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Mountain News:

Durango goes ‘real’ too



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While the county government has some land to work with should it choose to become a landlord as well as employer, the commissioners want to explore various ideas, such as providing rent subsidies for new employees.

Mammoth expects jet traffic

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. — The Mammoth-Yosemite Airport now has permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to accommodate regional jets. Ski area officials expect to begin posting flight revenue guarantees for twice-daily flights on 70- to 80-passenger jets from Los Angeles beginning in the 2006-07 ski season, reports The Sheet, a newspaper in Mammoth Lakes.

However, the long-awaited environmental impact statement that would allow the sorts of commercial flights on larger jets that service Aspen, Vail, and other destination resorts is on hold once more, pending resolution of several land use and legal matters.

An airport has been considered to be a key step in making weekend-heavy Mammoth into a destination resort. Intrawest, after gaining a 59.4 percent stake in the ski company, made the first major step with its real-estate building binge at the base of the ski slopes.

This past week, Intrawest announced the pending sale of all but 15 percent of its stake to an investment group based in Greenwich, Conn., which is controlled by Starwood Capital Group Global. The two intend to partner on the remaining real estate development, 1,000 residential units and 30,000 square feet of commercial space. As well, Intrawest is retaining a 50 per cent in its lodging operation.

Sand sucked from creek

VAIL PASS, Colo. — When Interstate 70 was plunged through the mountains of Colorado 30 to 50 years ago, the builders vaguely knew that someday all of the sand that would be spread on the highway during winter would create a problem, but it seemed a long, long away.

Time flies. By the late 1980s, that sand was a problem at Straight Creek, which parallels I-70 from the tunnel to Silverthorne. It was similarly declared a threat in the late 1990s on Black Gore Creek, which parallels I-70 from Vail Pass to Vail.

Although not evident from the highway, there is so much sand in and along the creek that, in places, if you didn’t look up, you might think that you were on a beach. The sand is suffocating the bugs upon which trout and other fish feed. In time, the sand descending down the creek could create flooding problems in Vail.

There is no easy answer to all this. To keep the sand from washing into the creek, highway officials built 38 sediment basins, from which the sand can be collected at the end of each winter. They are also using magnesium chloride, although that only lowers the freezing point of snow and does not eliminate need for sand.