Vail: ‘Restore the Gore’ campaign to kick off April 25

April 17, 2014

gorecreekwinter

From the Vail Daily:

An awareness campaign to help improve the health of Gore Creek is being introduced this spring with a focus on best practices for landscapers and gardeners. The “Restore the Gore” kick off takes place April 25 with a free Moe’s BBQ lunch and learn session from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at Donovan Pavilion. Landscape contractors, gardeners, commercial applicators and lodging managers, in particular, are encouraged to attend. Lunch service will begin at 11:45 a.m. with presentations taking place from noon to 12:45 p.m.

Sponsored by the Town of Vail and the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, the program will include short presentations on the causes of Gore Creek’s decline and the everyday actions that can be implemented to help make a difference when it comes to water use, special irrigation permits, invasive plants and pesticides.

In 2012 Gore Creek was added to the State of Colorado’s 303(d) List of Impaired Waters due to the decline in aquatic life. Scientists have determined the impact is due to degradation and loss of riparian buffer areas, impacts of urban runoff and pollutants associated with land use activities. A Water Quality Improvement Plan has since been adopted that includes an emphasis on community awareness as well as strategies for regulatory measures, site specific projects, best management practices and an ongoing monitoring program.

In addition to the lunch and learn kick off, the town is distributing a handout on recommended pesticide practices for commercial landscapers and property owners. Additional information is available on the town’s website at http://www.vailgov.com/gorecreek.

If you plan to attend the April 25 lunch and learn program, please RSVP to Kristen Bertuglia, town of Vail environmental sustainability coordinator, at 970-477-3455 or email kbertuglia@vailgov.com no later than 5 p.m. April 23.

More Gore Creek watershed coverage here.


Big Thompson River Restoration Coalition host first of a hoped-for series of master planning meetings #COflood

April 13, 2014
Flood damage Big Thompson Canyon September 2013 -- photo via Northern Water

Flood damage Big Thompson Canyon September 2013 — photo via Northern Water

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Jessica Maher):

Leaning over a map of the post-flood Big Thompson River in the Loveland High School cafeteria on Saturday, John Giordanengo asked Glen Haven residents to point to their properties.

Then the million-dollar question: How do you think the river should be restored?

The first of what’s expected to be a series of master planning meetings hosted by the Big Thompson River Restoration Coalition focused on gathering input to that very question, as well as explaining the numerous factors that are involved in its answer.

The coalition, chaired by Giordanengo, has grown to include hundreds of stakeholders, nonprofit groups, local businesses and government entities, representatives of which were available Saturday to meet one on one with property owners.

“As we’re turning gears toward long-term recovery, us being able to coordinate on meaningful restoration will impact the river for years to come, including where you live,” Giordanengo told meeting attendees.

In an hour-long presentation, about 70 people were introduced to the early stages of a master plan for the entire river corridor, which is being developed by Fort Collins-based Ayres Associates.

It started with an analysis of the kind of damage that occurred during September’s historic flood, including bank erosion, channel shifting, flanking of bridges, loss of hillsides and massive sediment deposition.

“Our master plan effort will be largely focused on looking at these different types of damage and do what we can to mitigate and reduce the risk of those types of damage,” said John Hunt with Ayres Associates.

More Big Thompson River Watershed coverage here.


Old Uravan diversion dam on Tabeguache Creek removed, the San Miguel River tributary is now running free

April 1, 2014
Tabeguache Creek via the USFS

Tabeguache Creek via the USFS

From The Telluride Daily Planet (Katie Klingsporn):

In the 1930s, a 6-foot-tall, 60-feet-wide diversion dam was built in Tabeguache Creek, just upstream from its confluence with the San Miguel River, for the purposes of providing water to the Town of Uravan.

That dam remained for roughly 80 years, even as the uranium mining town was abandoned, declared a Superfund Site and razed in a reclamation project.

When Uravan shuttered, the dam stopped diverting water for human consumption. It continued, however, to block upstream passage to three species of native fish that rely on warm-water tributaries for their spawning grounds.

Until recently, that is. Thanks to a Bureau of Land Management project that was supported by the San Miguel Watershed Coalition and Nature Conservancy, the diversion dam was dismantled earlier this month.

Following two years of research, planning and securing funding, it took crews from Reams Construction a day and a half to pull all of the concrete out of the streambed.

And just like that, Tabeguache Creek was flowing free.

Peter Mueller, who is both the Nature Conservancy’s Southwestern Colorado Project Director and a board member on the Watershed Coalition, said the removal was a great thing to witness.

“One of the things that is so critical for the Nature Conservancy, the Coalition and BLM is that the native fish use these tributaries for spawning,” Mueller said. “And so to be able to remove this diversion structure and open up another eight miles of habitat, with full cooperation of both private landowners and the federal government … we were really excited about it.”

Amanda Clements, an ecologist with the BLM, said the project came about when the agency’s fish biologist was examining Colorado maps for migration barriers.

“He spotted this one,” Clements said.

Through follow-up investigation, Clements said, the BLM discovered that water rights of the dam had been determined abandoned and that removal of the structure would open up a lot of habitat for three species of native fish: Roundtail chub, Flannelmouth sucker and Bluehead sucker. All three are considered “BLM Colorado sensitive species.”

More San Miguel River watershed coverage here and here.


Clear Creek: Colorado’s hardest working river?

March 24, 2014
Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

From All Wet: The Colorado Water Blog (Allen Best):

Dave Holm called Clear Creek “perhaps the hardest working river in Colorado,” and to back up that statement he noted that it provides water for 400,000 people and has the second most numbers of rafters in Colorado.

As for fish? Well, not so good. “It’s a rough and tough stream, and it’s tough on fish,” he said at a March 20 presentation before the Colorado Renewable Energy Society. “They really get beat up.”

Holm directs the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation, which was set up in 1990. He explained that after just a handful of people at the first meeting, 100 people were affiliated with the group by 1994.

The foundation seeks to clean up and improve Clear Creek, no small task. It was the site of Colorado’s first industrial-scale mining, first placer operations and then tunneling. This occurred at Central City, on the north fork of the creek, and also at Idaho Springs. Other mining towns in the drainage include Black Hawk, Georgetown, and Silver Plume…

The foundation has done 80 projects altogether, but the creek still has major troubles. Interstate 70 probably has the “biggest physical impact.” The creek has been channelized to make roof for the four-way highway, creating what amounts to a “rip-rap gulley.”

Holm also described how the doctrine of prior appropriation benefits the creek. “Colorado’s—rococo comes to mind—legal framework for administering water rights,” he said. But that first-in-right means that most of the water in Clear Creek gets left there until far downstream, where it issues from the foothills into the piedmont of the Front Range.

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here.


Restoration: #ColoradoRiver delta

March 23, 2014
Photo via the Los Angeles Times

Photo via the Los Angeles Times


Historic water pulses through the Colorado River delta for revival starting today

March 23, 2014

Coyote Gulch:

This is a big day for the Colorado River delta.

Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:

1ColoRi-R2-024-10A The dry Colorado River Delta will receive a resurrecting flow of water this spring, one that Scientific American calls “an unprecedented experiment in ecological engineering” thanks to a historic agreement between the United States and Mexico.

Starting today, the pulse will be released from Morelos Dam, which sits on the international boundary, and will travel 75 miles to the Gulf of California. Below the dam, the Colorado is usually completely dry. This pulse of water will mark the first time that the United States and Mexico have put water back into the parched riverbed for environmental purposes.

From Scientific American:

The mighty Colorado rises on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains and drains seven US and two Mexican states along its 2,300-kilometer course (see ‘River run’). Before the 1930s, when dams began to throttle the river, its water ran unfettered into the Gulf of California. But…

View original 503 more words


Cache la Poudre River: Time-lapse footage of the removal of the Josh Ames Diversion Dam

March 17, 2014


The South Platte River Corridor Vision report is hot off the presses from the South Platte Working Group

February 27, 2014

southplattecanoe

Here’s the release from Arapahoe County:

After completing a nine‐month visioning process, the South Platte Working Group – a collaboration of city, county, state and special district elected leaders and staff ‐ has released a report outlining a future vision plan for recreation, accessibility and economic development opportunities for the South Platte river corridor in Arapahoe County.

