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Commissioner updates and toxic mine waste, fire ban, county electric vehicle plan
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Commissioner updates and toxic mine waste
County Commissioner George Marlin brought attention to the recent public meetings by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Environmental Protection Agency in his commissioner update on Aug. 2. Officials are investigating mine waste piles near residential areas within Clear Creek County, seeking possible further evidence of heavy metals like lead and arsenic that may impact surface waters.
Marlin spoke briefly on the lower amount of development in Clear Creek “during the period that we’ve watched the rest of the state explode.” He said the “legacy of toxic mine waste” could be a significant part of that, and expressed that helping developers “feel comfortable working on sites with toxic mine waste,” could be a key part of housing success in the county.
County Commissioner Randy Wheelock highlighted the fear of property owners that the superfund site encompassing the entire Clear Creek watershed — 400 square miles — could cause issues selling land for the development. He made the point that while almost the entire county is technically considered the superfund site, the CDPHE and EPA said that only specific areas are of concern, and they would be declassifying areas from the superfund as their investigation progresses.
County Commissioner Sean Wood added that he saw developmental issues having more to do with “the attitudes of our citizens and their preference for keeping things the way they’ve always been,” but he’s open to changing his thinking.
Sheriff Rick Albers spoke on the current level one fire ban at request from Wood. Albers said the most of the front range — Boulder, Clear Creek, Gilpin, Larimer — as well as the Forest Service are all in the stage one fire ban. He is comfortable taking Clear Creek out of the ban, he said, but wants to show a unified front with the other counties. He specifically pointed to the county being 80% national forest in control of the Forest Service, and it “only makes sense to stay in the ban” because of it.
Albers also worried that if Clear Creek removes its ban, it might get “overrun” with people as Gilpin has with shooters by being the only county without a shooting ban.
County Electric Vehicle Plan
An EV readiness plan elaborating on how the county may slowly transition to be more EV-focused also was presented in the Aug. 2 county meeting. A group from Iconergy, energy consultant for the county, did the report, paid for by a Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant.
The report explained four focus points: increasing electric vehicle adoption in the county, increasing charging infrastructure, electrifying the county’s fleet of cars and coordinating further with state and local governments to help make this happen.
“The first step really is to raise awareness of the benefits of electric vehicles and give residents an opportunity to be hands-on with them,” said Grant Stump, one of the Iconergy consultants. Equitable access was another goal within increasing EV adoption in the county due to “high upfront costs,” and the group explained different programs exist to help with that, including the possibility of group-purchasing the vehicles which can lower the cost.
In terms of charging infrastructure, the group explained the need to highlight existing ones — such as at the courthouse and near Beaujo's in Idaho Springs — and develop a plan for new ones will go when those become heavily used. One next step would be “adopting EV-infrastructure ready building and zoning codes,” Stumps said. Currently Clear Creek has none specifically focusing on electric vehicles.
Some long-term goals also included researching the routes and vehicles within the county’s fleet that are best for replacement with EVs.
Potential barriers according to the report included parking spaces being in high demand, and the difficulty that creates in having devoted EV spaces in public areas. The group also cited “range anxiety” — the fear of running out of power on a trip.
According to the report, 65% of residents commute outside of the county to Jefferson, Denver and Arapahoe counties. They try to handle that fear by explaining that commutes range from 90 to 150 miles round trip, and this “is well within the range of almost any BEV on the market in 2021,” Stumps said.
Beside the high upfront cost for a new EV, the other main barrier mentioned was the car’s suitability for Clear Creek’s climate and roads. They cite a lack of AWD and 4WD options on the market at the moment, which can be necessary with snowy conditions, but that options are increasing. Cold conditions can also affect a battery’s performance and therefore range.
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