Gore Creek cleanup plan nears approval — The Vail Daily

From The Vail Daily (Scott N. Miller):

State officials in 2012 placed Gore Creek — as well as a number of other mountain-town streams — on a list of ecologically impaired waterways in Colorado, but that doesn’t mean the creek is the equivalent of a Rust Belt river that can catch fire. Still, humans have affected Gore Creek’s aquatic life — particularly bugs that are the food supply for fish.

To help repair that damage, town officials have been working for some time on a plan called Restore the Gore. The plan’s design so far has included working with consultants, the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District and residents. The plan has also been the subject of six hearings at the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission. The Vail Town Council is the final step to putting the plan — and its 217 recommended actions — into place. Council members Tuesday took a close look at the plan, with an eye toward final approval at the board’s March 15 evening meeting.

MINIMIZING POLLUTANTS

The plan in its current form has a good bit of regulation in it — including what people can spray on weeds they’re legally obligated to control.

But a majority of the recommendations fall into two categories: specific projects and management practices.

The identified projects cover nearly the length of Gore Creek, from the Interstate 70 runaway truck ramp nearest to town to the parking lots at the town’s two supermarkets. The projects run the gamut from restoring creekside vegetation to creating an artificial wetland area — a natural pollutant filter — to catch cinders falling off of I-70 to working to treat runoff from supermarket parking lots.

Gary Brooks, an engineer who is part of the town’s consultant team, said the idea behind all of the projects is to either dilute or interrupt pollutants that would otherwise make their way into the stream.

EDUCATION IS KEY

Education and management practices are similarly broad. Vail Environmental Sustainability Director Kristen Bertuglia said education is a significant part of virtually every element of the plan, from helping homeowners to teaching the landscaping companies those property owners hire.

Those educational efforts seem to be well-received so far. Bertuglia said an informational meeting for landscaping companies in 2015 drew between 80 and 100 people, most of whom were company owners.

Landscape companies that take a sustainable landscaping class — organized in cooperation with the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and scheduled for the spring of this year — can earn a creek-friendly certification from the town. Those companies can use that certification in their own efforts to line up clients for the coming season.

And residents in general seem interested in learning more, Bertuglia said.

“I’ve been inspired by how the community has gotten behind this effort,” Bertuglia said.

VAIL RESORTS INVOLVEMENT

Responding to a question about Vail Resorts’ involvement in the plan, Bertuglia said the environmental team from the company has been involved in drafting the plan, and this winter has moved one of its major snow piles on the valley floor so it will have less impact on the creek when the pile melts.

PRICE TAG FOR PROJECTS

All of these efforts will cost money, of course. Just one project — the stormwater treatment project at the I-70 truck ramp — has an estimated price tag of more than $150,000. Better treatment of runoff from the supermarket parking lots will certain cost more. Another project, a 2017 redo of Slifer Plaza, carries an estimated price of more than $1.3 million, much of which will be spent on replacing an aging storm sewer that runs from north of the Vail Village parking structure into the creek.

The best use of taxpayer money will be a key element of the plan.

The latest “The Current” newsletter is hot off the presses from the Eagle River Watershed Council

Click here to read the newsletter.

Homestake Creek  June 17, 2015 via Allen Best
Homestake Creek June 17, 2015 via Allen Best

Water park for Eagle?

Eagle circa 2010
Eagle circa 2010

From the Vail Daily (Pam Boyd):

As Eagle contemplates a plan to develop a water park — complete with in-stream features, beaches, trails and green space at what is currently the truck parking area west of Chambers Park and east of the Eagle County Fairgrounds — the town organized a panel discussion featuring representatives from Colorado towns that have completed their own park projects. This week, a large crowd of Eagle residents gathered to hear about Colorado communities that were transformed by their river park developments. Representatives from Salida, Buena Vista and Golden shared their respective experiences, offered advice as Eagle looks at its own river project and generally shared the notion that great river spaces make great towns even better.

Salida businessman and Arkansas River Trust member Mike Harvey noted that the community is historically a railroad town, and while boat races on the river date back to the 1940s, the waterway was not truly integrated into the community. However, once the trust was formed in the late 1990s, Salida was able to attract grant money for river park projects.

“What has really happened over the past 15 years is the Arkansas River has become a focal point for our community,” said Harvey.

Businesses have sprung up along the river corridor, community events are planned along the riverbanks and the Arkansas has transformed into a community-defining amenity.

“The economic value of the river is significant. It has become the economic attraction for Chafee County,” said Kitson. “It’s not unusual to see 10 tubers, 20 fisherman and 40 rafts on the river on any given day.”

LOOKING FOR BEAUTY

In neighboring Buena Vista, developer Jed Selby saw the Arkansas River as the focus of his South Main development. The multi-use project features housing, retail and restaurant uses and has a strong focus on riverfront space.

