Mine closures reverberate throughout W. Slope

By Tom Howe

Dear Editor:

This letter was sent to Senator Michael Bennet Feb. 29.

Senator Bennet: Well, the current administration along with the help of the U.S. Senate has managed to almost completely kill what little economy remains here in the (Gunnison River) North Fork Valley of Delta County. As announced in Saturday's Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Bowie No. 2 mine near Paonia has been closed -- completing the end of almost all the 300 mining jobs that Bowie No. 2 provided in 2014. This follows the closure of North Fork's Oxbow Mining's Elk Creek Mine in late 2013 -- also costing Delta County 300 jobs. Arch Coal's West Elk mine (the last operating mine in the North Fork) continues to struggle in the face of never-ending pressure from federal agencies with no relief in sight. The vibrations of these closures reverberate throughout the entire Western Slope.

Union Pacific Railroad was the centerpiece of an article on the front page of Friday's Daily Sentinel: "Railroad workers lose jobs." That article centered around "...at least 147 workers [that] have been furloughed since July 2015." The entire Grand Valley (for those of you that hang out in Washington, D.C., that's the valley that starts at Ouray and runs northwest to Mack -- you can find both of those towns on a Colorado map) suffers because almost all of those nearly 750 families that haven't already left may have to leave the valley to find work -- if they can find any work at all.

The pain is evident -- small businesses that directly supported those mines are already gone. The school enrollment is down countywide and the Delta County commissioners are already attempting to figure how to meet the county needs with the inevitable drop in county tax revenue. The intertwined ramifications of continued increased intervention by federal agencies into entire industries (i.e., coal, natural gas, agriculture, oil, energy, power, transportation, utilities, etc.) because of ancillary motivations is rapidly damaging this nation deeper and faster than the restricted economy, the citizens, and the increasingly abused foundation of our great nation can withstand. Think hard about that the next time you're going to blindly vote to block legislation designed to relieve this pressure on the economy or again vote to pass more partisan legislation that increases the unneeded restrictive regulations on industries that support your constituents. Delta County, the Grand Valley, the entire state of Colorado you supposedly represent all need your help. We're watching!

Tom Howe