Fraser: Dwight Eisenhower’s summer playground — Sky-Hi Daily News

Ike enjoying the Fraser River back in the day
Ike enjoying the Fraser River back in the day

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Kristi Martens, Steve Sumrall and Ashley Trotter):

At the Taste of History Champagne Brunch and Social, the Grand County Historical Association will offer guided tours of President Eisenhower’s summer playground at Byers Peak Ranch.

Join us on Saturday, Sept. 12 ,for the Taste of History Champagne Brunch fundraiser, and purchase tickets ($40 – $50) online at http://www.grandcountyhistory.org.

According to Charles Clayton, President Dwight Eisenhower is probably Fraser’s — if not Grand County’s — most famous visitor. From 1948 to 1955, and possibly as early as 1938, Eisenhower visited the Fraser Valley many times. During the early years of his presidency, from 1953-55, Eisenhower visited 26 days. He always stayed at one of the cabins on the 3,800 acre Byers Peak Ranch along St. Louis Creek, owned by his friends, Aksel Nielsen and Carl Norgren.

For decades prior to his presidency (1953-1961), Eisenhower was quite familiar with Colorado. Then an up and coming military man, Ike married Mamie Doud in 1916 at her family home at 750 Lafayette Street in Denver, now a National Historic Register site. Ike was 25 and Mamie aged 19 then. Denver became their home base while on active military duty throughout the world.

Research by Fraser historian Steve Sumrall shows that it was through Mamie’s father, John Doud, that “Ike” became acquainted with the Fraser Valley. Mr. Doud’s bookkeeper and financial advisor was young Aksel Nielsen. At the Doud home, Aksel met Ike probably circa 1925. Their friendship grew as they shared a passion for the great outdoors and fishing. Aksel introduced Ike to the Rocky Mountains as early as 1938, a trip which may have brought the future president to Byers Peak Ranch and Fraser’s famed fishing creeks.

At the time, Aksel Nielsen, along with business partner Carl Norgren, began purchasing land in the Fraser Valley. They had a deep appreciation for Byers Peak Ranch for Boys, founded and operated by Jessie Arnold from 1932 to 1939. Their children attended the summer camp that for a few weeks each year even allowed girls. Norgren’s daughter, Gene, the future Mrs. Walter Koelbel, was a camp counselor. Arnold built the many log cabins that still exist on the property.

When the camp went into default, Norgren and Nielsen stepped in and purchased the 160 acre Byers Peak Ranch in 1939. As part of the business and philanthropy corps of Denver, Nielsen and Norgren were involved with the National Western Stock Show and the gentlemanly occupation of cattle ranching. They purchased lands surrounding the Byers Peak Ranch for Boys, including Frank Carlsen’s property that had once belonged to the Gaskill’s.

By the mid-1950s, the two investors owned over 3,800 acres including a 3-mile stretch of St. Louis Creek — prime trout fishing waters. Their goal was to turn the land from a youth summer camp into a working cattle ranch, with a little fishing on the side. They urged their friend Eisenhower to visit their new ranch.

Growing up the third of seven brothers in Abilene, Kansas, Dwight Eisenhower loved to fish and hunt. Aksel realized that fishing at St. Louis Creek would be the salve that his buddy Ike craved as World War II loomed in the distance. Certainly after the war, when Eisenhower returned a true hero, Byers Peak Ranch offered the private escape for one of the leaders of the Free World.

Correspondence about visits to Byers Peak Ranch shows that in June 1943, Aksel addressed then Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower: “I have gone up to the ranch, cleaned out the cabin and have everything ready for you … you can go up there and hide and nobody need know where you are … you may do a little fishing.”

Writing from the Supreme Headquarters of Allied Powers Europe on April 3, 1952, and prior to his election as president, Ike wrote to Aksel, “In spite of the rush of events and some of the complicated possibilities, I do hope that you and I may be able to pick up a few rainbow at Saint Louis Creek.” (These letters and others are on display at Cozens Ranch Museum, Grand County Historical Association, in Fraser.)

A few months later, upon receiving the Republican nomination for president in Chicago, Eisenhower picked the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver as his campaign headquarters. He was then off to Byers Peak Ranch to get to know his young running mate, Richard Nixon, plan their campaign strategy, and to fish and cook.