“Our town had turned its back on the river,” said Selby.

The first part of his project was a river park, and Selby said he has learned a lot of lessons from his attempts to build perfect in-stream features to attract water sports enthusiasts.

“It’s one thing to have a wave. It’s another thing to have a spectacular wave,” he said. “We have kept at it year after year after year.”

OCCUPY CLEAR CREEK

Rod Tarullo, director of parks and recreation for the city of Golden, noted Clear Creek “has become the heart and soul of Golden.”

Tarullo noted for the past 18 years, the Clear Creek Park has become an integral part of the community, but when 2012 brought an exceptionally hot summer, the park proved almost too popular.

“We called it Occupy Clear Creek,” said Tarullo, while he shared a picture of an average day on the river that year which showed the waterway crowded with inner-tubes and the riverbanks teeming with people.

After that year, Golden undertook a massive master planning process for its popular amenity to make sure is was not loved to death. “We didn’t want to screw it up. We knew that it is something really good,” said Tarullo…

No one argued the potential of the plan, but some residents questioned the cost. The Eagle Town Board is contemplating a sales tax question for the April 5 municipal election that would increase the local tax by 0.5 percent to generate money for the initial phase of development. That tax is estimated to generate around $4 million over a 20-year period and the total park plan is estimated to cost around $10 million. Eagle hopes to attract grants and funding partners to complete the overall vision.

Dara MacDonald, city administrator for Salida, noted that river park development is expensive, but said it can also be the catalyst for broader economic development.

“Private investment follows public dollars,” she said. “There is so much more vitality in our downtown (since the river park development).”

“These river parks are more than water parks. They are magnets for people,” said Harvey.

Eagle River Basin
Eagle River Basin

Will Gore Creek restoration start this year? — The Vail Daily

Gore Creek
Gore Creek

From the Vail Daily (Scott N. Miller):

Based on new standards of stream health, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment put Gore Creek on a list of impaired streams in the state in 2012. The local creek isn’t alone. A number of streams through and near mountain towns are on the list.

Still, “impaired stream” and “mountain playground” don’t sound good together. That’s why local officials have been working on plans to improve aquatic life in the creek for the past several years

That work took a lot of time because a host of causes affect the stream’s health, ranging from road sand and de-icer to runoff from parking lots to what landowners use to control weeds on their creekside properties. All of those things affect aquatic life in the creek — specifically, the small bugs that allow other aquatic life to flourish.

This week, the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission approved a town action plan to help with the creek cleanup. The Vail Town Council is expected to get its first look at the approved plan in February and will likely approve the plan soon after…

ENHANCEMENT PROJECTS

The plan has identified 42 streamside enhancement projects between the farthest reaches of East Vail and the confluence of Gore Creek with the Eagle River. Brooke Ranney, the projects and events coordinator with the Eagle River Watershed Council, said each of those areas is an acre or less in size. Those sites have also been prioritized. Most of the improvements focus on storm drainage. But some will have a direct effect on how people can reach the stream.

Ranney said one project is just west of the skier bridge in Lionshead Village. That area sees a lot of foot traffic, which has caused erosion along the banks. That project will stabilize the stream bank. But, Ranney said, the trick with that and other projects is stabilizing areas while still allowing access to the stream.

Arriving at the point of having a restoration plan in place has taken years of research and planning.

While Gore Creek landed on the state’s list in 2012, the new water-quality standards were understood several years before. Diane Johnson, of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, said the district started gathering data about the stream in 2008 as part of an effort to understand how the standards would affect the wastewater treatment plant just west of Lionshead in Vail.

RESEARCH GUIDES RESULTS

While the treatment plant can clean up water downstream, Johnson said there’s nothing the district can do about pollution upstream. But the research the district has done over the past several years will guide the town’s plan.

“We’re finally moving from field work, research and analysis to action,” Johnson said.

That field work has involved a lot time beating the bushes — literally. In 2015, the town hired SGM, a Glenwood Springs-based engineering company, to do a comprehensive inventory of the town’s storm sewer system.

“They did an excellent job,” Bertuglia said. “They literally got into the weeds and tracked where the (storm sewer) basins go.”

While the watershed council is a nonprofit group with a limited budget, Ranney said that group can help coordinate educational projects and, in some cases, round up volunteers for restoration projects. The council used a lot of volunteer help for a stream restoration project in Edwards a few years ago.

Community involvement is important in cleanup and restoration efforts, and Bertuglia said town residents seem ready.

“It’s encouraging how engaged the community has been,” she said.

Johnson said that’s going to be important in the future — and not just for people who live along the creek.

“We can all make personal choices,” Johnson said. “Anything that runs off your driveway or your lawn eventually makes it down to the creek.”

