An extra $1.7 million lying around? In order to qualify for funding to complete Taylor Canyon road construction—the final phase of the project would repave Taylor River Road from Wilder on the Taylor to George Bailey Drive in Almont—the county has to come up with about $1,690,000. That’s 17.62 percent of the total cost of the project, according to director of public works Marlene Crosby.
She explained to the county commissioners that the new transportation bill now requires local matches for transportation projects. She was initially hopeful that the match requirement would not apply to projects in their final stages of design, but the county will be on the hook for the funding in 2013 or 2014. Crosby proposed delaying the purchase of new equipment to free up about $450,000, and finance staff helped identify about half a million dollars in sales taxes over two years, and half a million from other sources that the county can consider setting aside for the match. “It’s not insurmountable, just reprioritizing,” said county manager Matthew Birnie. The commissioners were supportive of finding the funds to finish a project that has been in the works for a long time and for funding that leverages so much out of county money. Analyzing the sage grouse listing The county commissioners gave county wildlife coordinator Jim Cochran their blessing to assemble formal comments on the proposed listing of the Gunnison sage grouse as an endangered species. Comments on the listing and the designation of 1.7 million acres as critical habitat for the species are due to the Fish and Wildlife Service by March 12. “I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t want you to put together comments,” said Commissioner Paula Swenson. She and the commissioners asked that Cochran pay particular attention to whether the local sage grouse population can be managed differently from other populations, given the protections already in place. Cochran agreed to do so and said he and the Gunnison Sage Grouse Strategic Committee will also be looking at the implications of a nine-month review period as opposed to the standard year. A court settlement between the Fish and Wildlife Service and environmental groups stipulated that a listing decision be finalized by the end of September, and that reduces the review period by three months. Expect lingering issues from drought Bureau of Land Management Gunnison field officer Brian St. George told the Board of County Commissioners to expect lingering issues from last summer’s drought—primarily, in vegetation—even if current conditions turn around and the valley sees plenty of snow this winter. “With some of [last summer’s] late monsoons, we were seeing plants flowering in October. The plants are upside down in the Gunnison basin when that happens, so we are very concerned about conditions coming out of this winter,” St. George said. He added that the agency is working on a drought strategy in anticipation of continued dry conditions, including meeting with the Stockgrowers Association to talk about contingency plans for another dry summer.
Travel Management Plan St. George also acknowledged that the Travel Management Plan had caused some ripples throughout the valley. He informed the commissioners that when implementation begins, conflict can arise with the public. St. George said when that happens, the BLM does reevaluate the decision. “The plan and those decisions are designed to be flexible. We do need to try to stand by the original decision as best we can, but if there is a real situation where people are drawing attention to something that we missed in the planning process, then we should and do take a look at that,” St. George said. He indicated that the BLM would plan public meetings at the start of the next implementation season to let folks know about plans before actual work began.