In his autobiography, Mandate for Change, 1963, Dwight Eisenhower explained, “In the Fraser area, which I started to visit just after World War II, Aksel and I like to stay for several days at a time. The gatherings were always a small group of men, and I … always the cook … In simpler pre-presidential years, this meant cooking at the most, for three or four. But once I started traveling with Secret Service men, signal detachments, and staff assistants, our simple fishing expeditions became as elaborate as troop movements.”

In August 1954, President Eisenhower invited former President Herbert Hoover to Byers Peak Ranch for a working vacation. Ike wrote to Hoover, “as to fishing: My own choice is to go over the Berthoud Pass to Fraser. The altitude of my friend’s little ranch there is under nine thousand feet. There is a small stream on which we catch ten and twelve inchers, and of course there is always the chance for the occasional big fellow of something on the order of sixteen or seventeen inches. I assure you that you don’t need to be especially terrified at the prospect of living on my cooking for a couple of days. My culinary reputation is pretty good … It is a grand place to loaf and we will have absolutely no one with us except my great friend who owns the place … I cannot tell you how delighted I am at the prospect of the two of us having a period together in such a quiet retreat,” wrote Eisenhower.

Unfortunately, Eisenhower’s last trip to Byers Peak Ranch was a year later, in September 1955. Aksel built a new cabin for Ike, now an older president at age 65. Wrote Aksel,“We moved into the new house up at Fraser … I will tell you that is has a beautiful Youngstown kitchen in which you can practice your culinary arts. It has a nice dining section off the living room where you can feed your guests. It has a beautiful living room overlooking the Continental Divide and Byers Peak. … It has St. Louis creek where it always was but we have built a pond just off the corral … “

Replied Ike, “I can’t wait until we get into the new house at Fraser. I suppose I shall be expected to produce something superlative on that beautiful new kitchen of yours.” Ike and his team visited the new cabin twice, and for the last time on Sept. 23, 1955 when they headed east, back to Denver over Berthoud Pass.

The next day, on Sept. 24, Eisenhower’s life-changing heart attack occurred after a day of golf in Denver. It permanently ended Ike’s retreats to Byers Peak Ranch. Due to Fraser’s high altitude, doctors insisted that Eisenhower’s summer playground move East for the remainder of his presidency, and life.

Today, a visit to Byers Peak Ranch, down a private dirt road, reveals a mix of refurbished structures along with many historic, log cabins. The “modern” 1955 modular house, with Ike’s fancy kitchen, is next door to the Gail Delaney property. Ike and Aksel’s first log cabins are further up the road, with one labeled, “Ike’s Cabin.”

Join us at the Taste of History Champagne Brunch and Social on Saturday, Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., to experience the glory of Byers Peak Ranch and with guided tours of the Eisenhower Cabins. For tickets, go to http://www.grandcountyhistory.org.

#AnimasRiver: How Are Farms Affected? — Modern Farmer

Animas River photo via EPA
Animas River photo via EPA

From Modern Farmer (Gabrielle Saulsbery and Andrew Amelinckx):

Joe Wheeling, a co-owner of the James Ranch in Durango, Colorado, tells Modern Farmer that they rely almost exclusively on water from the Animas River for their irrigation needs. Their crops went without water for “three or four days” before the EPA agreed to provide them with water from Durango, but he says “it’s not a huge amount.”

Wheeling runs the The Gardens at the 400-acre ranch, along with his wife Jenn. They grow organic produce, flowers, and herbs. There’s also a dairy and grass-fed beef cattle operation there. He says that because they had ponds at the ranch they were able to water the cattle from there, but that “it’s impacted our irrigation and grazing cycle.”[…]

Trying to get an exact number on the farms and ranches impacted by the spill hasn’t been an easy task since information is still coming in from the various agencies…

A contact at the United States Department of Agriculture tells Modern Farmer that it’s still gathering information and doesn’t have any final data on what farms are affected, or how many, but that its county field offices are “communicating with producers in the interim to assess local conditions.”

The agency is “monitoring conditions closely to gather information on potential agricultural needs. That will let us know what might be necessary, or possible,” the source said.

What we do know is that in Colorado, there was a period of between three and seven days when irrigation water was shut down to an estimated 2,500 acres of land, and while that’s tough on crops, it’s the potential residual effects from the heavy metals that are more worrisome. And as of now there’s no way to quantify those effects…

Wheeling says they are taking it slowly when it comes to returning to using the river for irrigation purposes and will be looking for a variety of indicators before they do. Until then they’ll continue to use the water that’s being driven over from Durango to water their crops. He says the ranch invested in a sand filtering system for the farm a couple of years ago, which should help with providing clean water when they do return to using the Animas River.

