Regional News

Weekdays at 8 a.m. & 5:50 p.m.

KVNF's original reporting covers a variety of issues affecting the Western Slope - everything from environmental and energy issues to breaking news and statewide legislative debates. We also feature content from our Rocky Mountain Community Radio partner stations and Inside Energy

Our news team is always looking for leads. Let us know what's happening in your area, what issues you care about and what you'd like to hear us cover - email us at news@kvnf.org.

Ways to Connect

Health insurance premiums can vary widely in Colorado depending on where you live — it's just one of the factors health insurance companies use to calculate prices. Mountain regions continue to have some of the highest premiums in the country. At the statehouse, House Bill 16-1336 [.pdf] would look at treating the entire state as one region, rather than continuing to group regions separately.

"Our current insurance payment of $1,508 a month is equivalent to our mortgage payment. We can't afford it," said Richard Backe, a Garfield County small-business owner. "There are numerous people in the mountain district with the same story. We are the healthiest counties in the state, and we have the highest insurance rates."

Flickr via Jeffrey Beall

As coal mining continues to decline in Delta County, communities are struggling. People are moving away. The school district is losing students. Unemployment remains high. 

In the small town of Hotchkiss, some see marijuana as a way to bring in much needed revenue and think it’s time to reconsider the local ban.  

In the upcoming April municipal election, Hotchkiss voters face three questions.

State lawmakers are set to debate the annual budget, which funds everything from roads and schools, to health care and parks. In 2016, Colorado has a shortfall, so that means making budget cuts. So what are some of the major budget issues? We asked the reporters working the hallways of the capitol to find out.

Some parts of Oklahoma and Texas now have about the same risk of an earthquake as parts of California, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The big difference is, the quakes in Oklahoma and Texas are "induced" — they're caused by oil and gas operations that pump wastewater down into underground wells.

Update 5.13.2016: Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed legislation finally legalizing rain barrels. Our original story continues below.

--

A bill that would allow people to collect rain that falls from their rooftops is hung up in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, after the chair said he wasn't comfortable with the measure. It's not clear when the committee will vote on it.

The same thing happened during the 2015 legislative session when the rain barrel bill vote was delayed. While the bill eventually cleared the committee over the objections of the Republican chair, it failed on the final day of the session when time ran out.

"I didn't plan on today being Groundhog Day, I anticipated that the bill would pass," said state Sen. Michael Merrifield (D-Colorado Springs), sponsor of House Bill 16-1005 [.pdf].

The Satanic Temple

Starting April 1, Delta County School District plans to offer literature from atheist and Satanic organizations.


Colorado's next lieutenant governor is poised to be a top executive from Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc.

Gov. John Hickenlooper nominated Donna Lynne, an executive vice president at Kaiser, saying she would be very capable filling his shoes if he doesn't end up finishing his second term. Hickenlooper has long been rumored as a possible cabinet pick for a Democratic President.

"If I were offered something in Washington I would certainly look at it, but especially right now, I could not be happier to be the governor of Colorado," Hickenlooper said.

rolling coal
Jim Hill / KUNC

With a few adjustments, owners can modify their diesel truck exhaust to spew out a thick, black smoke. It’s called rolling coal.

"People riding bikes or pedestrians get blasted by this," says Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood.  

More than a year after Nebraska and Oklahoma sought to sue Colorado over the carry-over effects of that state's law making recreational marijuana legal, the U.S. Supreme Court has denied the two states' complaint.

The court did not explain its decision, with which Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas disagreed. Thomas wrote a five-page dissent in which Alito joined (a reminder: the court is currently at eight members).

Every bill at the Colorado legislature must receive a fair hearing… and a vote. That's what state law says, but the fate of many bills is decided before lawmakers even begin the debate. Their fate is sealed in what's called a kill committee.

downtown Ridgway
CDOT

A major road improvement project in Ridgway is set to start next week.

The project includes widening State Highway 62 through the town and adding a turn lane. Additionally, the main streets through downtown will be paved for the first time (in Ridgway's 125-year history) and landscaping, public art, curbs, and gutters will be installed. 

KVNF's news team was recently honored by the Colorado Broadcasters Association. 

Reporter Laura Palmisano received an Award of Excellence in the Best News Feature, Report or Series category for her three-part series on the Karen refugee community in Delta, Colo. 

Scott Mills
City of Ouray

An officer with the City of Ouray Police Department was killed in an accident on U.S. 550 on Monday.  

Sgt. Scott Mills, 51, was riding his motorcycle while off-duty when a truck collided with him on the highway between Ouray and Ridgway.  

Colorado is, overall, one of the healthiest states in the country – but things are starting to change as the population grows and ages. One of the unintended side effects is a widening disparity between the healthiest and least healthy counties.

New data indicates disparities across geographic regions; with people living in the mountain communities generally ranking as the healthiest in Colorado. In part due to the things that attract people to the state to begin with.

"The amount of sunshine, the world class skiing, hiking, fly fishing, the ability to go right outside your backyard and experience nature," said Democratic Summit County commissioner Dan Gibbs.

