Air quality issue hangs over monument-to-park committee

A committee looking at seeking a status change for Colorado National Monument is preparing to seek more public comment on the idea, beginning with an Internet survey.

The committee, which meets monthly at Colorado Mesa University, will work with Mesa County and Grand Junction officials to draft a survey intended to draw out residents’ concerns or questions about the idea.

The committee hopes to use the results of the survey to help prepare for a public presentation as well as to craft legislation.

One hurdle that members hope to overcome is the air-quality requirements of the monument.

Under federal regulations, the monument, like most of the nation, is a Class II air-quality area. Some national parks and wilderness areas are Class I air-quality areas, which is intended to provide the most pristine levels of air quality.

The monument also has protections under state law aimed at reducing sulfur-dioxide pollution from the now-closed Cameo generating station, which ran on coal.

Air-quality requirements are the same, whether the 20,000 acres overlooking the Grand Valley from the south are classified as a park or national monument, state and federal air-quality officials told the committee Wednesday.

The monument also can be promoted to a national park without having a Class I air-quality requirement, said Lisa Clarke, an air-quality planner with the Air Quality Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

No agency can increase the air quality classification for the area, either as a monument or park, because that requires an act of Congress, Clarke said.

“It doesn’t matter, park or monument,” committee member Greg Mikolai said of a question about whether the status would bring on onerous air-quality requirements. “I’m not holding out for Class I and don’t think anyone else here is.”

Committee members, however, said they hope to write in requirements to: protect the Class II air-quality designation of the monument; deal with nagging questions about access through the monument for Glade Park residents; and protect the ability of Fruita to maintain a water system that runs through the monument.

The committee meets next in January.


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