News Roundup: Gold King Settlement, COVID Surge, Purgy Expansion

12/17/2021

San Juan Basin Public Health reports that area ICUs are near capacity. Sunnyside Gold Corporation agreed to a settlement with Colorado on the Gold King Mine Spill. And more. Sponsored by Service Master Restore and Closets Plus

Area intensive care units are nearing capacity as COVID cases surge in La Plata County. The Sunnyside Gold Corporation has settled with the state of Colorado over damages from the 2015 Gold King Mine spill. And the forest service gives preliminary approval for purgatory's proposed expansion plans. These stories and more on your local news network, Roundup, brought to you by ServiceMaster Restore and Closets Plus. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. San Juan Basin public health reports that intensive care units in their region are near capacity in both La Plata and Archuleta Counties. With more than 90% of COVID related hospitalizations occurring among residents who are not fully vaccinated. With Colorado's tier 3 hospital transfer plan in effect local COVID patients could be transferred out of the area if local hospitals reach capacity. As of December 13th, La Plata county has experienced more than 7,200 reported COVID cases with 65 deaths since the first report of COVID in Colorado in March, 2020. That represents nearly 13% of the county's population. Vaccinations are now available for everyone ages five and older. For more information about vaccination availability, visit sjbpublichealth.org The state of Colorado and the Sunnyside Gold Corporation have reached an agreement for $1.6 million to settle natural resource damage claims, related to the Gold King Mine spill into the Animas river drainage in August, 2015. According to a news release from Kin Ross, Sunnyside's parent company, the agreement does not include an admission of liability or wrongdoing and limits Sunnyside's future liability for environmental claims in the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site. Sunnyside never owned or operated the Gold King Mine. The spill occurred early in the morning of August 5th, 2015, when environmental protection agency contractors accidentally released 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater from the Gold King Mine into the Animas river. Scientists have speculated that when the Sunnyside portal was closed, water from those tunnels rose through the mountain to breach the Gold King Mine adit. The Gold King Mine is one of 48 mines in the Silverton area that has been included in a superfund cleanup program to reduce the discharge of metal-laden toxic water into the Animas watershed. To learn more about the Gold King Mine spill and the Superfund program, visit epa.gov. Many of Durango's favorite trails are closed for the winter to protect wildlife. Lower trails on city, state and federal lands, cross critical wintering ground for big game as well as spring-nesting Peregrine Falcons. Big game migrate to lower elevations in winter and they need to preserve every calorie to make it through to spring, when they give birth to fawns and calves. Closures include the Bodo State Wildlife Area, the Perins Peak State Wildlife Area, Big Canyon and Sale Barn trail, the South Rim trails, Grandview Bureau of Land Management trails accessed from Three Springs, upper loop of Animas Mountain and all upper trails as marked in the Twin Buttes open-space area. Closures are clearly marked and users who violate the closures may be fined. The San Juan National Forest has given preliminary approval to a draft environmental assessment that will allow purgatory ski resort to build a new four-person, detachable chairlift, four new beginner ski trails and a snowmobile access route. The expansion is located in the Ice Creek area on what's known as purgatory's backside. In the draft decision, the forest service noted that the Ice Creek project is nearly identical to the project analyzed in the ski area's 2008 improvement plan. The record of decision for the 2008 plan noted that the Ice Creek improvements are an approvable project. Purgatory is expected to begin work on the new area this spring, as soon as the ski area closes. To learn more, visit fs.usda.gov/sanjuan, then click on the land and resource management button. Thanks for watching the local news network's Roundup. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. See more of our stories at durangolocal.news

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