County Beat: June 17, 2021

RBC | On Tuesday, Rio Blanco County Commissioners discussed using emergency funds to help control this year’s outbreak of Mormon crickets. The insects have made an appearance again this year in the county.

Wade Cox, with the Lower White River Pest Control District, reached out to the board last week regarding the infestation.

“They’re eating everything,” Cox said of the crickets. “We went around and looked, and thought about spraying, but there’s miles and miles of them. I don’t know what you do.”

Commissioner Rector said Moffat County Pest Management Manager Jesse Schroeder has reportedly had success dealing with the crickets, and suggested finding out what he’s doing and what the cost would be.

“If we could come up with some concrete things that would help this, I think that would fall under this emergency funding,” Commissioner Moyer said.

RBC Weed and Pest Control Director Jane Turnburke said last year the crickets were mostly isolated on Strawberry Creek, but this year they’ve spread to a broader area.

In work sessions prior to the regular meeting, the board heard from Public Health Director Alice Harvey regarding the use of federal COVID-related immunization funding to support Range Call and Septemberfest events.

“By doing an exhibit or something, we were wondering if that would potentially qualify for use of that funding,” said Commissioner Gary Moyer, adding that the county’s budget constraints limited the board from supporting the events financially this year.

“There would definitely have to be a general endorsement of promoting vaccines,” Harvey said, in order to comply with the federal guidelines for using the funding.

Moyer expressed concern that messaging coming from the county would be in agreement with the county’s “right to choose” policy, but said educational information from public health would be fine. “I would hope we can do that while remaining consistent with our policy,” Moyer said.

“We just need an educational piece from you to be able to use that funding. You’re not telling them they have to or don’t have to, you’re just giving them information,” said Rector.

The commissioners tabled discussion about the possibility of providing incentives, such as gift cards from local businesses, for people who get vaccinated.

Emergency Manager Eddie Smercina updated the commissioners on fire conditions. Two out of the three zones where fuel samples have been tested indicate a need for Stage 1 fire restrictions (see Page 1A for details on those restrictions).

Tia Murray, Department of Human Services Director, discussed ways to further share costs with Moffat County with DHS staffing.

DHS will also be reactivating a program for a foster care specialist to help coordinate foster care in the county. Murray said the stakeholders she has spoken with are very excited to have that plan reinstated.

“That’s a huge passion of mine,” Murray said, saying she anticipates substantial participation once the foster care specialist is in place.

County Planner Leif Joy said there are two new subdivision projects coming through, three floodplain applications so far this year, and two limited impact applications.

The county is planning to modify its land use regulations, which will require a public comment period.

Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District director Alden VandenBrink updated the board on conditions on the White River, sharing a chart from Boise Creek — upriver from Kenney Reservoir — showing water flows last week at 1,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) dropping to 450 CFS as of Tuesday.

“It’s very concerning to the White River because for one, we don’t have storage, and two, if you take 2002 and 1977, record drought years, prior to those years we had average [precipitation] years. We’ve now had several years of below average, the soil moisture is not being replete, and the evaporation rate is huge with the high heat,” VandenBrink said.

“We’re already visiting with Rangely to see what alternatives we have to keep our community in water,” he added.

The current situation is another indication that the Wolf Creek Reservoir project is of great importance to the county, according to VandenBrink, even more so than expansion of Lake Avery, which is being considered.

“Lake Avery needs to happen, but it’s not as important as Wolf Creek, in my opinion,” he said.

A webinar, “The State of the White River” was presented Tuesday by the Colorado RIver District, outlining specific situations in the White River Basin. VandenBrink was one of the presenters, along with White River and Douglas Creek Conservation Districts executive director Callie Hendrickson. Look for reporting on that meeting in next week’s edition of the Herald Times.

In other business, commissioners:

  • Approved a certificate for the fiscal year 2020 cost allocation plan for reimbursement from the state.
  • Approved the Rangely Airport Master Plan layout drawings.
  • Approved a CDOT utility permit for fiber optic cable installation … Trevor, for Samuelson’s True Value in Meeker. Will also serve the other businesses in the area.
  • Approved permission for the Lions Club to serve alcohol at the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds during Range Call.
  • Approved an agreement for services with Pioneers Medical Center (PMC) to provide family planning services on an as-needed basis in conjunction with RBC Public Health.
  • Approved an agreement with PMC, Dr. Chris Tonozzi, and RBC Public Health to provide a family planning male sterilization program on an as-needed basis.
  • Approved a task order contract waiver with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Division of Environmental Health and Sustainability, to inspect and assure regulatory compliance in retail food establishments, child care facilities and schools, with state funding not to exceed $10,000.
  • Approved a quitclaim deed releasing property back to White River Lodge, LLC following completion of Hwy. 13 construction.


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