The South Platte River Corridor Vision report, which is available for review and comment at http://www.arapahoegov.com/DocumentCenter/View/1792, is the result of several months of research, discussions and outreach to stakeholders and communities, including a half‐day charrette in September 2013.

“This report provides a more comprehensive picture of what we envision for the South Platte River corridor in the future,” said Commissioner Nancy A. Doty, who represents District 1, which includes the communities along the South Platte. “By working together, the members who make up the South Platte Working Group will be able to prioritize projects, pool resources and continue to accomplish our goals for this important amenity in a deliberate and thoughtful way.”

Convened by Arapahoe County in 2006 with an initial $3 million pledge, and another $5 million in 2012 – both funded from the Open Space sales and use tax, the South Platte Working Group has racked up several accomplishments in its short existence.

The South Platte Working Group, which consists of 21 local jurisdictions and agencies, has contributed more than $25 million (including a $5.25 million Legacy grant from Great Outdoors Colorado) for projects that have improved the environmental viability, restoration and beautification, as well as improved connections to the river greenway and park system from C‐470 on the south to Yale Avenue on the north.

“This vision document is our way of strategically identifying how we can continue to restore this beautiful recreational, environmental and economic development amenity,” said Littleton City Council member Debbie Brinkman. “The South Platte Working Group has accomplished a great deal to improve the river corridor and this report charts a new path for future opportunities.”

By working collaboratively, the South Platte Working Group has acquired 50 acres of open space; built six new bike/pedestrian bridges and added six trailheads and 3.2 miles of new trail – all designed to protect, improve and restore this popular recreational amenity, which continues to be impacted by urban development and population growth.
The South Platte River Corridor Vision report outlines the group’s future efforts to improve and protect the river corridor. Some of the outcomes and recommendations from the report include:

  • Identifying approaches to further integrate the communities of Englewood, Sheridan, Littleton and Columbine Valley to the river in ways that both increase recreational opportunities and facilitate economic development.
  • Completing a series of “quick wins” or projects that can be pursued immediately to improve the recreational experience along the South Platte. The plan identifies 11 projects that are supported and can be completed with appropriate funding. Some of the projects identified include: improving the Oxford to Union Avenue corridor; enhancing the Little Dry Creek Corridor and improving the Centennial Park Oxbow Nature area, to name a few.
  • Embracing the unique qualities of the South Platte by building on and embracing the industrial character of some of its areas for education, public art and cultural events.
  • “It really is exciting to see how the Vision Plan essentially captures some of the best qualities of the South Platte River in the northern part of Arapahoe County,” said Englewood Mayor Randy Penn. “This plan charts the future for the varied land uses that will make its mark on Englewood and other communities for years to come.”

    Comments on the draft report are welcomed from anyone interested in the recreation, habitat and economic development along the South Platte. For more information about the South Platte Working Group, visit http://www.arapahoegov.com/index.asp?NID=469. A copy of the report is available at: http://www.arapahoegov.com/DocumentCenter/View/1792. Photos of the South Platte are available at: http://www.arapahoegov.com/gallery.aspx?AID=13

    From The Denver Post (Clayton Woullard):

    The South Platte Working Group has put out its first South Platte River Corridor Vision report that identifies more than 20 projects to be completed over the next few decades in the river corridor.

    The working group is a collection of about 21 different entities, including Littleton, Englewood, Arapahoe County, the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District and several others. They first came together in 2006 to discuss and propose projects to enhance recreational opportunities, enhance the habitat along the river and potentially provide for economic development opportunities.

    “How do we create this cool relationship between the community and the businesses and the neighbors and nature without destroying this amenity,” said Debbie Brinkman, who represents District 4 as council member in Littleton and has been a part of the group since the beginning when she was Littleton’s mayor.

    The group has spent $25 million since 2006 on various projects that have helped with the restoration, beautification and environmental viability of the South Platte, plus improved connections with the greenway and park system throughout the corridor.

    Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Doty, whose District 1 encompasses the river corridor, said the report is important because it’s the culmination of varied groups working together. She said one of the most important and immediate projects in the report is the Dry Creek Channel and Trail Potential Enhancements, which would include reconstructing the corridor and basically make conditions better life for vegetation and the health of the creek as a tributary to the South Platte River.

    “What we hope to accomplish with that is improvement of the connection with the South Platte River and the city of Englewood Center,” Doty said, adding that would help recreational and economic development opportunities.

    Doty said another important, immediate project is the Oxford-Union Channel and Habitat Improvement Project, which would include the reconfiguration of the channel, including the installation of riffles and pools for recreation.

    Another is the Centennial Park/Oxbow Pond Nature Study Opportunity, in which some concrete slabs among the pond banks may have led to water stagnation. It has the potential to become an educational resource as part of Englewood’s Centennial Park.

    For more information, or to read the report, click here.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


    The latest newsletter from the Coalition for the Upper South Platte Watershed is hot off the presses

    February 17, 2014
    Upper South Platte Basin

    Upper South Platte Basin

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

    A lot of people depend on the Upper South Platte Watershed for drinking water, irrigation, and business. This makes millions of residents (and visitors, too) dependent upon our work of maintaining a clean water supply. In a spirit of collaboration, we’re very excited to be involved in a proactive program Denver Water is spearheading to protect source water within our watershed. Denver’s Source Water Assessment and Protection (SWAP) program is focusing on the Upper South Platte Watershed in a first phase of planning that will extend to other basins in the future.

    The SWAP is designed to keep our shared water resource clean and safe for everyone who depends on it by getting stakeholders involved in planning. By identifying potential pollutant sources and best management practices for protecting our water, the plan will provide a blueprint for implementing effective programs that address contaminants of concern. The process began by discussing prevention of septic system pollution with local experts, and will continue in the coming months with discussions about issues such as wildfires, forest health, agriculture, energy development, mining, land use and development, transportation, and recreation as they relate to water quality. Other water providers, county governments, state and federal agencies, and citizens are participating in this effort.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.


    Restoration: North Empire Creek acid mine drainage mitigation

    February 4, 2014
    Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

    Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

    From the Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

    The Clear Creek Watershed Foundation will spend $536,000 to remove the waste and re-vegetate the area between April and August. David Holm, the foundation’s executive director, hopes the mitigation will begin to make the water less acidic, eventually allowing plants to grow along the creek’s banks and fish to live in its waters.

    However, he doesn’t want to mislead people into thinking the creek will be perfect when the work is complete.

    “So how will it look afterward?” Holm asked. “We hope the stream corridor is going to look pretty good. There’s not going to be mine waste in it. It is going to look like a natural stream, and it is going to have vegetation on both sides as far out as we can get it.”

    Empire Mayor Wendy Koch lauded the effort, saying the stream does not currently support life of any kind.

    Koch said an Empire resident once questioned why he could never find deer, elk or any wildlife in that area.

    “Well, that’s why,” Koch said of the stream and its acidity level. “(The project) will support our various wildlife, everything from bears to birds and anything in between.”

    The project will be paid for by Miller Coors, which gave $394,000; the watershed district; the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety; and in-kind donations from the county, the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service and Trout Unlimited.

    Holm said the stream has a pH of 3, compared to a neutral pH of 7.
    “When you get down to pH 3, you’re into 10,000 times more acidic than what you’re really going for,” Holm said. “So acidity is a real problem in North Empire Creek. There are very high elevations of copper and zinc. Both of those are very toxic to aquatic life.”

    Holm said the stream also has toxic levels of iron, aluminum and manganese…

    Holm said the area has an interesting history, being one of the earliest mining sites in the state.

    “Initially, they did hydraulic mining in this area, which involves high-pressure hoses that are used, essentially, to wash the unconsolidated soil and subsoil … which in this area had disseminated gold deposits,” Holm said. “But it is a brute-force, ugly kind of mining that results in the hill slopes really not having a growth medium when it is said and done.”

    More water pollution coverage here.