“We’re pretty confident that that will filter out whatever remaining sediment might be there. We’re not just jumping into things. We’re being cautious,” he says by phone. “At the end of the day it’s the trust our customers have in us and we take that trust very seriously.

#ColoradoRiver: Colorado Water Conservation Board to Release Ruedi Reservoir Water for Endangered Fish — CWCB


Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (Linda Bassi/Ted Kowalski):

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) today [September 2] initiated the release of water from Ruedi Reservoir for the month of September for the benefit of the Colorado River endangered fish.

On August 31, the CWCB entered into a lease agreement with the Ute Water Conservancy District (UWCD) for water stored in Ruedi Reservoir, located on the Fryingpan River near Basalt, to supplement flows for existing instream flow water rights on the Colorado River. The CWCB approved entering into the Water Lease Agreement with the UWCD during a regular CWCB Board meeting in May 2015. This agreement allows the CWCB to lease between 6,000 acre-feet and 12,000 acre-feet of water from Ruedi Reservoir for instream flow use on the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River, located near Palisade, Colorado. No releases will result in overall flows from Ruedi exceeding 300 cfs.

The so-called 15-Mile Reach provides critical spawning habitat for the following endangered fish: Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub, and bonytail. It was determined that the water would be best utilized to preserve the natural environment at rates up to and exceeding the current instream flow rights to meet U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) flow targets for the four endangered fish species in the reach. “These types of ‘win-win’ agreements are needed to assure that Colorado can beneficially use water within Colorado and help recover endangered fish that use the Colorado River for habitat,” said James Eklund, the Director of the CWCB.

The UWCD was established in 1965 for the purpose of supplying domestic water service to the rural areas of the Grand Valley, encompassing roughly 260 square miles and servicing over 80,000 people. The UWCD originally entered into a Repayment Contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in September 2013, through which it purchased 12,000 acre-feet of water annually from Ruedi Reservoir. By entering into this lease, the CWCB has access to this water on a short-term basis for the benefit of four endangered fish species. Water released from Ruedi Reservoir under this lease will also be available for non-consumptive power generation immediately above the reach, providing additional late summer benefits to the local area.

“This is the first time that the Species Conservation Trust Fund has been used to purchase stored water to supplement flows to critical habitat for endangered fish. We are excited that we have been able to use this particular funding source and our instream flow program for this purpose,” said Linda Bassi, Chief of the Stream and Lake Protection Section of the CWCB. Currently, the CWCB holds two instream flow water rights on the reach. Jana Mohrman, Hydrologist for the USFWS for the Upper Colorado River Recovery Program, added that “it’s outstanding to see the initiative and cooperation on behalf of the endangered fish by Ute Water and CWCB.”

“Colorado has always been on the leading edge of balancing the development of water resources with recovery of endangered species, and this lease is another example of how Colorado has been able to creatively balance those competing interests,” said Ted Kowalski, Chief of the Interstate, Federal & Water Information Section,

The CWCB has already coordinated with a variety of stakeholders within the affected reaches to implement the releases of this water from Ruedi Reservoir. This coordination will continue throughout the month of September.

Pitkin County ponies up $35,000 to help the Colorado Water Trust

Map of the Roaring Fork River watershed via the Roaring Fork Conservancy
Map of the Roaring Fork River watershed via the Roaring Fork Conservancy

From the Aspen Daily News (Collin Szewczyk):

A three-pronged approach to restore local water flows got a shot in the arm on Tuesday when Pitkin County supported a $35,000 Healthy Rivers and Streams grant to help a Front Range nonprofit’s plan to keep more water in the Roaring Fork River.

The project looks to provide a pathway for water right holders to leave more of their allocation in the Roaring Fork without being penalized, and assess availability of other water sources to combine the total for maximum benefit for the river.

The Denver-based Colorado Water Trust is spearheading the project, which aims to extend a non-diversion agreement for the city-owned Wheeler Ditch; look into the utilization of up to 3,000 acre-feet of water that would otherwise be diverted through the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion System to bolster flows near Aspen; and study ways to use more water in Grizzly Reservoir to benefit the Roaring Fork.

The funding will go toward coordinating the project; the completion of a feasibility analyses; forecasting instream flow needs for the upcoming irrigation season; performing outreach; and monitoring and reporting of streamflow and project benefits, according to a supplemental budget request from Lisa MacDonald, of the Pitkin County Attorneys Office.