The latest “The Current” newsletter is hot off the presses from the Eagle River Watershed Council

Colorado River in Eagle County via the Colorado River District
Colorado River in Eagle County via the Colorado River District

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Progress made during 2015 set to help improve watershed

The Eagle River, its tributaries and streams and the 55 miles of the Colorado River that runs through Eagle County are directly related to our economic wealth. A healthy watershed means a strong tourism economy, the main driver in our area. And it’s not only about the money. The water attracts wildlife — moose, bear, eagles and foxes frequent our waterways. It’s drinking water for our entire
community. It is important that the visitors and residents of Eagle County understand this, and also understand the threats to and condition of our watershed, especially as the population grows. The more each of us knows about the issues affecting our watershed, the more able we are as a community to take steps as needed. At the policy making level, awareness will help our representatives make educated and responsible decisions.

Eagle River
Eagle River

This year was a busy year for Eagle River Watershed Council. One exciting accomplishment was launching new projects on the 55 miles of the Colorado River in Eagle County, each recommended in the 2014 Colorado River Inventory and Assessment. Among these are restoration projects that foster new alliances with the ranching community. Through collaborative efforts with private landowners, federal agencies and other nonprofit organizations, we have improved the health of this stretch of the Colorado River and provided an example of
progressive environmental attitudes toward the watershed.

Gore Creek
Gore Creek

GORE CREEK IMPROVEMENTS
Deserving recognition at year end is the town of Vail for its efforts along Gore Creek. The town of Vail is committed to improving the health of its gold medal stream. In 2015, Vail completed the Gore Creek Water Quality Improvement Plan and has moved forward with the implementation phase of the program. Key components of the plan are to revise land-use regulations, repair damaged sections of the riparian zone and work with Colorado Department of Transportation to improve stormwater runoff systems near Interstate 70. Vail has identified 42 restoration projects and 61 stormwater runoff enhancements. Eagle River Watershed Council is excited to be working with the town of Vail to implement revegetation projects that will serve as examples of beautiful, river-friendly landscaping. The Watershed Council will continue to lead the Urban Runoff Group to create similar action plans for downstream communities.

Eagle Mine
Eagle Mine

MAKING DIRTY WATER CLEAN AGAIN
While the images from the Gold King Mine Spill shocked us, the reality is that amount of acid mine runoff is spilled into Colorado’s mountain streams every two days from thousands of abandoned mining sites. We’ve seen what the Eagle Mine is capable of doing to our river when left unchecked. In fact, this is where the Watershed Council has its roots. Every minute, 250 gallons of acid mine runoff flow into a water treatment plant in Minturn created solely for the treatment of Eagle Mine water. The plant removes an astounding 251 pounds of metals each day. The Watershed Council’s diligent efforts have held the responsible party accountable and have helped to develop a strategy to prevent a major event like the one in Silverton.

The Basin of Last Resort has been a problem for years. This is the pond on Vail Pass which catches traction sand from I-70 and prevents it from migrating into Black Gore Creek, a tributary to the Gore. The basin has reached a critical level more than once, and the permitting process to remove the sand has been cumbersome in the most bureaucratic sense. The Watershed Council is helping CDOT to design and implement a plan that allows more efficient access to the basin so that it can be cleaned more regularly. This approach will likely not be implemented until 2017, but the end result will be a long-term solution.

The Watershed Council is fortunate to have an incredibly-competent staff, expert consultants and a compassionate board of directors to guide it. But it is the support of the Eagle County community that allows us to succeed; the individuals and businesses who donate, the municipalities, the volunteers. We have a dedicated and reliable group of people who regularly attend our events. We thank you for your continued participation and want to let you know that there is always room for more. Please join us as a volunteer or at our Watershed Wednesday educational series, where we discuss and dissect relevant water topics. Also, if you share our values, then please donate or contact us about aligning your business with the Watershed Council’s Business Partner Program.

Eagle River Basin
Eagle River Basin

Eagle hosts river corridor plan meeting, Wednesday, January 6th

eaglerivercorridorplancover

Update: Matt Farrar sent the following in email:

Just so you are aware, the meeting on Wednesday night is intended to be an opportunity for the engineering firm (S20 Design) that the Town has hired to gather public input on the design of in-stream and riverbank improvements for the Eagle River Park. S20 is not working on the design of the riverside park area. Unfortunately the Vail Daily article didn’t do a great job of explaining the intent of Wednesday’s meeting so I have feeling there might be some confusion about the purpose of Wednesday’s meeting. I have attached a poster that was prepared for the upcoming meeting. Feel free to distribute this poster if you’d like.

From the Vail Daily:

The town of Eagle will host a public information meeting regarding the recently adopted Eagle River Corridor Plan on Wednesday.

The session is planned at 6 p.m. at Eagle Town Hall.