    The Winter 2014 GOCO newsletter is hot off the presses

    February 4, 2014

    Young farmers

    Young farmers


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

    To help improve and restore Colorado’s rivers and streams, and engage youth and families in the effort, GOCO is offering $250,000 in grants to fund habitat improvement projects along the state’s waterways. The Riparian Restoration Grant Program will require applicants to demonstrate they will use youth or volunteers in their projects, which may range from erosion mitigation to eradicating thirsty non-native plants and trees.

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here.


    Say hello to HangingFlume.org

    February 3, 2014


    HangingFlume.org has a new makeover with a ton of photographs. Buy their book to help fund their efforts.

    Here’s an excerpt from the Home page:

    It isn’t to say that the idea of building a flume was so crazy. Flumes for placer mining were common at the time. Flume construction methods had been used in California for years and required only minimal skills. To cross arroyos and washes, water could be funneled through flume boxes supported by trestles. But in the canyons of the Dolores and San Miguel Rivers, minimal engineering skill was not enough. This flume would have to be ten miles long, and to complete the entire route at the proper gradient, the Flume would have to cling to seven miles of sheer rock walls, at times suspended hundreds of feet above the river.

    The Hanging Flume is perhaps one of the most risky and lofty plans in mining history . . . and for the purposes of placer mining, pretty much a complete failure. But as a heritage tourism site, it still holds our attention, long after the memory of its father, the mysterious Nathaniel P. Turner and hundreds of grunt workers have faded. Recent preservation efforts promise that we will enjoy the Hanging Flume for generations to come.

    More San Miguel River coverage here and here.


    CSU Sponsors First Poudre River Forum Feb. 8

    January 21, 2014
    Cache la Poudre River

    Cache la Poudre River

    Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jennifer Dimas):

    The Cache la Poudre River is life-blood for Northern Colorado. In recognition of its importance to the area, the community is invited to the first Poudre River Forum, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8 at The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland. The forum, “The Poudre: Working River/Healthy River,” will focus on all of the river’s stakeholders, representing perspectives from agricultural, municipal, business, recreational and environmental backgrounds. Topics to be discussed include:

    • The water rights of agricultural and municipal diverters;
    • Where the water in the Poudre comes from and what it does for us;
    • Ecological factors such as flow, temperature, fish and sedimentation.

    The forum will feature presentations and dialogue, including remarks by State Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs about how the Poudre itself was the site of early conflict and cooperation leading to the development of the doctrine of prior appropriation in the West, and how water law has evolved in recent years.

    Following the event, a celebration of the river will be held until 6 p.m. with refreshments and jazz by the Poudre River Irregulars.

    Pre-registration is required by Jan. 31. The cost is $25; students 18 and under are free and scholarships are available. To register, visit http://www.cwi.colostate.edu/thepoudrerunsthroughit

    The event is sponsored by The Poudre Runs Through It Study/Action Work Group facilitated by CSU’s Colorado Water Institute.

    More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.


    Restoration: ‘I have been a full-time student of water and fish as far back as I could remember’ — Shannon Skelton

    January 19, 2014
    Boulders placed to enhance habitat via CFI Global Fisheries Management

    Boulders placed to enhance habitat via CFI Global Fisheries Management

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

    “I have been a full-time student of water and fish as far back as I could remember,” he said in early January. In college, he spent most of his year guiding flying fishing trips on private ranches. “And on some of these private pieces that kind of led me to saying, ‘You know, ranch owner, this could be a lot sexier.’ ”

    As he guided clients on riverfronts damaged by decades of cattle grazing, all Skelton could see was room for natural improvement.

    “Sexier” for Skelton means bigger fish, deeper pools, more insects and lush riverbanks. Skelton’s job is to put them all there, changing the river flow or seeding riverbanks.

    In 1997, he founded CFI in Fort Collins and made “playing God” on the river a profession. In 2012, CFI garnered national attention when a private equity fund, Sporting Ranch Capital Management, hired Skelton’s team of seven employees to restore a few miles of river on private ranches in Colorado and Utah.

    Sporting Ranch paid CFI $2 million in 2013 for its river work. The going rate for a mile of river restoration can be about $250,000, Skelton said.

    With drought and a changed economy, working ranchers are embracing stream enhancement for anglers as a potential moneymaker. In the past four to five years, Skelton has seen an increase in interest in enhancement projects as “there has been more of a push toward land and habitat stewardship,” he said. In Colorado, where real estate investors can purchase stretches of riverbed, stream enhancement boosts the prospects of an already lucrative real estate deal.

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here.


    Fish Habitat Improved in South Boulder Creek

    January 14, 2014

    South Boulder Creek near the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel via Jason Lee Davis

    South Boulder Creek near the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel via Jason Lee Davis


    Here’s the release from the US Forest Service (Maribeth Pecotte):

    More than a mile of fish habitat along South Boulder Creek has been improved, thanks to a partnership between the Boulder Ranger District of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland (ARP), Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), Denver Water, Boulder Flycasters (Trout Unlimited) and Union Pacific Railroad. The 1.5-mile stretch of the creek west of Rollinsville, Colo., will see enhanced in-stream habitats, allowing trout to thrive.

    “”Trout biomass in Upper South Boulder Creek averages 60 lbs/acre, drastically lower than the abundance of trout within most front range streams such as the Poudre, Big Thompson, and St. Vrain Rivers,” said Ben Swigle, CPW aquatic biologist. “This project focused on improving in-stream habitats at all flows, which will allow a greater number of trout to inhabit the restored sections and support better natural reproduction.Thanks to this partnership, the fisheries and anglers of tomorrow will reap the benefits of our actions today.”

    The portion of South Boulder Creek that has been improved lies between Rollinsville and the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel. This stream picks up water from the West Slope and is carried through the Moffat Tunnel. The parties involved had long felt that significant habitat improvements could be made to benefit the fishery. In 2001, Denver Water, which operates the Moffat Tunnel, agreed to financially support habitat mitigation projects downstream of the tunnel and fund an additional $125,000 for fish habitat improvement upstream.

    “Denver Water is committed to doing our part to help protect and enhance the natural environment,” said Dave Bennett, water resource manager for Denver Water. “We are happy to be a part of this collaborative effort to enhance the river for the benefit of the fish.”
    Despite the floods of September 2013, the project moved forward this fall, with habitat structures and channel construction compete in early November 2013. As a result, CPW and Forest Service biologists expect to see more fish using the constructed habitat next year and larger fish in the future.

    “This was an outstanding project that exemplifies how much more can be achieved when forces join together,” said Boulder District Ranger Sylvia Clark. “Enhancements to fish habitat in South Boulder Creek could not have been done by any of us alone. We’d like to extend a big ‘thank you’ to our partners, and we look forward to future opportunities for working together.”

    The final phases of the project will be complete in spring 2014. The contractor will complete construction of the boardwalk for angler access off of the South Boulder Creek Trail. Disturbed sites will be revegetated with native plants with the help of Boulder Flycasters’ volunteers and staff from CPW and the USFS.

    Background

    This collaborative effort was the brainchild of Swigle, who worked with the ARP to find a project that would offer the greatest public benefit. The USFS initiated analysis for the project in 2012, and the decision memo was signed in March 2013.

    The Boulder Flycasters applied for a CPW Fishing is Fun grant and obtained $80,000 for the project. The group also contributed an additional $4,000 and volunteer support.

    The Boulder Flycasters, CPW, Denver Water and the USFS came together to select a contractor to design and construct the habitat features in South Boulder Creek and the boardwalk for angler access just west of the Moffat Tunnel.

    Union Pacific Railroad allowed the use of a portion of their easement near the Moffat Tunnel for staging materials and equipment. Through close coordination, they also allowed heavy equipment to cross over the railroad tracks to access the creek.


    Colorado Parks & Wildlife: Habitat improvements continue in Arkansas River

    January 7, 2014

    Arkansas River  levee through Pueblo

    Arkansas River levee through Pueblo


    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife:

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife will continue work in the Arkansas River this month as part of an ongoing habitat improvement project. Anglers may notice heavy equipment and other signs of work, such as cloudy water, in the area.