Amy Beatie, executive director of the Colorado Water Trust (CWT), said this is a “real opportunity” to put water back in the Roaring Fork River, especially in the stretch between the Salvation Ditch and Castle Creek…

Wheeler Ditch non-diversion agreement

Aspen City Council partnered with the Colorado Water Trust in 2013 on a one-year Wheeler Ditch non-diversion agreement to improve streamflow conditions on a section of river that flows through the city. This area stretches from the ditch, which is located near the eastern edge of town, down to the Rio Grande Park, the CWT grant application noted. The agreement was also renewed in 2014.

When the water level in the river fell below 32 cubic feet per second (CFS), the city reduced the Wheeler Ditch diversions to keep water in the river, leading to an increase of about 2 to 3 CFS from mid-July through the end of the irrigation season.

Under the new proposal, this Wheeler agreement would be extended for 10 years, but only five of those years are covered under SB-19.

The water trust’s hope is that once others with water rights see the success of non-diversion agreements, they too will allow more water to remain in the Roaring Fork without penalty.

Beatie added that the city of Aspen has given the CWT a “resounding thumbs-up” in its efforts.

“[The non-diversion agreement] is an informal agreement where a water user decides not to use its water right for its decreed purposes,” she explained. “But can instead leave it in the river. There’s no transfer obligations, it’s a very simple and private process and it’s a private contract between the trust and the city to experiment with leaving water in this section of river.”

More water from Grizzly Reservoir

Beatie said a right to 800 acre-feet of water in Grizzly Reservoir was acquired in a settlement by the Colorado River Water Conservation District in an application for a junior right enlargement.

John Currier, chief engineer with the Colorado River Water Conservation District, explained that out of the first 2,400 acre-feet that’s diverted in any given year under the junior water right, 800 goes to the river district.

“Through agreements with the city and county, that water is to be used in various ways, primarily for instream flow purposes,” he said.

Currier added that the real task of the overall project is figuring out how to marry the three sources and maximize the benefit.

“This was water that the river district secured,” Beatie noted. “It’s 800 acre-feet, about 750 of which can be used by a combination of the river district and Aspen for environmental purposes.”

Beatie said the river district is allowing CWT to analyze how the water can best be used and “sow this supply together with the Wheeler Ditch project.”

The CWT then intends to investigate how to best utilize the Grizzly water to enhance Roaring Fork streamflows, especially in years in which the Wheeler Ditch isn’t being diverted.

According to the CWT grant application, the first 40-acre feet of Grizzly Reservoir water would “be held in a mitigation account for subsequent release to enhance flows in the Roaring Fork during the late irrigation season.”

“The remaining water is to be stored either in Grizzly Reservoir in a Colorado River Water Conservation District account (up to 200 acre-feet) or held in [Twin Lakes Reservoir] storage,” the application continued.

Commissioner Steve Child asked if Grizzly Reservoir could be enlarged to provide more water on the West Slope.

Currier said that while nothing is in the works yet, the idea has “been on the radar screen.”

Water from the ‘Exchange’

In the third part of proposal, known as the “exchange,” the CWT will also investigate, in partnership with the water district, how to restore flows via the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion System.

This could provide up to 3,000 acre feet of water “in exchange for equivalent bypasses from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River,” the CWT grant application noted.

But Beatie said that while this arrangement has been implemented, it’s never been formally approved.

“The state engineer cannot administer an agreement, they need to administer a water right,” she said. “There may be more steps that need to be undertaken, both to secure this water right as instream flow, and then to have it protected.”

Wide support for effort

The Pitkin County commissioners supported the HRS grant allocation for the project, and praised the city’s involvement.

“From the bottom of my heart I want to applaud the city for taking the lead on this during the drought and continuing and following through,” said Commissioner Rachel Richards. “It’s just been fabulous.”

Dave Nixa, vice chair of the Healthy Rivers and Streams Board, said data from this project could provide a huge opportunity to increase local flows, calling it the most comprehensive grant request that HRS has ever received.

“We’re talking about, could some of those places be Snowmass Creek and the Crystal [River]?” he said. “Where we could use the value of this as a catalyst to encourage others to participate.”

April Long, stormwater manager for the city, said Aspen is looking at creating a river management plan for the Roaring Fork, calling it a top priority.