The Eagle River Corridor Plan was officially adopted by the Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission Dec. 1. Adoption of the plan establishes the document as the town’s guide for future growth and development along the Eagle River.

“The Eagle River is a tremendous asset of the town of Eagle, and this plan will enable the community to take better advantage of this natural resource,” said Eagle Town Board member Andy Jessen. “The community has made it clear that they want to connect the town with the river, while preserving it for future generations.”

The planning process for the Eagle River Corridor Plan began in September 2014. The plan was prepared in partnership with Community Builders (formerly the Sonoran Institute) and under the guidance and direction of a steering committee that was comprised of interested citizens, landowners, elected and appointed public officials of Eagle and Eagle County staff. There were several opportunities for public input regarding the plan and a total of five drafts were prepared throughout the course of the planning commission’s review.

“We heard loud and clear through our river corridor planning process that the community wants improved access to the river. The Chambers Park boat ramp improvements are a great start. These improvements are something that the town can build off of as the Eagle River Corridor Plan is implemented over the coming years.” — Matt FarrarAssistant planner, town of Eagle

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PLAN

The planning area encompasses approximately 3.4 miles of the Eagle River and more than 300 acres. Design and construction of the Eagle River Park, much of which is located at the current truck parking site on the eastern side of the Eagle County Fairgrounds, was identified as a priority. The town has hired an engineering firm, S20 Design, to work on the design of in-stream and riverbank improvements and is negotiating with a landscape architect firm, studioINSITE, to create a conceptual landscape plan of the Eagle River Park that will be used to guide future discussion with the public on what the park should include.

The park plan includes a variety of amenities such as a riverside park, beaches, river viewing areas, trails and in-stream features to create a river park.

Eagle officials say the park plan reflects six major themes:

• Conservation: Protect water quality of the Eagle River and create a network of open space along the river to preserve important wetlands, riparian areas and wildlife habitat while allowing for active recreation in select areas.

• Economic development: Increase public and private sector investment within the river corridor that results in economic growth.

• Recreation: Provide high quality, river oriented recreation amenities that allow for a wide variety of user groups to enjoy the Eagle River and its immediate environs.

• Place making: Create authentic and memorable places along the Eagle River for both residents and visitors.

• Transportation and access: Provide safe and convenient public access from Eagle’s neighborhoods to the Eagle River.

• Education and awareness: Use elements of the Eagle River and adjacent land to promote understanding of the river ecosystem and other qualities of the river corridor.

“The Eagle River is probably our most under utilized natural resource,” Jessen said. “We’ve seen success with our trail building efforts; the town of Eagle River Corridor Plan allows for additional recreation opportunities in Eagle, as we continue to establish ourselves as a premier outdoor recreation destination in Colorado and provide a high quality of life for our residents and guests.”

S20 DESIGN

Last fall, the town of Eagle worked with S20 Design to improve the Chambers Park boat ramp. S20 enlarged the take-out eddy for the boat ramp and did some boulder terracing work along the edge of the eddy. The improvements to the eddy should make it easier for boaters to catch the eddy for the Chambers Park boat ramp and avoid the Rodeo Rapids down river. The boulder terracing will reduce erosion and impacts from boaters walking the bank. The boulder terracing also creates convenient access for visitors to relax and hang out next to the river.

S20 Design’s work also entailed repositioning the boulders in the weirs located upstream and downstream of the boat ramp. Upstream and downstream boulders were reconfigured to improve the function of the eddy at higher river flows to discourage people from climbing out onto the boulders at higher flows.

“The improvements made at the Chambers Park boat ramp this fall create better access to the takeout eddy and the boat ramp, improve safety and create a unique place in Eagle for people to hang out along the river,” said Matt Farrar, town of Eagle assistant planner. “We heard loud and clear through our river corridor planning process that the community wants improved access to the river. The Chambers Park boat ramp improvements are a great start. These improvements are something that the town can build off of as the Eagle River Corridor Plan is implemented over the coming years.”

For more information about the Town of Eagle River Corridor Plan, contact Matt Farrar at 970-328-9651 or matt.farrar@townofeagle.org.

Here’s the link to the Eagle River Corridor Plan.

Eagle River Basin
Eagle River Basin

The latest “The Current” newsletter is hot off the presses from the Eagle River Watershed Council

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

While the West has transformed and evolved greatly since the pioneer days, mining laws remain largely unchanged. Hardrock mining and extraction is, to this day, governed by President Ulysses S. Grant’s General Mining Law of 1872.

Five U.S. Senators, including Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, have introduced the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2015 in an attempt to reform that 140-year-old law and provide a modern mechanism by which we might cleanup abandoned mines throughout the West…

Kate is the education & outreach coordinator for the Watershed Council. Click here to read more about the proposed legislation.