Hermosa Creek better suited for dam

A real environmentalist would oppose wilderness or similar designation for the Hermosa Creek area as proposed. Rather, it should be a watershed protected area like above Monticello.

The environment is a global, not a local issue. And environmental protection means making better use of all its offerings – everywhere. If you consider all the environmental costs in mining the materials for solar panels, including for mining equipment and the fuel for it, the steel and fuel for ships, the huge amount of electrical energy required to convert the bauxite ore into aluminum (the reason Alcoa has a plant on the Columbia and Boeing is in Seattle, i.e., to take advantage of the relatively cheap and abundant hydropower) and the excess standby generation required, there is no environmental plus to solar alone. Germany is an exceptional case in that it has a ready market for all its extra solar energy next door in France, which is highly dependent on nuclear power.

There is, as yet, no way to store large amounts of solar energy and nothing in the foreseeable future, except with pumped storage. With the large amount of solar now generated in Hawaii, the power company penalizes those going solar. However, Switzerland claims to have reduced its need for new power generation by one third just by installing pumped storage – that is pumping water uphill with excess energy, when it is available, into environmentally pleasing lakes and then using it to generate power later. Just think: one-third less coal and fossil-fuel usage.

The lower end of the Hermosa is not much of a habitat for anything but is ideal for a high dam for pumped energy storage. A dam there would assure an uncontested place for the endangered Colorado Cutthroat. And as for outfitter concerns, the surest way to destroy the area is a formal wilderness or monument designation so everybody would put it on their bucket list.

Finally, Durango should trade its water intake on the ever-more contaminated Animas to one near pristine Hermosa Creek.

James Hanks


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