Seeking balance

Group opposed to uranium mine wants EDP funding

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A group opposing a plan to bring in low-level radiation to fill an old uranium mine outside of Maybell asked that if the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership gave funding to that effort, it also should fund the group's efforts to oppose it.

Members of Northwest Colo-rado Cares attended Wednesday's EDP economic development com-m-ittee meeting to ask that the partnership either not use its Growing Local Business dollars to advance the plan or split the dollars between those in favor and those opposed.

Jim Ross, the owner of the pit in question and originator of the idea to fill it using spoil piles -- and funding that cleanup by bringing in low-level radioactive waste -- also attended to ask that he be considered for funds.

The EDP received a USDA grant last year that it used to offer existing business technical assistance. In Ross' case, his funds were used to pay for a class that would train workers in data processing. The remaining money was used to pay those people to compile written information about Ross' site and the cleanup of other sites onto disks. Ross was given $6,500 for his project, which he said has been 200 percent successful.

The problem Ross and NCC members encountered is that the EDP hasn't applied for the next round of USDA funds. If the Growing Local Business program continues for another year, Committee Chair Jerry Thompson said that all grant applications will be reviewed by the committee and EDP board based on their merits.

That wasn't the end of it for EDP committee members.

They were trapped in the middle of a debate between Ross and his opponents -- as much debate as Ross would allow.

He promised to be transparent about his plans and share information but offered a caveat: He'd release all information only when he was ready and that likely will be during the public input process.

Terrie Barrie, spokeswoman for Northwest Colorado Cares, wanted to gather information and begin pleading the group's case.

"We don't understand that bringing in low-level waste and filling this hole will benefit Moffat County other than monetarily," Barrie said. "There are a lot of issues we feel need to be answered before other monies are granted to him for this project."

Whether the project has merit isn't the EDP's concern, Board President Scott Cook said.

"If there's a problem and we can get the federal government to pay to clean it up, that's economic development," he said. "We're not scientists, and we're not endorsing the science behind this at all."

What the EDP is endorsing, board member Chris Nichols said, is research, not necessarily the project.

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