County considers environmental grant
Local air quality is becoming one of the valley’s main environmental concerns.
“Air quality in “paradise’ is deteriorating,” says county Commissioner Michael Gallagher. “Everybody looks at water problems. Let’s look at air ones.”
Gallagher particularly referred to the “brown cloud” that lingers over Avon and Edwards during the winter, when atmospheric conditions tends to push pollution down to the valley floor.
“The issue I’d like you to look into is air quality, an issue that has been ignored,” Gallagher told Kathleen Forinash, director of the county’s Health and Human Services department, at a recent Board of County Commissioners meeting at which the board directed county staff to research an environmental grant.
Air-quality and other issues could be addressed by a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program called the Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving Program. It is designed to assist community-based organizations in solving environmental and public health concerns.
By January, the EPA will be funding 15 programs with awards of $100,000 to be used over a three-year period, Forinash said.
“To solve the problems, the program uses tools developed by the EPA,” Forinash said.
The deadline to apply for the grant is Sept. 30. Last year, half a dozen communities in Colorado received more than $50,000 in grants.
The program, Forinash said, appears compatible with the Environmental Alliance for Senior Involvement.
“Eagle County was awarded a chapter of EASI earlier this year and has begun collaborative planning around water issues,” Forinash said.
Community-based organizations involved in EASI – including the Eagle Valley Land Trust and the Eagle River Watershed Council – and other nonprofits can apply for the grant, Forinash said.
The first step is to pull together people in the community and see if they want to move forward with the grant, Forinash said.
“We’re developing a list of stakeholders that might be interested in applying for the grant,” she said. “At this point we want to provide a forum for people to share information.”
Identifying other issues
Cindy Cohagen of the Eagle Valley Land Trust said she’d like to participate in identifying environmental problems.
“Collaboration always produces the best results in identifying a community issue,” she said. “I continue to be concerned about the cribbing at the Gilman mine, near Minturn. The question is, if those cribbings give, what’s going to happen to the river?”
Other environmental issues, Cohagen said, include the ongoing degradation of hillsides by off-road vehicles and mountain bikes.
“Erosion takes a long time to heal,” she said. “I think we should look at how to prevent problems, not just the ones we have now.”
Preserving the environment has been a goal for Eagle County, Forinash added.
“As a public health person, I know Eagle County has made major efforts to clean the Gilman mine. The Eagle River is in much better shape, too. There are several organizations that have helped to do it.”
People interested in attending a meeting to discuss environmental issues in Eagle County should call Forinash at 328-8858.
Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.