village at dark, the whole distance along the slope from the valley to the summit, being about 10 miles.”

He had quite a tale to tell, that night around the evening’s campfire. And a mission at hand.

“Let, then, other states and other peoples raise their monuments of patriotism and of art to guild the fame of the great dead; but Colorado can point, in all time, to this proud monumental mountain, which rears itself as the gigantic spine of this continental vertebrae – she can point it out, hundreds of miles away, to the traveler as he goes from ocean to ocean on the future continental railway, and exclaim with the old Latin poet, Horace:

“I have builded a monument more enduring than brass,
And loftier than the regal pile of the pyramids.”

Happy Birthday Mr. President, Cheers to Mount Lincoln!

Workshop for Food Entrepreneurs


If you’ve ever thought about starting your own business that involves growing food, then here’s some news you can use. Or maybe you are already in the food-growing business but can’t seem to get the right answers about what the rules and regulations are for growing and selling food, please know that help is available.

Many fresh fruits and vegetables are grown in and around Saguache Today!

And for all of you San Luis Valley farmers, pull your head out of the seed-bag and take advantage of this upcoming opportunity to get all of your information in one session – from the experts! Next week’s Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) workshop is perfect for anyone looking to make their agriculture dreams come true in Saguache Today.

“I hope this workshop inspires entrepreneurs and help their businesses thrive,” said Danielle Trotta, Business Development Specialist with the Colorado Department of Agriculture. “Workshop speakers are actively engaged in the food system, and they are excited to share their expertise with others.”

A variety of food companies call Colorado home, and the state continues to be an incubator for food entrepreneurs. The Colorado Department of Agriculture is organizing an upcoming workshop to help food and agricultural businesses get started and grow. 

Saguache is part of the major hay-producing San Luis Valley region. It is also second behind potatoes as the Valley’s most harvested crop. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell

On Wednesday, Feb. 13, “Colorado Food and Agriculture Entrepreneurs” will be presented from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the CoBank Center for Agricultural Education in Fort Collins, Colo.

 This one-day workshop is designed for start-up businesses and producers considering a path into the food and agriculture industry. The workshop is organized to be fast-paced and packed with vital information needed to begin a food or agricultural business. The agenda includes topics such as resources for start-up businesses, business organization and finances, building a brand, working with retailers, labeling and beginning production factors. 

Guest speakers include:

  • Mike Hardin, Director of Business and Licensing with the Secretary of State’s Office.
  • Peter Mohr, Director of Operations for Naturally Boulder.
  • Dawn Thilmany and Becca Jablonski from the Department of Agriculture Resource and Economics at Colorado State University.
  • Brianne Rael with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
  • Many more experts from state and county entities critical to establishing a food business. 

Registration is $55 per person per workshop. Registration includes the program, workshop materials, a light breakfast and lunch. Online pre-registration is required for each event, and processing fees for electronic checks and credit card orders apply. Seating is limited and space is expected to fill fast.                                                                                                                                 

For complete agendas, more information and to register, visit www.coloradoproud.org or contact Danielle Trotta at (303) 869-9176. The workshops are sponsored by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Valley Packing and Catering and Colorado State University Agriculture Resource and Economics Department.

Rich, green pastures and farmland sit at the base of S Hill in Saguache Today. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell

Small Business News at Chamber Meeting

The Saguache Chamber of Commerce’s first general meeting of 2019 will take place tomorrow, February 5. The evening will also feature their first presenter in the popular Chamber speaker program. Come and find out what’s new with the Saguache Chamber and hear from Tom Monaco, Director of the San Luis Valley Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

Join the fun! Join the Saguache Chamber of Commerce. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell

Monaco has hit the ground running since becoming the new director for the SBDC in June of 2018. Over the last six months, he has traveled extensively throughout the San Luis Valley, introducing himself and the services offered through the development center.  

The SBDC is administered by the Small Business Administration whose mission is to promote the growth of small businesses by providing counseling and training services to start, sustain, and save existing small businesses.

“We at the SBDC can assist you with business planning, looking at financials and determining the value of the business, as well as looking at possible sources of financing,” said Monaco.

Come learn more about Monaco and his passion for small businesses. Find out about some of the exciting training programs and seminars he has been putting together for you to attend in 2019.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the County Road & Bridge at 305 3rd. St. in Saguache. The Chamber monthly meetings (as always) are open to the public. Please contact the Chamber at info@saguachechamber.org or call Barry at 719-322-7298 if you have any questions about this meeting or if you’d like to be part of the Chamber Speaker Program in the future.

Saguache Democrats Reorganizing

According to Barbara Tidd, Secretary with the Saguache County Democratic Party Central Committee, the group will be re-organizing in 2019. While the national stage sets its sights on the 2020 Presidential election, local political affiliations are seeing some changes in leadership from precinct representatives to county officers. Now is the time to get involved, because local politics is still the driving force behind civic engagement and community representation.

Saguache County Democratic Party Central Committee will be holding a re-organizing meeting on February 7, 2019, at the Road and Bridge meeting room. All are welcome. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell

So come and meet your friends and neighbors and find out what’s news at the Saguache Democrat’s Reorganizational Meeting to be held on Thursday, Feb. 7. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the Saguache Road & Bridge meeting room, located at 305 3rd Street in Saguache.

According to Tidd, ALL of the offices for the Democratic Central Committee will be elected: County Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer. If you are interested in serving in any of these positions, please attend the meeting and step up to express your interest!

“We value everyone’s input,” stated Tidd. “We want your engagement!’

Those eligible to vote at the meeting are members of the County Central Committee: officers, precinct committee persons and elected officials of the County Democratic Party. The “Call” for the Saguache County meeting was emailed per the Party Rules. The evening’s schedule is as follows:

  • Registration  – 5:40 – 6 p.m.
  • Call to Order – 6 p.m.  

Also, a vacancy committee will be selected that is authorized to fill vacancies in the county central committee and Democrat elected official positions. The group may also approve appointed precinct committee people.

Stars and stripes forever over the San Luis Valley. Democracy lives in Sagauche Today, thanks to photographer Mark Hunter.

The meeting is open to the public. All are welcome! For more information: Lynne 719-754-9163 sheebalt@yahoo.com or Barb 719-221-8434 slvbarb498@gmail.com.