    “The project may create some short-term inconveniences for anglers, but the result will be better fishing for years to come,” Doug Krieger, a senior aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said.

    The project is set to begin the week of Jan. 13, and will continue through mid February. The latest improvements will be made between Juniper Bridge and Valco Bridge. Work will occur Monday through Thursday.

    Heavy equipment operators will place large boulders and trees along the 1.5 mile stretch, creating deeper pools and an improved river channel design that will hold more trout and other fish species.

    “We are creating better habitat for fish to find shelter, feed, reproduce and thrive,” Krieger said. “We will also provide more fish holding structure that anglers seek for good fishing success.”

    Anglers are still able to fish in this reach of the river but are reminded to avoid areas around construction and keep away from heavy equipment.

    This habitat improvement project work is Phase II of a project that originally began in 2004. Since completion of Phase I in 2005, the Arkansas River through Pueblo has gained a reputation as a premier trout fishing location.

    A portion of the Phase II project will consist of making improvements to existing structures, while the remaining construction will provide for the installation of new structures.

    From November until the middle of March, outflows from Pueblo Reservoir are fairly stable creating opportunities for anglers to enjoy stream fishing in clear and cool water during times of the year when most streams are locked in winter conditions.

    Partners in the project include the City of Pueblo, Xcel Energy, Trout Unlimited, and the Packard Foundation, with matching funding from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration Program.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The state is preparing to rock the Arkansas River again. Think fish, not electric guitars. Heavy equipment will be in the river in the 1.5-mile reach between the Juniper bridge and Valco bridge to install more boulders and trees in the river below Pueblo Dam. The project is a continuation of an effort that has improved fish habitat along the river.

    “The project may create some short-term inconveniences for anglers, but the result will be better fishing for years to come,” said Doug Krieger, a senior aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    Water might be cloudy during construction, and there still will be a few trucks on area roads as part of Southern Delivery System construction — about half the number that were rumbling last fall.

    The project will begin Monday and continue until mid-February, in order to take advantage of low river levels. The work will create deeper pools and an improved river channel that will hold more trout and other species, Krieger said.

    “We are creating better habitat for fish to find shelter, feed, reproduce and thrive,” Krieger said. “We will also provide more fish holding structure that anglers seek for good fishing success.”

    Partners in the project include the city of Pueblo, Xcel Energy, Trout Unlimited and the Packard Foundation, with matching funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration Program.

    Meanwhile, there will continue to be some truck traffic in the area from the excavation site of the Juniper Pump Station, part of SDS. In December, trucks finished hauling dirt from the Juniper site, located near the base of the dam, to an old gravel pit on the north side of the river. Now, they are hauling rocks away from the construction site. There are fewer trucks on the road now, said Janet Rummel, Colorado Springs Utilities spokeswoman for SDS.

    “Not all of the rock is being hauled away,” Rummel said. “A good portion of the boulders will be used at the pump station site for landscaping features, and SDS contractors are collaborating with Lake Pueblo State Park staff to have some of the decorative boulder-sized rocks used for other park improvements.”

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    Restoration: Pueblo West is working with Chaffee County to revegetate the Hill Ranch buy and dry property

    November 24, 2013
    Hill Ranch photo via Colorado Central Magazine -- Mike Rosso

    Hill Ranch photo via Colorado Central Magazine — Mike Rosso

    From The Mountain Mail (James Redmond):

    After receiving information from soil tests, Pueblo West officials will meet with Chaffee County officials to develop the next steps for revegetation and weed control efforts at the Hill Ranch, next to U.S. 285 north of Centerville. Alan Leak, a consultant for Pueblo West from RESPEC Water & Natural Resources, met with Chaffee County commissioners during their regular meeting Tuesday.

    Pueblo West had soil samples from the Hill Ranch sent off for analysis, Leak said. The analysis showed that seed mixes used by Pueblo West more than a year ago “were not suitable” to soil acidic levels at the Hill Ranch. He said he does not have the complete analysis yet.

    Larry Walker, Chaffee County Weed Department supervisor, said he would like to see the complete results once Leak has them.

    From the soil analysis, Leak said they will get recommendations on what seeds to use on the property. Once he gets that information and the full report, which should happen by the end of the year, he will meet with people in Chaffee County and develop a plan for next year.

    Chaffee County Commissioner Dennis Giese said he would like to have Leak meet with the commissioners at their February work session to discuss the plan.

    For next year, instead of just trying two test sites with the same idea, Pueblo West might try “a bunch of different things” and see what works. That way if one idea does not work, they do not waste the whole year, he said.

    Pueblo West purchased the Hill Ranch water rights, and part of the purchase conditions require the municipality to revegetate the land with local grass before it can use the water right, county officials said previously.

    Leak said he last met with the county commissioners during the summer, when they discussed Pueblo West’s summer and fall plan for the Hill Ranch. At the time he told commissioners about a proposed plan for weed control and two sites for test crops. He explained a process consisting of tilling two test sites, planting a sterile sorghum and mowing the property to keep weeds down. Each of the two approximately 50-acre test sites was tilled to mix peat in with the soil and planted with a sterile sorghum. Sorghum was planted to help reduce the acidity and build root mass in the soil. The efforts resulted in “a fair sorghum crop” at the test sites, Leak said. They also found that “in most parts the peat is not as deep as we thought,” he said. The test sites had irrigation water run onto them, about 1,500 acre-feet, Leak said. So far Pueblo West “has expended $115,000” this year on its Hill Ranch efforts, he said.

    Walker said, considering the work he has done to help with the Hill Ranch revegetation and weed control efforts, he wonders if the county should perhaps get compensated as a consultant.

    “Weed control was somewhat successful,” Leak said. The Hill Ranch was mowed three times, and the area had some selective grazing.

    “The guy mowing did a great job – a month too late,” Frank McMurry, a rancher who lives near the Hill Ranch, said at the meeting. “We have a monumental weed problem, due to the timing.” When it comes to mowing to keep weeds down, timing matters, he said.

    “We probably got up here a little late a few times,” Leak said. However, Pueblo West did make an effort to get Hill Ranch mowed. Next year, they want to get to the mowing earlier, he said.

    Because the weather can change and affect the growth of weeds without much warning, McMurry said he thinks Pueblo West should hire someone local to monitor and manage the Hill Ranch site, not someone from Walsenburg. A local person could stay apprised of the conditions and know what they mean for growth on the site, Commissioner Dave Potts said.

    Here’s some background from Ron Sering writing for Colorado Central Magazine. Here’s an excerpt:

    Rights to irrigate the area known today as Hill Ranch predate Chaffee County by more than a decade. Decreed in 1868, the rights permitted diversion of water for agriculture and ranching. And so it remained for more than a century, even after sale of the rights by the Hill family to Western Water Rights Limited Liability Partnership in 1986.

    That all changed with the subsequent sale of the rights to the Pueblo West Metropolitan District (PWMD) in 2008. The PWMD, home to nearly 30,000 thirsty people, needed the rights to fuel a growth rate that remains among the fastest in the state. The rights are significant, totaling nearly 1,900 acre feet of water. An acre foot totals nearly 326,000 gallons. Under the decree, the rights would convert from agricultural to municipal. Included in the terms was the cessation of irrigation activities. The land would be dried up and restored to its pre-irrigation state.

    The irrigation made growth possible for more water-loving vegetation, including aspen and cottonwood trees, and Russian thistle, a non-native species also known as tumbleweed. Under the rights transfer, the intrusive weeds must be removed and native grasses restored.

    PWMD contracted with Denver-based WRC Engineering to perform the dry-up. The plan was to cease irrigation to dry up the land, defoliate the intrusive species and minimize windblown weeds and dust, followed by the introduction of a prescribed seed mixture from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here.


    Yampa River: Habitat improvement projects near completion, streamflow in the 10th percentile

    November 9, 2013
    Yampa River habitat improvement via Steamboat Today

    Yampa River habitat improvement via Steamboat Today

    From Steamboat Today (Joel Reichenberger):

    The Yampa Valley Stream Improvement charitable trust has been working to improve waterways in the region for more than 30 years, and its work can be seen in clean, smooth-flowing streams all across the area. It tackled its biggest project in 2006, when it set to work on the Yampa River southeast of Steamboat Springs in the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area.

