Pueblo

Work on the first phase of rebuilding the Arkansas River levee in Pueblo is complete, and the conservancy district that oversees the levee is starting to at potential recreational opportunities as they plan the rest of the repairs.
 

In addition to a new pedestrian walkway on the top of the levee, the district is considering adding footbridges across the river, more access points and redoing the kayak park. Corrine Koehler leads district’s recreation committee. She says they want to be sure that ideas for recreation aren’t just coming from the engineers.

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

Repair work on the Arkansas River levee in Pueblo is destroying the world’s largest mural. KRCC's Shanna Lewis reports on the discussion about repainting it.

The Pueblo Conservancy District board oversees the levee. It’s preparing guidelines to cover design, approval, and maintenance for new artwork. They got mixed comments from the couple of dozen people at a public meeting last night.

Initial work to rebuild the aging Arkansas River levee in Pueblo is winding down. KRCC's Shanna Lewis reports that structural issues discovered during this phase will likely mean the project will cost more than originally projected.

Work began late last year to lower the height and replace the concrete facing on the levee in order to meet FEMA flood control requirements. The bottom of the 90-year-old structure is about nine feet deeper than expected, according to Rick Kidd, the administrator for the Pueblo Conservancy District, which oversees the levee.

Brett Levin Flickr / Creative Commons

The state of Colorado is facing new lawsuits over recreational marijuana legalization. The Washington DC based Safe Streets Alliance is suing the state in federal court to try and close down the industry.

“It is illegal under federal law to sell marijuana and in this country federal law is the supreme law of the land,” said David Thompson, the lead attorney for the Safe Streets Alliance.

The Environmental Protection Agency and public health officials held open meetings Tuesday to talk with residents in the south Pueblo neighborhoods listed as a Superfund site in December. KRCC’s Shanna Lewis reports.

The EPA eventually wants to test soil samples around some 1900 homes. Previous testing found toxic lead and arsenic levels around the site of the former Colorado Smelter, which closed in 1908.

The Palmer Land Trust has received funding from Great Outdoors Colorado, or GOCO, to conserve a large working ranch just east of Pueblo.  

KRCC’s Rachel Gonchar has more.
 

The conservation group says the 25,000-acre BX Ranch south of Boone is one of the largest working ranches in Pueblo County.

Palmer Land Trust Executive Director Rebecca Jewett says this funding will help preserve that history.

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

Demolition work has begun to remove the top 12 feet of a section of the Arkansas River Levee in Pueblo. It’s part of the first phase of a project to repair the aging structure and meet FEMA flood control guidelines.
 

Heavy equipment moves dirt and concrete as the contractors build a ramp to access the top of the levee. Part of the pedestrian path near the work area has been closed for safety reasons. 

Consulting engineer Kim Kock says they expect the first critical section to be complete by mid February, despite the delay in beginning work.

The former Colorado Smelter site in south Pueblo is now designated a Superfund Site by the Environmental Protection Agency. As KRCC's Shanna Lewis reports, this means the federal agency will investigate and clean up toxic waste in the area.

In 2010 state health department tests found elevated levels of lead and arsenic in properties surrounding the smelter - which closed more than 100 years ago.

The EPA’s Chris Wardell says residents have a variety of concerns about the Superfund listing, ranging from costs to the effect on real estate values.  

Pueblo County Health officials say a resident there has died from issues related to the flu, and 60 have been hospitalized since October. Statewide, cases are occurring a month earlier in many locations. KRCC's Tucker Hampson reports. 
 

About 100 people have been hospitalized so far this year statewide as compared to 85 at this time last year.  Lisa Miller, state epidemiologist for the Colorado Department of Health, says a change in the flu virus may have lessened the vaccine effectiveness, but it’s still important.

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

The start of a massive repair project on the Arkansas River levee in Pueblo is being delayed until December due to historic preservation concerns and some delays in the funding.
 

The project’s consulting engineer Kim Kock says the state historic preservation officer has said the levee could be deemed historic because it was constructed in response to the deadly 1921 floods and used methods of that time period.

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

 
The Pueblo Conservancy District awarded the contract for phase one of the project to repair the aging Arkansas River levee. The estimated cost for this initial phase is $3.6 million and is expected to begin in November and end in March.  KRCC’s Shanna Lewis reports.

The full repair project is likely to span three or four winters and will destroy the collection of murals painted on the levee by hundreds of artists since the 1970s. It’s the largest outdoor mural in the world.

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

The mural that covers most of the 2.8 mile long Arkansas River levee in Pueblo is facing its demise. Hundreds of huge images painted over the last forty years by at least a thousand artists combine to make this artwork. It’s so massive, it’s listed by Guinness World Records as the largest outdoor mural on the planet. But it’ll be destroyed during the forthcoming repair project.
 

Pueblo Conservancy District

The levee that protects much of downtown Pueblo from potential floodwaters in the Arkansas River is about to get a major facelift. After levees failed in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, FEMA made a push for levee certification. And for Pueblo’s aging Arkansas River levee this means an estimated 15 million dollar repair project and the destruction of its famous mural. The alternative is downtown properties would have to buy flood insurance. The process has brought to the forefront structural deficiencies.
 

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Update: 10/7/14, 10:38 am

The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office has announced same-sex marriage licenses are available at the clerk's office, effective immediately.  In a statement, the office says they received "final clearance" from the office of Attorney General John Suthers.

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

The Pueblo Conservancy District, which oversees the Arkansas River levee, took action Wednesday to find a qualified contractor to repair the aging structure. The estimated $14 million project will involve cutting the height of the levee, resurfacing it and other work to improve structural stability and safety.
 

The levee was built following the deadly 1921 flood that killed hundreds and devastated downtown Pueblo. Now the levee needs to be brought into the 21st century in order to meet new FEMA requirements.

