October 17, 2014

Arapahoe Basin crews began snowmaking on October 2, and the area received an extra foot of snow in the past few weeks.     Photo: MRaust/Thinkstock

Colorado Ski Season Opens at A-Basin

Highest resort in the state takes advantage of recent storms

On Friday, Arapahoe Basin became the first Colorado ski resort to open this season, according to the Denver Post. The ski area was running its Black Mountain Express chairlift to midmountain, and the intermediate High Noon run was open with an 18-inch base.

A-Basin, the highest ski area in Colorado, is typically among the first to open. The area benefited from about a foot of natural snow in the past few weeks, along with conditions that were “outstanding for snowmaking,” since maintenance crews began making snow earlier this month, according to chief operating officer Alan Henceroth.

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That's pretty hard to do.     Photo: Hurley/YouTube

Watch: Kelly Slater Lands Insane 540

Yes, he's still the king of surfing

Kelly Slater made the most of a day off at the 2014 Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal. While the event was on pause as organizers waited for bigger and cleaner surf, Slater, who at age 42 is in contention for his 12th Association of Surfing Professionals World Championship title, launched and landed a 540 while participating in a freesurf session.

“I just spun as hard as I could and ended up backwards,” Slater says in the video. “‘Oh, I might make this thing!’ And I spun around and was like, ‘Oh, cool.’ I was really surprised when I was still on my board.”

Watch:

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The Salton Sea is still California's biggest lake, even at its reduced levels.     Photo: Akos Kokai/Flickr

Salton Sea Restoration Project Proposed

Tax increase would fund new water source

Help may be on the way for California’s suffering Salton Sea.

Due to increasing salinity and changes in water appropriations of the Colorado River under the Quantification Settlement Agreement, the Salton Sea is increasingly more like a dustbowl than a lake. A historical lack of government funding has prevented conservation efforts in the past, but a newly proposed sales tax increase would change that.

Assemblyman Brian Nestande of California announced on Monday his initiative to employ a quarter-cent sales tax increase in the Coachella Valley, where the Salton Sea is located. The money raised would pay for an earthen dike to be constructed across the northern portion of the Salton Sea. The damlike structure would create a new body of water the size of Lake Arrowhead that would be fed by runoff and preserve the northern shoreline.

Nestande said the Coachella Valley has the most at stake economically and environmentally, and local buy-in efforts are best. “No one’s ever talked about a funding source. This is how we fund it,” he said in a report from the Desert Sun. Along with tax increases, Nestande is also sponsoring the promotion of at least 7,500 Salton Sea license plates. The plates will sell for $50, and drivers can preregister for them. 

The cost of the dike and restoration project has not been officially estimated, but reports state that it would range from $225 million to $510 million. “While I tend to be cautious when it comes to new taxes or fees, I do like the idea that revenues generated locally are used locally,” said Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez in a Desert Sun op-ed. “It goes without saying that we need action at all levels when it comes to the sea.”

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The long-delayed report says the mountain meets the required structures needed to store radioactive materials.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Mountain Near Death Valley Cleared for Nuclear Waste

Underground site ready if the Senate changes hands

Yucca Mountain, part of a ridgeline that sits 100 miles from Las Vegas and less than 50 miles from Death Valley National Park, has been cleared by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for use as a depository for nuclear waste, according to the New York Times. A long-awaited report (PDF) by the commission released Thursday confirmed that the site meets the basic requirements to safely store radioactive material for hundreds of thousands of years, as required by a 2004 decision by the federal Court of Appeals in Washington.

In 1982, the Energy Department selected Yucca Mountain—known for its proximity to the Nevada Test Site, where hundreds of nuclear bombs were tested during the Cold War—as one of five candidate sites for depositing radioactive waste that the department had agreed to collect from reactor owners, in accordance with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Congress has zeroed in on Yucca Mountain for this purpose since 1987, and in 1994, the Energy Department began drilling a five-mile tunnel through the mountain to test its capacity for storing nuclear waste.

John M. Shimkus, a Republican congressman from Illinois who is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the report “confirms what we’ve expected all along: Nuclear waste stored under that mountain, in that desert, surrounded by federal land, will be safe and secure for at least a million years,” in a statement to the Times.

Timothy Frazier, a former Energy Department official who heads the nuclear waste program at the Bipartisan Policy Center, agreed. “If the Senate flips, you’re going to get money in the Senate appropriations bill to do something for Yucca Mountain,” he said.

While many Republicans in Congress have taken the commission’s Thursday findings as a green light, opinions haven’t always been divided along party lines. Nevada governor Brian Sandoval, also a Republican, has voiced his opposition to the Yucca Mountain plan since at least 2010, when he wrote a letter of concern to then-Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. “The state of Nevada does not support the location of any such site within the state and will oppose any attempt to either resurrect the defunct Yucca Mountain project or locate an interim storage facility at Yucca,” the governor wrote at the time, indicating the State of Nevada’s willingness to sue the Energy Department if necessary.

Nevada senator Harry Reid, a Democrat, has blocked further funding for the Energy Department to design the repository and pursue a license to open it. “Yucca was originally selected because of a flawed, non-scientific and political process,” Senator Reid wrote on his website. “It failed because Nevadans, with good reason, overwhelmingly opposed it.” Following Reid’s lead, President Obama promised to kill the project if elected during his 2008 campaign.

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