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Cedar Rapids Gazette (Newspaper) - October 9, 1974, Cedar Rapids, Iowa Energy Boom Threatens Unspoiled Rockies By James Sterba Ne* York T (me* HAST ((LACIER Mont - Vast sections of the Rocky mountain West - this country’s last relatively unspoiled na-ural region — are on their way to becoming cluttered and polluted industrial wastelands filled with raw ixMim towns and social misfits as a result of the drive to exploit the region’s energy and'mineral wealth Because of this — and the continued population influx and the carving up of agricultural and mountain land for housing subdivisions and businesses — the region faces a transformation as basic as when the white man first set foot in the mountain West. Long-time residents, fearing an end to a beloved life-style, say often these days. “Now we know how the Indians must have felt.’’ Worry over the future of the region is increasing The Federation of Rocky Mountain States. Inc., a collection of government and business leaders from Montana. Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, ('(dorado and New Mexico, devoted a good deal of time during its 10th annual meeting here recently to a stark portrayal of what was under way and what was in store Using a hypothetical boom town called Resource (Tty, Rocky mountains, officials of the federation painted a picture of unsightly landscapes, intolerable living conditions, increasing crime and growing mental illness “Conditions Do Exist, Will Exist" “It is not exaggerated,” the officials wrote in their report “The conditions described in this paper do exist and will exist in many sections of our region ” “We now find ourselves facing perhaps the greatest challenge in history for our region’s derision makers: How to protect our way of life and the breathtaking beauty of our lands while at the same time sharing our rich energy resources with the rest of our nation," said Gov. Thomas Judge of Montana, chairman of the federation Booms arr not new to the region. But many local authorities fear that booms like the gold and silver rush at the end of the last century will seem innocent in comparison to the massive assault by huge national energy, mineral and real estate corporations now getting under way. People, fed up with the clutter and pollution they helped to create in sprawling urban belts on the East and West coasts, are moving into the mountain states by the tens of thousands every month In the Denver area alone, 1,200 outsiders take up residence weekly, creating many of the same problems they tried to escape1. Dozens of gigantic power-generating plants — each new one called the world’s largest — are under construction or being planned. They will gorge themselves with cheap strip mined Western coal. One in operation near the Four Corners area where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet, produces clean electricity and dirty air. The electricity is exported to Los Angeles. Phoenix and other points west The dirty air stays. Enough pipelines, power lines and rail lines are on the drawing boards to make the region look like the home of some gargantuan spider, ever expanding its web Water Flows Uphill Toward Money Water, in this semi-arid region, is already in short supply. There is a saying here: Water flows uphill toward money. The wealth and power of corporations, subdividers and city governments dwarf the wealth and power of farmers and ranchers, many of whom believe their way of life is on the verge of becoming history as a result. But not only ranchers and farmers are worried Governors and other state officials fear that agriculture, the foundation of several state economies, could Im* irreparably damaged They worry that hundreds of millions of dollars spent by people visiting the region to see and experience unspoiled natural beauty may eventually evaporate as the landscape becomes scarred and cluttered and the air and rivers change color Many officials have charged that decisions made by the federal government and private corporations to exploit the West’s resources will lead to the creation of a “national sacrifice area” that is beyond reclamation. And they say they lack the power at the federal level to stop the creation of such an area because Washington is top-heavy with representatives from the energy-hungry Fast and West coasts. Many |x*ople look to state and local governments to control the influx of outside corporations and people. Ironically, however, officials in local government, after decades of promoting growth, often find it difficult to reverse themselves in order to control it Concerned academic, business and government authorities say one key problem is that many people