Welcome to CARbondale and carbon spill

by Steve Skinner, Aspen Daily News Columnist
Carbondale is undergoing the excitement of long-range master planning right now and I have two words for the power brokers: R.O.

R.O. as in “resident occupied.” There’s nothing that adds vitality to a town like people. And so, I would like to humbly suggest that whatever further residential development that is allowed to go forth in Carbondale have the one simple caveat that someone has to live in the dwelling.

A lot of places that are special end up as shells of their former glory because the residents and workers have been priced out. Most resort communities respond to this by allowing obscene building to continue while forcing owners to provide a wedge of deed-restricted “employee housing.”

That’s backwards. We should allow only so much obscene housing only after a certain amount of owner-occupied housing has been filled. Second- and third-home opportunities exist all over the valley. According to one study, 60 percent of Aspen’s housing is comprised of second homes vacant on average for 277 days per year. That’s not really working for Aspen. Don’t let it happen to Carbondale.

The other thing I’d like to suggest is a very radical idea to some: Close Main Street. Turn it into a destination, not the shortcut off Catherine Store Road as it is now. After nearly being run down by a service pickup on Main Street a few weeks ago, I thought it might be time to revisit the idea.

I’m not kidding. I was crossing the street when a pickup intentionally sped up to force me off the street, my Main Street. The guy was using Main Street as a shortcut and I was in the way of his Friday evening activities. Go sit at the corner of Fourth and Main at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and get set for the benzene ballet of cars, trucks, service vehicles and the rest. Stop at the sign and floor it, leaving a blue cloud of diesel and dust. It’s your right.

As long as downtown Carbondale is like this it won’t be as wonderful as it could be. I’m mostly concerned with getting the most wonderfulness out of life as I can and downtown CARbondale is close but still no cigar, certainly not the whole enchilada.

Meanwhile, near Parachute a large “hydrocarbon” plume is working its way toward Parachute Creek and although official word of the spill first leaked on March 8, some are saying that this spill has been going for a year. Officials have confirmed that the plume is 60 feet from Parachute Creek which flows into the Colorado River. Williams Midstream’s Parachute Creek Natural Gas processing plant is ground zero for the toxic mess which has been likened to something about the same volume as the hot springs pool.

Still, officials from Williams are assuring the public that there is no threat to drinking water. Colorado Water Quality Control Division Director Steve Gunderson called the spill a “significant release,” and added that contamination of the creek continues to be a “real possibility.”

Considering that Williams says that they do not know where it’s coming from or what it is exactly, we’d better take their assurances with a grain of oily salt.

Some people in Parachute are very upset because they were not notified until a week after the spill was “discovered.”

The bottom line is that these industries do not always use best practices unless forced. The impacts are often hidden from the general public until it’s too late. Energy as a commodity is a human weakness. In a perfect world we would conserve energy, extract energy with reverence and respect for the environment, and work toward leaving some of the world for future generations.

We are living in a giant terrarium; 2.5 percent of the world’s water is fresh. We’re not getting any more. We are pulling fresh water out of rivers and aquifers at an alarming rate, adding fracking chemicals to it and then putting most of the contaminated wastewater into containment wells. (Some of these have caused earthquakes but that’s another story.) So, fresh water is going away forever in a closed system. What on Earth are we doing to ourselves?

Steve Skinner thinks we’ll find out soon enough. Reach him at nigel@sopris.net.