    Now, after it divvied that task into three phases, the final elements are just a week away from completion. An area of the river that once was a shallow, eroded mess strewn with trash will be one of the premier rainbow trout fisheries in the state. What previously was a stretch of river Steamboat anglers were more likely to avoid will become a fishermen’s paradise…

    The project cost about $1 million, and getting to this point has been a monumental task. The funds were raised from private donors, benefit events and through grants from government programs and other organizations.

    The first stage, in 2006, involved dragging 88 cars from the river’s banks and cost $100,000…

    The trust partnered with the city of Steamboat Springs for the second stage, a $300,000 project upstream of Chuck Lewis. It reconditioned the river, cleaned up a dump, stabilized the banks and moved the river 50 yards back to its channel.

    The third stage, which is underway, has heavy equipment digging in the river to create structures for fish habitat, channeling and deepening the river and creating pools. Even the placement of rocks and other breaks in the water were studied to help cut back on the pike population and make a world-class sanctuary for growing trout.

    Now the section of river will be used as a rearing ground for a strain of rainbow trout resistant to whirling disease…

    Meanwhile streamflow in the Yampa River has dropped below the 10th percentile recently. Here’s a report from Tom Ross writing for Steamboat Today. Here’s an excerpt:

    The river was flowing at 64 cubic feet per second Tuesday beneath the Fifth Street Bridge. That compares to the median flow for this date of 117 cfs and the all-time recorded low of 43 cfs on Oct. 9, 1935…

    The Yampa and the Elk rivers are among more than 20 rivers throughout Colorado currently flowing in the 10 percent range of their historical averages, according to the U.S. Geological Survey…

    The Yampa was flowing on par Oct. 4 at 70 cfs, but the historic graph indicates Oct. 5 is the date when the river flow should begin to pick up to levels above 100 cfs.

    Jay Gallagher, of the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, said Tuesday that he didn’t have data at his fingertips to confirm the flows in Granite Creek and the Middle Fork of Fish Creek, which feed Fish Creek Reservoir and historically have risen at this time of year. The reservoir, Steamboat’s primary source of domestic water, is about 54 percent full and will drop into the 40 percent range during winter. The dam is releasing about 7 cfs into Fish Creek, and that will continue for about another week before it is dropped to 4 cfs, he said.

    The Elk River was flowing at 68 cfs Tuesday at its confluence with the Yampa west of Steamboat. The Yampa was flowing at 36 cfs above Stagecoach Reservoir. Further downstream, above Lake Catamount, the river was flowing at 29 cfs.

    More Yampa River Basin coverage here and here.


    Pitkin County commissioners approve purchase of properties near Redstone for open space

    November 8, 2013
    Crystal River near Redstone via Wikipedia Commons

    Crystal River near Redstone via Wikipedia Commons

    From The Aspen Times (Michael McLaughlin):

    On Wednesday, the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of two Redstone River parcels that comprise approximately 21.3 acres and are contiguous to Elk Park and Redstone Park on the south as well as the Redstone Boulders Open Space on the northeast.

    The two parcels up for purchase would tie all of these properties together into a seamless river corridor containing more than a mile of riverfront between Coal Creek and a well-used beach area upstream from the north Redstone Bridge…

    One of the properties includes the confluence of Coal Creek with the Crystal River. The current confluence isn’t the natural area where the two waters meet but one that was put in when the state was working on Highway 133 in that area. In its natural state, Coal Creek used to run through wetlands before it met with the Crystal River downstream from the present confluence area. Coal Creek experiences frequent debris flows that feed coarse rock and wood into the creek, which in turn collect at the confluence of Coal Creek and the Crystal River. This causes pooling of water and erosion by both streams. It also causes a sediment buildup that raises the riverbed of the Crystal near Redstone, elevating flood danger…

    A public hearing concerning the purchase will be held at the commissioners meeting on Nov. 20. Will said the public can rest assured that questions of access will be driven by habitat management.

    More Crystal River Watershed coverage here and here.


    Wetlands Program awards $700,000 in grants for 2013

    October 18, 2013
    Hunter if fog at Prewitt Reservoir via Colorado Open Lands

    Hunter in fog at Prewitt Reservoir via Colorado Open Lands

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (Randy Hampton):

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife has selected 18 wetland and riparian restoration projects that will share in $700,000 in grants for the 2013 Wetlands Program grant cycle.

    Approved grant applications include a project to enhance the Shields Pit in Fort Collins to make it suitable for native fish introduction, water and infrastructure development for wetlands around Prewitt Reservoir, stream bank restoration along the Carpenter Ranch section of the Yampa River, and the removal of invasive tamarisk trees on Brown’s Park National Wildlife Refuge. The selected projects encompass 1,225 acres around the state.

    “Wetland and riparian habitats cover only about two percent of the land in Colorado, but provide benefits to the majority of the wildlife species in the state,” said Brian Sullivan, Wetlands Program Coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “The value of these habitats can’t be overstated. Clearly, conservation of wetland and riparian habitat is key to conserving wildlife diversity in Colorado.”

    The species that will benefit from the projects funded during the 2013 cycle include eight priority waterfowl species and 15 priority non-game species. Those species include the bald eagle, northern leopard frog, American bittern, sandhill crane, piping plover, least tern, New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, river otter and brassy minnow.

    The funded projects will receive a share of $700,000 that was available this grant cycle. Funds for the Wetlands Program come from lottery-funded Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and sales of the Colorado waterfowl stamp.

    “GOCO shares the commitment to wetland preservation and restoration and has been contributing to these efforts since 1997,” said Lise Aangeenbrug, GOCO Executive Director.

    The Colorado waterfowl stamp program is designed to conserve wetlands for waterfowl and other wildlife. Hunters age 16 and older are required to purchase a $5 stamp validation to hunt waterfowl in Colorado.

    Sixteen funding partners will contribute an additional $834,205 for these projects. Funding partners include private landowners, city, county, state and federal governments, and nonprofits such as Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, and the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory.

    “These projects will improve wildlife habitats by restoring areas for native fish introduction, removing invasive species and improve public hunting opportunities for waterfowl,” said Steve Yamashita, acting director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    The complete list of 2013 wetland and riparian restoration projects can be found online at the Wetlands Project Funding webpage.


    Lake Powell: ‘It can’t be considered a reliable source of water anymore’ — John Weisheit #ColoradoRiver

    October 15, 2013
    Monkey Wrench Gang cover via The Tattered Cover Denver

    Monkey Wrench Gang

    Ken Sleight the original Monkey Wrencher photo via Salon

    Ken Sleight the original Monkey Wrencher photo via Salon

    Here’s an in-depth look at the movement to decommission Glen Canyon Dam from Brandon Loomis writing for Arizona Central. Click through and read the whole article and check out the photos. Here’s an excerpt:

    Two men sat beside the Colorado River at Lees Ferry slugging Coors and stoking a “probably illegal” fire into the morning, cooking up a dream that would infuse both their lives’ quixotic work.

    The new friends shared a brainstorm for a bold plan, which a sly smile from one of them 4-1/2 decades later indicates was only half-bluster:

    Let’s get rid of Glen Canyon Dam.

    It was a radical idea that got them proudly labeled as “kooky.” Today, for everyone from government water managers to university professors to wakeboarders, the concept is at least as wild now that the thirsty Southwest has grown up. But some people still sit around dreaming of draining Lake Powell, and a few think science is on their side…

    If this sounds like the plot of a suspense novel, it kind of is. [Ken Sleight’s] campfire companion was Edward Abbey, who had by then written his “Desert Solitaire” memoir but not “The Monkey Wrench Gang.” That 1975 novel envisioned a handful of saboteurs battling the West’s creeping industrialism and working for Glen Canyon Dam’s demise. Abbey died in 1989…

    Sleight became the inspiration for the book’s big-eared, Jack Mormon river runner, “Seldom Seen Smith,” and to this day, he remains committed to the cause. He has filed lawsuits and staged rallies, and he still believes. Maybe, he said, the current drought will persuade water managers to drain Powell so they can fill Lake Mead, the critical trough for big population centers downstream of the Grand Canyon.