“It’s something that we’ll be working with the county very closely on, and all the other stakeholders in the suburb section of the watershed in the next two years to develop an operational river management plan for how we can maintain flows in drought years,” she said.

The CWT had already attained a matching grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and the total budget for the project is approximately $70,000, according to a letter from Beatie to the HRS board.

“The idea behind this application is that it’s a really good start,” Beatie said, “Our experience is that one step forward into solving flow shortages is often the catalyst to bring more energy and enthusiasm and other water rights and water users into the program.”

CDPHE: Trout from the Animas River safe to eat, tests show

rainbowtrout

Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (Meghan Trubee):

Fish tissue sampling by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment have determined trout from the Animas River are safe to eat. Most fish tissue analyzed after the Gold King mine release showed metals below detectable levels. All results were below the risk threshold. Levels of mercury, selenium and arsenic in rainbow and brown trout were within the range of levels in fish previously sampled in the state. The results most likely represent background levels, not a change in levels because of the Aug. 5 mine spill.

Fish samples were compared to EPA regional screening levels in a manner similar to risk assessment of water and sediment from the Animas River. Risk assessment focused on short-term health effects since the mine spill was a short-term event. Because there is a potential for fish to concentrate metals in their tissue over time, the department and Colorado Parks and Wildlife will continue to monitor levels of metals in Animas River fish. New data will be analyzed and results reported when available.

More information on the Gold King mine release is available at: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/animas-river-spill

September 10 seminar highlights water connections from Colorado to California — Hannah Holm

Colorado River Basin including Mexico, USBR May 2015
Colorado River Basin including Mexico, USBR May 2015

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

As California has sunk deeper into drought over the past several years, Colorado has mostly climbed out after the back-to-back dry winters of 2012 & 2013. At this point, Colorado is officially drought-free except for small patches with “abnormally dry” conditions in the northwestern and southwestern corners.

Because Colorado’s snowpack and water use affect water supplies downstream aligning supply and demand in Arizona, Nevada and California continues to be a struggle. Inevitably Colorado will face repercussions upstream in the headwaters of the great Colorado River.

The Colorado River District is providing an excellent opportunity to learn about these hydrologic and policy connections from some of the top minds in western water at its annual seminar September 10 in Grand Junction’s Two Rivers Convention Center. The theme of the seminar is “Will what’s happening in California stay in California?”

Starting off at 9am, climate researcher Klaus Wolter will discuss the climate conditions that have led to the 15-year southwestern drought that has helped drop the reservoirs of Lake Mead and Powell to historic lows.

On the policy front, former Las Vegas water czar Pat Mulroy will discuss why the impacts of water challenges along the Colorado will flow upstream as well as downstream. Jennifer Gimbel, Principal Deputy Secretary for Water and Science for the U.S. Department of the Interior and former Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, will provide a federal perspective on the regional drought and efforts to address the low levels in Lakes Mead and Powell.

Over lunch, longtime environmental reporter John Fleck will take time out from writing his book on the Colorado River to discuss the capacity of the Colorado River Compact to flex to address new realities of supply and demand. Bringing the focus back upstream, Colorado River District leaders Eric Kuhn and Dan Birch will then argue that Western Coloradans need to worry more about protecting existing uses in the face of drought than a big new project to take water east of the Continental Divide.

The final two speakers, Ken Nowak with the Bureau of Reclamation and Astor Boozer with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, will discuss trends, opportunities and challenges associated with agricultural water conservation, efficiency and transfers to urban areas. The seminar will conclude at 3:30pm.

The cost for the seminar, including lunch, is $30 if you register by September 4, and $40 if you pay at the door. Students can attend for $10. Full details are at http://www.crwcd.org.

This is part of a series of articles coordinated by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University in cooperation with the Colorado and Gunnison Basin Roundtables to raise awareness about water needs, uses and policies in our region. To learn more about the basin roundtables and statewide water planning, and to let the roundtables know what you think, go to http://www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter. You can also find the Water Center at http://www.Facebook.com/WaterCenter.CMU or http://www.Twitter.com/WaterCenterCMU.

Telluride: Workers installing pipe around Blue Lake

Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls

From The Watch (Stephen Elliott):

For years, Idarado, which owns much of the land and water rights in the upper basins around Blue Lake, and the town of Telluride have argued — occasionally in a courtroom — over water. Now, the two entities are working together to achieve the mutual benefit the pipeline project will bring.