Colorado State University-Pueblo is reporting increased freshmen enrollment. KRCC’s Tucker Hampson reports.
 

CSU-Pueblo saw a 15% increase in freshman enrollment with an expected decline in continuing student enrollment. The increase included a higher ethnic diversity of students, especially Hispanic. The percentage of out of state and international students also rose.

University officials credit the increase to several new facilities and beefed-up recruitment strategies and outreach, and they expect this trend to continue.

Public Domain

Crew members from the USS Pueblo are holding a reunion in Southern Colorado after the ship was captured by North Korea nearly half a century ago.  KRCC’s Rachel Gonchar has more.
 

Originally an Army freight vessel, the USS Pueblo was transferred to the United States Navy and became an American spy ship. It was renamed after Pueblo County in the 1960’s. In January 1968, North Korean patrol boats captured the ship while it was cruising alone off the North Korean coast.

Pueblo’s first needle exchange is set to take place Friday.  KRCC’s Dana Cronin reports.
 

The exchange is geared toward illegal injection drug users in order to help prevent the spread of Hepatitis B and C, and HIV. Access Point Pueblo is a legal syringe access program and is hosting the exchange. 

Dr. Michael Nerenberg sits on the City-County Board of Health and has helped bring the program to Pueblo. He’s also a retired emergency room physician who worked in the city for over 24 years. Nerenberg says he’s seen drug use, including heroin, escalate over the years.

Maggie Spencer / KRCC

Recipients of an annual federal transportation grant are expected to be announced this fall. As KRCC’s Tucker Hampson reports, officials in Southern Colorado are hoping the grant will help keep Amtrak’s Southwest Chief line on its current route.

The grant is known as the TIGER grant, and is part of a federal funding program that helps finance large transportation projects nationwide.

Courtesy: Bessamer Historical Society

Part of a small neighborhood near the former Colorado Fuel and Iron steel mill in southeast Pueblo could become a national historic district. As a post-World War II working class neighborhood, it’s not the kind of place you’d normally expect to get this kind of recognition. It’s long been known as Old Bojon Town after the Eastern European immigrants who came to work at the mill.

A film crew from a lifestyle program airing on public TV stations is visiting Pueblo.  KRCC’s Tucker Hampson reports.
 

Crews from Voyager are focusing on culture, lifestyle, and arts for a 28-minute segment on Colorado’s Steel City. The Voyager series visits locations around the world for its multimedia broadcast.

Production Coordinator Rita Pando with the Pueblo Arts Alliance says the segment is an opportunity for people to see what Pueblo has to offer.

Public safety crews in Southern Colorado are gearing up for this Independence Day weekend. As KRCC’s Tucker Hampson reports, that includes being on the lookout for illegal fireworks.
 

Recent wet weather means Colorado Springs is bringing back its annual fireworks display, but hot and dry weather is in the forecast. 

Colorado Springs Deputy Fire Marshal Kris Cooper says that means fire danger is still a reality.

Health officials are reporting the first rabid bat of the season in El Paso County. As KRCC’s Dana Cronin reports, rabies is also showing up in surrounding areas.
 

    

Three children discovered the bat in Southwest Colorado Springs, and two were recommended for rabies post exposure treatment.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says as of early last month, 24 wild animals across the state have tested positive for the disease this year. Three were found in surrounding Pueblo and Elbert counties.

This Saturday at The Greenwood Cemetery in Canon City at 11 a.m., a memorial service will be held for Joe Arridy , a developmentally disabled man who was executed for murder in 1936, and posthumously pardoned in 2011. We spoke with Craig Severa, Advocacy Specialist from the ARC of the Pikes Peak Region, about Arridy’s legacy.

For complete information about the Joe Arridy memorial service this Saturday, click HERE.

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill in Pueblo today to create a commission aimed at keeping Amtrak’s Southwest Chief rolling through southern Colorado. KRCC's Shanna Lewis reports from Pueblo.
 

The train follows the historic Santa Fe Trail through Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico as it travels between Chicago and Los Angeles. But it could be rerouted unless some $200 million in repairs are made to the tracks.

Rail travel supporters gathered behind Pueblo’s Union Depot to watch the governor sign the bill.

The Environmental Protection Agency last week proposed adding a site in Pueblo to the Superfund priorities list -the federal program aimed at cleaning up hazardous waste sites. 
 

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief rolls through parts of Colorado, New Mexico and Kansas following the historic Santa Fe Trail as it travels between Los Angeles and Chicago. But unless needed repairs are made to the tracks, this section could be rerouted to neighboring states. Yet, the threat of losing this train may be the catalyst that ends up bringing passenger rail service back to Pueblo after a long hiatus.

Maggie Spencer / KRCC

A new collaborative effort that crosses state lines has pledged more than $9 million as part of a grant application that would help keep Amtrak’s Southwest Chief on its current route through Southern Colorado.  KRCC’s Andrea Chalfin reports.
 

The Pueblo Police Department is running a 45-day trial of a new interactive crowd-sourced crime fighting platform.  KRCC’s Eliza Densmore reports.
 

The platform is called CrimeSuspect.Net and equips citizens with the ability to help law enforcement fight local crime.

Pueblo Media Systems Administrator Bobby Cuomo says real-time tips from the public can serve as an extra set of eyes to Pueblo’s police department.

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Wind turbine manufacturer Vestas says it’s expecting to add at least 850 factory workers statewide this year.  400 have already been hired.  The announcement comes after one of the best years for orders placed with the company, and after leaner previous years led to a series of layoffs at its Colorado plants.  In a statement, Vestas says 80 of those workers will be at its Pueblo facility, where they’re expected to reach full capacity this year.  The company also says it expects by the end of the year to employ more than 2000 total workers in its four factories in the state.

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