    “I’m on the threshold of going,” he said of his mortality. “But I always wanted to see that water flowing freely.”[...]

    For technical expertise, Sleight defers to John Weisheit, a fellow Moab environmentalist with the Living Rivers group. Weisheit notes that Powell is less than half-full, its water level is dropping, and it is projected to have larger swings in water level as climate change takes hold. The government could restore the river’s — and the Grand Canyon’s — ecological health by draining Powell and still could fill Lake Mead, he said.

    “It can’t be considered a reliable source of water anymore,” Weisheit said of Lake Powell. “Send (the water) down to the place it’s been going for 6 million years, which is the Gulf of California,” he said of excess water that Mead could not hold…

    To some grappling with the Southwest’s water future, dam removal is inconceivable.

    “It’s a non-starter,” said Dave White, co-director of Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City, which studies water-sustainability options to deal with climate change. “(There is) zero probability of removing either Glen Canyon or Hoover.”

    The reason is that those dams, after a wet-weather cycle, can capture and store four years of river flows to dole out during drought.

    “(Dam removal) would be fairly catastrophic,” White said. “We have too much demand on an annual basis to be met by the natural in-flow of the river.”

    Even without accounting for climate change, he said, the Bureau of Reclamation’s water-supply study found that population growth in coming decades would suck Lake Mead to below 1,000feet in elevation in 7percent of the years. That elevation is low enough to trigger a water shortage and rationing among the states — something that has never happened. The lake’s current elevation is about 1,107feet. Farm fields across the Sonoran Desert, which currently use the majority of Arizona’s Colorado River water, could go fallow…

    Floods that could destroy Glen Canyon Dam have occurred more commonly than was assumed 50 years ago. “Nature will decide when this is a problem and how much of a problem it is, but there are data that were not available when Glen Canyon was designed,” Baker said. “Dams are things that last for 100 years, but they don’t last forever.”[...]

    …activist Sleight said much of the area can be as beautiful as he remembers. Some of the side canyons already have responded to the lower water level. He remembered a trip to Davis Gulch in the 1990s, the last time the water neared this low point. New cottonwoods were growing.

    “The main canyon is going to take years and years — 100years — to come back,” Sleight said. “Maybe it’ll never come back. But the side canyons, they will come back. They’re flushed out by floods.”

    Paul Ostapuk, a reservoir booster with the group Friends of Lake Powell, hopes it never comes to that. He imagines dredging, sediment bypasses and other fixes keeping the dam functional for 1,500 years. Even then, he said, the mud piling up behind the dam may have built up to become prime soil for a farming boom.

    “I see Lake Powell never really going away,” Ostapuk said.

    From USA Today (Brandon Loomis):

    Paul Ostapuk of Page and a Friends of Lake Powell member sees it differently. Pacific Ocean patterns dictate snowfall cycles that feed the Colorado River, and they have swung wildly before. Ostapuk finds it ironic that those who swore high water would topple the dam in the early 1980s when huge releases of water dangerously ripped rock from dam-bypass tunnels now are saying drought spells doom.

    “It’s hard for me to believe that right at 2000, when (Lake Powell was) basically full, that a permanent climate switch happened,” he said. “Don’t give up on the Colorado River. It could come roaring back, and I think people will be surprised how much water comes down.”

    The river is erratic, draining anywhere from 5 million acre-feet in a drought year to 20 million after an epic winter. Each acre-foot supplies roughly enough water for two households for a year. Without both Lake Mead and Lake Powell, Ostapuk said a water shortage already would be drying up Arizona farms. California has older, superior rights to Colorado River water that would trump Arizona’s during a crisis.

    “You have to have the ability to catch the wet years, so you can ration it out in the lean times,” he said. “If you’d only had Lake Mead (during the current drought), it would be totally empty. Lake Powell’s what’s getting us through this.”

    The Bureau of Reclamation concurs. It calls Lake Powell critical to the mix of water-supply options already projected to fall short — barring extensive conservation and reuse efforts — during the coming half century.

    “Drawing down Lake Powell would result in reduced yield to the system,” bureau spokeswoman Lisa Iams said in an e-mail. “Losses due to evaporation would increase if additional water currently stored in Lake Powell were released to Mead,” because Mead is at a lower, hotter elevation.”[...]

    Below the dam, the aquatic legacy is mixed. Water gushing through the hydropower turbines comes from deep in the reservoir is colder than native fishes such as the endangered humpback chub evolved to withstand. As chubs and other species declined downstream in the Grand Canyon, non-native cold-water trout thrived and created Arizona’s finest trophy rainbow fishery at Lees Ferry.

    The dam also blocked the sand that had flowed through the canyon for ages, altering fish and wildlife habitat while depleting beaches river rafters use. Smaller beaches support less windblown sand to root mesquites and other vegetation, or to cover and preserve archaeological sites from erosion.

    “The Colorado River Storage Project Act passed in ’56, and the big dam-building era was on us,” said Jan Balsom, Grand Canyon National Park’s deputy chief of resource management. “It wasn’t until years later that we realized what was happening environmentally.”[...]

    Visitors to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area pump some $400 million into northern Arizona and southern Utah, according to Friends of Lake Powell. That figure is similar to a $380 million estimate that Northern Arizona University researchers made in 1999.

    The dam generates hydropower to supply cooperatives that have 4 million customers spread from Arizona to Wyoming. It generates less power now when the water is low.

    The dam has eight turbine units, each capable of producing 165 megawatts. A single megawatt is enough to power 250 homes at a given moment.

    But that capacity is available only when the reservoir is full. Plant supervisor Roger Williams said the water pressure now yields 135 megawatts per unit. Another water-level drop of 100 feet and the dam would have to cease hydropower production or risk damage to the turbines. By that time, the units would be producing just 75 megawatts apiece.

    These economic drivers are apart from the development and crops grown through the reservoir’s water deliveries, or its cooling of the nearby Navajo Generating Station, the West’s largest coal-fired power plant.

    Growing awareness of the damage to the Grand Canyon led to an environmental-protection act in 1992, mandating dam releases that take river ecology into account.

    Since then, the Interior Department has sought to restore something of the river’s past characteristics. Since 1996, and most recently last fall, the department has loosed four huge water flushes from the dam to mimic historic floods and churn up sandbars…

    Rafters who don’t mind starting below the dam have an argument for corralling the Colorado. The dam evens out the peak flows each spring and keeps the river a little higher through fall, said Korey Seyler of Colorado River Discovery tours in Page. He has paying customers March through November.

    Without the dam? He figures he would close shop in September when river rocks emerged.

    Ostapuk, the Friends of Lake Powell member, said Glen Canyon remains wild, with uncrowded side canyons requiring no permit to explore.

    “It’s just pure, raw adventure out there,” Ostapuk said.

    Fifty years after that last bucket of concrete, when Page Mayor Diak stops to look at the dam and the high-voltage lines spreading from it across the Colorado Plateau, he still sees the future. Whether building a dam here was ideal is now pointless to argue, he said.

    “You can’t live in the 15th century and expect to have the things that we have now,” Diak said.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


    Steamboat Springs: Restoration project starting up in town along the Yampa River

    October 9, 2013
    Steamboat Springs

    Steamboat Springs

    From Steamboat Today (Matt Stensland):

    The work is taking place along 210 feet of the Yampa River at the Dr. Rich Weiss Park located next to the Rabbit Ears Motel.

    The park is quite popular, especially during the summer months as tubers take to the Yampa. People often will gather at the park’s Hippy Dip, an area where the natural warm water utilized at the Old Town Hot Springs drains into the river…

    Craig Robinson, the Howelsen Hill and open space facilities supervisor for the city of Steamboat Springs, said one of the goals of the project is to fix an existing rock wall and its foundation.

    #“The whole rock wall has been slowly falling into the river,” Robinson said. “We have some safety concerns.”

    Existing access points to the river also are in bad shape and eroding. One access point will be built next to the Yampa River Core Trail bridge. Access points also are going in on either side of the Hippy Dip.