“This project is necessary because it’s a historic pipeline that existed many, many years ago, installed by miners. Since it’s very old, and it’s in very extreme conditions in terms of climate and geology, it has sprung a lot of leaks,” Telluride Environmental and Engineering Division Manager Karen Guglielmone said. “Over the last several years, we’ve been in a bit of a drought and [the amount of water stored in Blue Lake] has dropped by many feet. It has become quite obvious that additional water from the next drainage is important to maintaining that water storage.”[…]

The new pipeline connects Lewis Lake and Blue Lake. Lewis Lake is at a slightly higher elevation than Blue Lake, which means gravity can facilitate the transfer of water from the higher lake to the lower. The water then is transported to the Bridal Veil Falls power station and eventually to the Pandora water treatment plant.

The vast majority of the new pipe, made of high-density polypropylene, is being installed on the flatter stretches between the two lakes by EarthTech West out of Norwood. The work to install the flatter, simpler sections of pipe has been moving relatively quickly in comparison to the highly technical — and laborious — work required in order to install the 160-foot section of pipe on the cliff.

That’s the job of Access in Motion, the rope access experts, a company based in Telluride and led by owner/contractor Juju Jullien. The crew, a half-dozen (depending on the day) expert welders and machine specialists used to dangling off the sides of cliffs and buildings, work six, 10-hour days while living at the camp, with two days off in between.

“You have to drive for almost an hour, and the road is very dangerous. Driving it after 10 hours of work on a daily basis is not something you want everyone to do, so the camp made sense,” Jullien said. “You can have the best technicians, but they also have to be mountain people, and people that can get along. Six 10-hour days at that altitude with heavy equipment… it’s fun and we love it, but it’s not a job that you start by running, because that job will outrun you.”

That sentiment, combined with the highly technical work involved with securing the steel pipe to the cliff, means it’s hard for Jullien to estimate when they might be done, though a natural deadline would be the first snowfall, which is fast approaching at 12,000 feet. Guglielmone said initial estimates were that the project would take between six and 10 weeks and would be completed by mid-September. Jullien’s team was not able to visit the site for the first time until July 13 due to late spring snow and rain.

To secure the pipe to the cliff, Jullien’s team will drill nine one-inch stainless rods 15 inches into the rock, seal them and then weld them to the pipe. Each anchor will be stress-tested at 8,000 pounds for five minutes before the pipe can be secured.

“It’s all custom work, hard to predict, and all on ropes,” Jullien said. “Each support for the pipe, they’re all different because the rock is not a concrete wall. You cannot have one design that you multiply. It’s a slow process.”

More important than the speed necessary to install the pipe before the winter snows arrive is safety, Jullien said.

“There’s a notion of distance and isolation up here,” he said. “A little accident up here is serious. If you’re in town, you’re next to the medical center. That’s easy.”

“As far as natural hazards like lightning, rain, snow, and cold [go], even the sun is a hazard at 12,000 feet,” Jullien continued.

To manage safety concerns at the site, the Access in Motion and EarthTech West teams have a joint safety meeting each morning. Additionally, Jullien said, his team’s experience working in the oil and gas industry, where safety regulations are incredibly thorough, means they are taking even more safety precautions than prescribed by their own industry regulations.

“It’s a very industrial approach to safety,” Jullien said.

“You can’t have any failure. That’s what we’ve learned on the big fields.”

Because the project is mostly on Idarado’s land and is overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, San Miguel County has limited oversight of the project. But, the county gave Idarado development permits and county staff visited the site.

“In general the county supports clean energy, and we think the hydroelectric plant does that,” county planning director Mike Rozycki said. “We look at it as an essential regional facility.”
At the site, reminders of the miners who once inhabited the basin below Blue Lake remain, in the form of dilapidated wooden structures and rusted pipes half-buried in the ground. Those miners are ever-present in the minds of those who now inhabit the flat, grassy campsite.

“We’re surrounded by historical flumes, and when we have to work around them and are not allowed to move them, we respect that because we understand how long they took to build,” Jullien said. “I love to see those old pieces of steel.”

Guglielmone has a more practical respect for the memory of the miners. She said that the fact that they built the pipe in the first place is reason enough to reconstruct it.

“Think about the miners living in those kinds of conditions. Would they really have built it if they didn’t believe that water was necessary in Blue Lake?” she asked. “They weren’t frivolous. They didn’t build infrastructure unless they felt strongly that they needed it.”