Colorado residents have vastly different health outcomes, based in part on where they live in the state. Rocky Mountain PBS News analyzed health data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to rank each of the state's 64 counties based on a variety of health indicators from obesity, to amount of exercise, to smoking and premature deaths.

Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, there is a bronze chest filled with gold and precious gems. The search for this hidden treasure has become a hobby for some, an obsession for others, and for one recent searcher — a fatal pursuit.

The man behind the treasure is Forrest Fenn, an 85-year-old millionaire, former Vietnam fighter pilot, self-taught archaeologist, and successful art dealer in Santa Fe, N.M.

"No one knows where that treasure chest is but me," Fenn says. "If I die tomorrow, the knowledge of that location goes in the coffin with me."

EIA

A recent federal report looks at changes in how the United States generates its electricity. It shows a significant drop in the amount of power coming from coal. 


The Colorado Democratic and Republican parties recently wrapped up their caucuses on Super Tuesday. The 2016 Democratic caucus was notable for the unexpected large turnout – while the GOP canceled their presidential preference poll. Either way, there were gripes. Two lawmakers are planning to introduce a bill to change the state's caucus system and instead add a presidential primary.

Peyton Manning, the NFL's all-time leading passer and its winningest starting quarterback, told the Denver Broncos that he is retiring, a spokesman for team says.

Manning is stepping away from the game after winning his second Super Bowl and after 18 seasons.

medical equipment, health
flickr.com/adrianclarkmbbs

A coalition in Montrose is working to create a nonprofit health center that provides physical, mental and dental services under the same roof.

The Community Dental Clinic is collaborating with the Center for Mental Health and the Delta-Montrose Technical College on the project. 

Melanie Hall, the executive director of the clinic, says the new site will be called PIC Place, which stands for Partners in Integrated Care.

Amber Kleinman / iSeeChange

Temperatures across the Western Slope have been pleasant for the past month or so.  At iseechange.org, we’ve seen a few postings noticing the spring-like weather, and some concerns.


Voters in 12 states either went to the polls or caucused on Super Tuesday. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won Colorado's Democratic caucuses. He also grabbed victories in Oklahoma, Minnesota, and in his home state. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were the big winners of the night, each taking seven states, on the busiest night so far of the 2016 election season.

Colorado's Republican Party did not take a preference poll for the presidential race – so no winner was declared in the state for the GOP.

Super Tuesday was a big night for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They each captured seven states in their respective Democratic and Republican races, extending leads over their remaining rivals.

Bowie #2 Mine, Coal Mine
WildEarth Guardians

Another coal mine will shut down in Western Colorado. Bowie Resource Partners is idling the Bowie #2 Mine near Paonia.

In a release, the company cites the continued decline of the coal market as the reason for the closure.

The mine currently employs 108 people. Bowie estimates 68 full-time positions will be eliminated in April, but by July, nearly everyone will lose their job. 

The biggest group of voters politicians will have to woo this November are the ones who often don't get a say in which candidates make it to the general election ballot.

Turned off by the partisan wars in Washington, 39 percent of voters now identify themselves as independent rather than affiliated with one of the two major political parties, according to a 2014 analysis by the Pew Research Center. Self-identified Democrats accounted for 32 percent of the electorate, Republicans 23 percent.

Colorado's Republican and Democratic caucuses will be held on Super Tuesday, March 1, 2016. There's a difference this year though. Colorado's Republican Party leaders canceled their traditional presidential preference poll at the precinct caucuses. The state's Democrats will conduct a poll.

2016 has brought record turnout and excitement to GOP presidential primary events – especially with the emergence of Donald Trump as the party's frontrunner. Why would the state's Republicans pass on that? We asked Steve House, the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.

A lot of visitors to Colorado figure they might give the state's good ganja a try, but they might not be prepared for the effects. When it comes to bad weed trips, out-of-staters have been doing much worse than Colorado residents and are going to the ER more often since recreational sales of marijuana began in 2014.

A bill that would have allowed terminally ill patients to take medication to end their own lives has failed in the Colorado Legislature. The main sponsors asked lawmakers to defeat the bill before it could be debated by the full House.

"The choice we made today, was to give you the relief from having to have this conversation because we know many of you have deeply held convictions that make you uncomfortable with this bill," said state Rep. Lois Court (D-Denver). "We are doing you this favor, to not have this debate, but make no mistake the voice of the people of this state will be heard."

rolling coal
Jim Hill / KUNC

Police in Montrose will be cracking down on ‘coal rollers’.       

When a vehicle with a modified exhaust quickly accelerates in order to spew out a black cloud of smoke, it's called ‘rolling coal’. Montrose Police Chief Tom Chinn says over the past several months the department has received numerous complaints from residents about diesel trucks doing this.

Update 5.13.2016: Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed legislation finally legalizing rain barrels. Our original story continues below.

--

Colorado is the only state in the country where it is illegal to capture rainwater for use at a later time. State lawmakers are once again debating whether to allow residents to use rain barrels to collect precipitation that falls from their roofs.

"This is really straightforward," said Representative Jessie Danielson (D-Wheat Ridge), one of the main sponsor's of House Bill 16-1005 [.pdf]. "You could use that water when you see fit, for your tomato plants or flower gardens."

Pages