    Ecological Resource Consultants and Nordic Excavating have been contracted to do the work.

    The work is being paid for mainly with a $300,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado, which is funded by lottery proceeds. The city committed $15,000 in matching grant funds…

    No kayaking water feature improvements are being done as part of the project, but Robinson said the city continues to work closely with the Friends of the Yampa group on future projects.

    More Yampa River Basin coverage here and here.


    Feds eye changes to Colorado River endangered fish conservation program

    October 8, 2013

    Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

    Recovery team eyes White River Basin

    sdf

    The Colorado pikeminnow is one of four endangered species that could benefit from a proposed new plan to boost flows during critical seasons. Photo courtesy USFWS.

    By Summit Voice

    *More Summit Voice stories on the Colorado River native fish conservation program are online here.

    FRISCO — State and federal biologists are considering some changes to the Colorado River Native Fish Recovery Program in the White River Basin after a discussion with stakeholders.

    The endangered fish — colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker, bonytail — are already protected in the White River Basin, according to The Nature Conservancy. The changes would be a firming up of management expectations.

    A similar approach has been used in other basins to ensure that current and future water needs are met for people and endangered fish.  The White River management plan aims to:

    • identify existing and some…

    View original 365 more words


    September floods leave reaches of the pre-flood St. Vrain channel high and dry #COflood

    October 6, 2013
    New Saint Vrain river channel after the September 2013 floods -- photo via the Longmont Times-Call

    New Saint Vrain River channel after the September 2013 floods — photo via the Longmont Times-Call

    From the Longmont Times-Call (Scott Rochat):

    When the St. Vrain flooded in mid-September, it not only devastated communities, it redrew its own lines. West of town. East of town. Even at spots inside Longmont. It even brought out the eraser from time to time, not just drawing a new course but wiping out the old one.

    “Behind Harvest Junction, the old channel actually filled in,” said Longmont public works director Dale Rademacher, noting the shopping center in southeastern Longmont.

    Putting it back won’t be so easy. The city estimates that would take $80 million, but that’s still a fluid number, so to speak. A lot depends not just on the difficulty of the project, but the will of federal authorities, including the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    FEMA already has said it will look at the river section by section when deciding which restoration plans should get funding. The Corps, meanwhile, is in talks with Longmont to decide which pieces of the river truly need to be restored. Rivers do move, after all.

    “If we think we can get the river back into its channel with a reasonable amount of effort, and the Corps says it makes sense, we’ll do that,” Rademacher said. “If the Corps says ‘Sorry, folks, that looks like a reasonably safe channel,’ we’ll start planning around that, too.”[...]

    The diversions and flooding along the whole western stretch — aided by dam breaches and old gravel pits — have made this area a priority in Longmont’s discussions with the Army Corps of Engineers. Near Lyons, there are pipelines that need to be inspected and put back into service. The new riverway not only cuts off several irrigation ditches, it also puts several neighborhoods further downstream into a new flood plain — most notably The Greens and Champion Greens near Airport Road and the Village near Golden Ponds.

    “Our need and our ability (to restore the river) varies from point to point in the course of the channel,” Rademacher said. “West of Longmont, where it’s undermining pipelines and threatening neighborhoods, it’s pretty important.”

    From The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Pueblo will spend about $200,000 over the next three months cleaning up the mess left on Fountain Creek from storms to the north in El Paso County last month. Damage to an embankment on the city’s side detention pond and dangerous trees in the channel are the biggest problems, said Earl Wilkinson, public works director.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Jim Rydbom):

    Bit by bit, the bundles of flood debris spread across yards and streets in Weld County are getting picked up. But it will be a while before a cluster of tree limbs isn’t found twisted into a fence somewhere.

    Trevor Jiricek, director of Weld County Environmental Health and General Services, said the county has handed out about 3,200 vouchers for residents to take debris to the landfill. The vouchers are unlimited and good for one pickup truck full of debris each. Jiricek said the county worked out deals with 10 different facilities, including A1 Organics and two places to dispose of tires.

    Jiricek said he’s received positive feedback for the vouchers, which are available through the Weld County planning department and at the FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers in Greeley and Milliken.

    Farmers and ranchers with damaged and debris-filled properties are running into frustrations with the government shutdown, as they could be eligible for financial help through federal disaster loan options or the Emergency Conservation Program. The bulk of those programs, though, require consulting with the Farm Service Agency office before doing repairs, and the FSA is a federal office.

    Jiricek said the county doesn’t have the resources to clean up everyone’s private property, but officials are in the process of contracting a company to clean up the county’s right-of-ways. When that happens, he said the county will notify residents affected by the flood who are near those right-of-ways, and they can put debris out to be collected.

    Jiricek said it’s important only those affected by the flood take advantage of that service, as the county depends on reimbursement from FEMA for flood-related debris only, and the costs of removing debris could go up astronomically if people start using it as a way to get rid of trash.

    Immediately after the flood, Jiricek said more than a half-dozen county employees worked to talk to residents about their needs and disseminate the vouchers.

    “I feel like they’ve gotten out there,” he said of the vouchers.


    Cache la Poudre River: The Colorado Water Trust is spearheading a diversion dam removal and restoration project

    October 4, 2013
    The soon to be removed Josh Ames diversion on the Poudre River -- photo via the Fort Collins Coloradaon

    The soon to be removed Josh Ames diversion on the Poudre River — photo via the Fort Collins Coloradaon

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

    A decades-old water diversion that stretches across the river about a quarter mile west of Shields Street is scheduled to be removed in November. The Josh Ames diversion, which backs up the river about 100 yards, formerly fed an irrigation ditch that was abandoned in 1985.

    Once the 8-foot-tall concrete wall and stout headgate that make up the diversion are removed, the river will flow freely with fish-friendly pools and riffles. “It will look like a natural river that doesn’t have a barrier across it,” said Tara Schutter, an engineer working with the Colorado Water Trust. “It will look nice.”[...]

    Removing the diversion is connected to a series of projects the city of Fort Collins has going aimed at restoring the river and improving habitat. The projects include lowering the north bank of the Poudre near the North Shields Ponds Natural Area so the river can better connect with its natural floodplain.

    Other projects linked to the restoration effort include replacing the Shields Street bridge over the Poudre River. Larimer County expects to replace the bridge in 2015.

    Taking out the diversion structure is a critical piece of the overall project, said Rick Bachand of the Fort Collins Natural Areas Program and the project manager.

    Occasional floodwater from the river will rejuvenate the area’s vegetation and boost habitat for a variety of aquatic creatures, he said. Public access to the ponds area will include pedestrian and bike trails.

    More Cache la Poudre River coverage here and here.


    The Fountain Creek district approved a Colorado Springs Utilities’ SDS mitigation wetlands project on Friday

    August 26, 2013

    fountaincreekwatershed.jpg

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado Springs Utilities’ plan to improve a portion of Fountain Creek as part of mitigation for the Southern Delivery System got unanimous approval Friday from a board formed to improve Fountain Creek. Meeting in Pueblo, the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District approved a new alignment for the creek and wetlands creation about 25 miles north of Pueblo near Pikes Peak International Raceway.

    Allison Mosser, a Utilities engineer, explained the project, which was listed as the No. 5 priority in a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study of projects that could improve Fountain Creek. The project also is among those listed in the district’s corridor master plan. The area is one of the worst on the creek in terms of erosion and sedimentation, she said.

    The alignment would mean moving some structures and reinforcing other parts of the bank on the property, which is owned by Utilities. A small part of the creek on the Hanna Ranch also is included, but all costs would be paid by Colorado Springs. Some native willows would be planted for bank stabilization and wetlands would be created or improved. Water for initial seeding of the wetlands would use water from rights owned by Colorado Springs at Clear Springs Ranch, Mosser said.

    The Bureau of Reclamation would have final authority over approval of the wetlands, because it holds the SDS permit.

    Construction would begin in November and take three months, while planting the wetlands would be completed later in the year.

    Monitoring the wetlands would continue for three to five years.