are not aware of adverse consequences of energy development already taking place in the region The Federation of Rocky Mountain States, in its report on Resource City, drew together studios of boom areas like Colstrip. Mont., and Gillette and Rook Springs. Wye., to portray conditions of a typical boom town four years after the boom begins Classrooms, Teachers Scarce Following is a summary of their 21-page report: Resource City’s population has doubled. Teachers and classrooms are scarce. Despite many jobs and good wages, job turnover is high because living conditions are bad. Crime has increased 4(HI percent. Welfare* recipients have quadrupled. Housing — It is almost impossible to find homes. Tents are common. More than 35 percent of the population lives in house trailers, most in barren muddy camps, or crammed into canyons and open fields. Trailer rentals cost up to $85 per week. Some motel rooms are rented in eight-hour shifts Land that sold for $8(HI per acre three years ago now costs $6.(100 an acre. Land nearby, on which quick, cheap housing could be built cannot be* used because the federal government, a railroad and a grazing association will not sell it Labor — The yearly job turnover is 150 percent. Local merchants cannot afford to pay the high wages the energy companies pay, so they are shorthanded. The new companies have attracted unreliable transients. Absenteeism is high. High school students drop out to work for high wages. One company predicted it needed a maximum of 1.200 workers but ended up needing 3.000, Transportation — Traffic has increased fivefold, jamming old streets and parking lots. The small airport nearby cannot handle air cargo requirements. Workers often commute 70 miles to buy groceries and supplies and 150 miles to the nearest good hospital. The environment — ( lean air and wide-open spaces are gone. Sulphur, nitrogen and carbon dioxide pollutants fill the air. along with tens of thousands of tons of particulates. On temperature-inversion days. Resource City looks like smoggy bis Angeles. Demands lor water for (he new industries have cut deeply into supplies for agriculture. Many livestock wells have dried up and downstream, salts, dissolved solids and toxic levels of AMI RICAN WHISKEY—A Bt ESD • 86 PROOF ® IQM CALVERT DIST. CO.. LOUISVILLE. KY trace elements dumped by Resource City are affecting fish, wildlife and livestock, as well as small town water supplies. The need for sand and gravel for construction has caused creation of unsightly pits and further environmental damage around town. Effects on wildlife have* nearly been disastrous. Once noted for big game hunting and fishing, the area around Resource City has been disturbed, animals destroyed, their habitats permanently disrupted, their food chains altered Increased populations have over-used the damaged hunting, fishing and recreation grounds. Vandallsr#has increased. Historical sites and monuments have been damaged Gaping open-pit mines, tall steel and aluminum power plants, trailer camps and makeshift housing, and a maze of roads, railroads, pipelines arid power lines have scarred a once osmotically beautiful area. laind use — Once an area of irrigated cropland and grazing that attracted tourists, Resource City and its environs no longer attract tourists. Some 30,000 acres have been permanently removed from crop production. Ranchers have sold land for bit profits. Others have sold because they can no longer get water. The county assessor says thousands of acres have passed from private to corporate ownership. Health — The small local hospital is inundated with patients Seriously ill patients must be taken 150 miles to the nearest adequate facilities. Overloaded family doctors have stopped accepting new patients. There are long lines and three-hour waits at the hospital emergency room. The mental health clinic’s caseload has increased 1,000 percent. Tho local jail has become a holding area for psychiatric patients and alcoholics, and is often uses! by wives as protection from beatings by their drunken husbands. OP wha! In a KIU.IW HOMS? A WEEKLY SERIES Cf SENSATIONAL VALUES PLANNED IM COOPERATION WITH ONLY THE • EST OF MANUFACTURERS. EACH (ONUS ITEM Mi ET* OUR RIGID STANDARDS Of QUALITY ANC WILE IE SOLD AT LOW •ONUS PRICES ONLY WHILE SPECIAL QUANTITIES LAST Dishwasher safe . . . oven to table dinnerware Crown Lynn Ironstone 49.99 REGULARLY 65.00 Elegant ironstone from New Zealand in 4 color heightened patterns; Filigree, Charmaine, Men Men and Emerald. Set includes 8 dinner plates, salads, soup/cereals, cups and saucers. I oval platter, vegetable bowl, creamer and sugar/lid. Downtown Parkade Building ;

Clippings and Obituaries for the Cedar Rapids Gazette