U.S. Senator Ken Salazar, left, and his brother, U.S. Representative John Salazar, speak to a group of local elected officials, community leaders and other members of the public in Olympian Hall at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs on Tuesday morning.

Photo by Brian Ray

U.S. Senator Ken Salazar, left, and his brother, U.S. Representative John Salazar, speak to a group of local elected officials, community leaders and other members of the public in Olympian Hall at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs on Tuesday morning.

Sen. Salazar promotes clean coal on tour of state

Transit, water use also discussed during event with Rep. Salazar on Tuesday at Howelsen Lodge

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View Sen. Ken Salazar's regional priorities for Colorado on the Web at: salazar.senate.gov/other/COregional.html

— U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., said coal would still play a role in the "clean energy future" he is promoting on a tour of the state during a two-week Senate recess.

Salazar's tour brought him to Steamboat Springs on Tuesday morning, when he met with local elected officials, community leaders and other members of the public at Olympian Hall in Howelsen Hill Lodge. The senator's older brother, U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., joined him for the event. John Salazar represents Colorado's Third Congressional District, which includes Routt County.

In addition to energy, the Salazars discussed transportation funding, water use, health care and the bark beetle epidemic.

Jim McNichols of Tri-State Generation and Transmission, which has a power plant in Craig, asked the senator about coal's role in his plans to promote renewable and alternative energy sources.

Ken Salazar said the nation's reliance on fossil fuels has compromised its "environmental security" and described the use of clean energy sources as "imperative." He did not remove coal from the mix.

"The future for coal requires the development of technologies to burn coal in a clean way," Ken Salazar said. "I think the future of coal is bright. We need to develop these new technologies so we can burn coal without compromising our environmental security. : I think it would be a mistake for us to say as we talk about this clean energy future that coal should not be a part of that equation because the amount of coal we have in this country is huge."

Ken Salazar visited Steamboat to discuss his regional priorities for Northwest Colorado. His plan identifies measures to achieve goals such as supporting a strong agricultural economy, protecting land and water and making health care affordable.

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said Moffat County could use federal help in repairing 17 miles of Colorado Highway 13 north of Craig.

"They could certainly help out with Highway 13 going north," Mathers said. "If we're going to survive, we need to bring that highway up to speed. It's the most dangerous road in the state, I think."

Watching water

Steamboat's Deputy City Manager, Wendy DuBord, thanked the Salazars for their help in securing more than $600,000 in federal funds for a Steamboat Springs Transit facility being built in Craig. Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush encouraged a further focus on transportation and asked that transit considerations be added to the senator's regional priorities.

Both Salazars discussed water issues Tuesday and said they oppose any transbasin diversions to the Front Range.

"Both of us have been on the right side of the water issues trying to keep it on the Western Slope," John Salazar said. "Our water is totally over-appropriated."

Noting a plan being studied to divert Yampa River water more than 200 miles from the Moffat County town of Maybell to the Front Range, Ken Salazar encouraged vigilance.

"We're at the point here in Northwest Colorado and the Yampa River Basin that there ought to be concerns," Ken Salazar said. "My own view is I think we need to be very watchful of these projects, some of which are being pushed by speculators."

Colorado's bark beetle epidemic, which Ken Salazar described as "the Katrina of the West," also was discussed. The senator said it would be important to keep a spotlight on the issue in Congress.

Steamboat Springs City Councilman Steve Ivancie said he appreciated the senator and congressman's visit.

"The Salazars have always been excellent about keeping us informed here in Northwest Colorado," Ivancie said. "There are a number of issues that we need to stay in tune with Congress about."

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

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