    More coverage of the Fountain Creek district meeting from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    A district formed to improve Fountain Creek will team with the U.S. Geological Survey to measure water quality changes caused by runoff from recent fires. The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board Friday approved a contract that will measure the impacts of the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire and this year’s Black Forest Fire.

    The Black Forest Fire was the most destructive in Colorado history in terms of homes and vehicles destroyed, and could increase the concentration of certain elements.

    The total contract will be $18,000, with $6,000 in federal funds, and the other $12,000 contributed by the district and several El Paso County sources.

    Samples will be taken as storms occur. “We’ve already missed three or four opportunities,” said Larry Small, executive director of the district. Two sites on Monument Creek and four on Fountain Creek would be sampled. More than 100 constituents will be tested for contaminants like lead and E. coli.

    The USGS indicated last month that it has baseline data. “I think this is an important first step. We’ve been talking about impacts since the Waldo Canyon Fire last year,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart.

    Melissa Esquibel, a board member from the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, questioned the value of the study, since it would not thoroughly identify sources and problems caused by subsequent storms.

    Hart said this study would provide evidence for more detailed studies later.

    Jane Rhodes said more studies are needed downstream to see if fires are impacting Pueblo County, because the study sites are in El Paso County.

    “We need to find out what’s in the water to protect our population,” added Pueblo City Councilwoman Eva Montoya.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


    Peru Creek: EPA has been testing treatment and settlement of the acid mine drainage during August

    August 25, 2013

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    From the Summit Daily News (Breeana Laughlin):

    Throughout August, [Martin McComb], the Environmental Protection Agency’s on-scene coordinator, and his team have been diverting the main flow of heavy-metal-laden water coming from the mine away from the poisonous tailings piles. Environmental protection workers also set up a treatment system that raises the PH of the water in an effort to force some of the metals to drop out of it into a settlement pond before heading downstream. “It’s all about reducing the amount of pollution that flows into the creek,” McComb said. “We are dealing comprehensively with what’s on top of the ground as well as what’s below the ground.”[...]

    McComb’s EPA team is embarking on phase one of a six-phase cleanup project at the site. In addition to water treatment efforts, the group has spent the past month improving road conditions to allow dump trucks and other heavy machinery access to the site. The cleanup is expected to take three years and will involve numerous agencies, including the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety, Summit County, the U.S. Forest Service, the Blue River and Snake River watershed groups and Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. “It’s nice to see there are so many people involved in this project and in this watershed. I think it’s because it’s such a beautiful area, and near where so many people are living,” McComb said. “I hope we can make an impact — and think we already have.”

    Cleanup efforts taken under the project plan will be phased over the next several years and will address threats from acidic discharge that is draining from the mine and tailings along with other mine waste found on the surface.

    The bulk of the underground mine work will be conducted under the supervision of the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining & Safety. This summer, contractors under the supervision of senior project manager Jeff Graves are digging out a collapsed portion of earth that flooded the culvert in the mine’s portal F, and are working to gain easier access into the underground portions of the mine. “They are really knowledgeable about underground work and have a lot of experience,” McComb said. “For us, it’s a good way to partner with people who are specialized and really know what they’re doing.”

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here.


    Fort Collins: Open house for proposed Poudre River project, September 5

    August 13, 2013

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    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

    The city of Fort Collins will hold a public open house to discuss planned improvements along the Poudre River from 6-8 p.m. Sept. 5.

    The drop-in open house will be held at the Lincoln Center Columbine Room, 417 W. Magnolia St. A variety of projects are planned along the Poudre River between where it crosses Shields and Mulberry streets, addressing issues of flood protection, recreation and habitat.

    A presentation regarding kayaking opportunities will precede the meeting, at 5-6 p.m. in the Lincoln Center Founders Room, a release states.

    Information: http://www.fcgov.com/riverprojects.

    More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.


    Restoration: The Willow Creek Project is a testimony to the grit and determination of a group of citizens

    August 9, 2013

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    Here’s an in-depth look at the Willow Creek Project from Gwen Nelson writing for the Valley Courier. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    The Willow Creek Reclamation Committee’s mission is to improve water quality and habitat, reduce flood risks, reclaim areas impacted by mining, and preserve historic structures in the Willow Creek watershed in ways that are practical, cost effective, and beneficial to the economic sustainability of the Creede community.

    The group follows the set of core goals developed by the Willow Creek Reclamation Committee. These goals are:

    * Protect the Rio Grande from future fish kills associated with nonpoint source releases during unusual hydrologic events

    * Improve the visual and aesthetic aspects of the Willow Creek watershed and its historical mining district

    * Implement appropriate and cost-effective flood control and stabilization measures for nonpoint sources

    * Protect and preserve historic structures

    * Reclaim the Willow Creek floodplain below Creede to improve the physical, chemical, biological, and aesthetic qualities of the creek as an integral part of the local community

    * Continue to improve water quality and physical habitat quality in the Willow Creek watershed, as part of a long-term watershed management program.

    One way that these goals get accomplished is through five gallon buckets and a few hardy volunteers. That is what has worked for the Willow Creek Reclamation Committee to improve water quality in Willow Creek for the last 15 years. The large buckets that are controlled by excavators or carried by dump trucks are effective in completing large projects. But the continuous and sometimes tedious tasks carried out by this watershed group require small buckets and volunteers.

    The Willow Creek Project is a testimony to the grit and determination of a group of citizens who wanted to retain the independence and self-determination to decide how to clean up a small mountain stream that flows through their town. Their spirit and resolve have drawn a wealth of outside resources to their cause, and have allowed them to succeed beyond their wildest imagination.

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here.


    Upper Animas River: ‘It’s always been a heavily mineralized area’ — Bev Rich

    August 7, 2013

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    Here’s Part III of The Durango Herald’s (Chase Olivarius-Mcallister) series on the mining legacy in Silverton. Here’s an excerpt:

    After Sunnyside Gold Corp. shut down operations at American Tunnel in 1991, Silverton executed a bittersweet pirouette: With mining, its main industry, seemingly done for, the town focused on selling its mining history to tourists. Today, thousands of visitors pour into Silverton every summer, disembarking from the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to tour mines, shop or playfully pan for gold.

    Meanwhile, Silverton’s abandoned mines gush toxic metals into Cement Creek, among the largest untreated mine drainages in Colorado. In turn, the metal pollution in Cement Creek is choking off the Upper Animas River’s ecosystem.

    Steve Fearn, a Silverton resident and a co-coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group, said the people of Silverton want mining to return. This desire, he said, partly accounts for why many residents oppose federal involvement in the cleanup of Cement Creek. In the view of mining companies, a Superfund site designation would make Silverton’s metal mines infinitely less attractive, he said.

    Bev Rich, chairwoman of the San Juan County Historical Society and San Juan County treasurer, is the daughter of a miner, and she married one. She said it isn’t surprising that many people in Silverton look on Sunnyside Gold, the last mine to close there, with nostalgia for the good days, not anger about the mine drainage. And she said while Silverton’s eagerness to see a resumption of mining might confound outsiders, they don’t have first-hand knowledge of Silverton’s past. On the pay scale, tourism jobs can’t compete with mining work. “It was $60 or $70 an hour towards the end,” she said about the wages Sunnyside once paid.

    She also said she doesn’t believe metal concentrations in Cement Creek are a problem chiefly created by mining pollution. “I look at it as mineralization. It’s always been a heavily mineralized area,” she said, an observation repeated by Rich’s fellow Silvertonians Fearn and San Juan County Commissioner Peter McKay…

    Stakeholders co-coordinator Bill Simon said mining could certainly return to Silverton “if the price was right.” But he noted that while demand for metal has grown with the globalization of manufacturing, mining officials in the 21st century have, on the global scale, tended to continue to seek out the conditions that made mining so profitable in Silverton in the 19th and early 20th centuries: places with little regulation, where metals, like human life, are cheap and abundant.

    More Animas River Watershed coverage here and here.


    Charlie Meyers SWA Stream Habitat Enhancement Project

    August 6, 2013

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    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife will begin work enhancing stream habitat on the Charlie Meyers State Wildlife Area starting today August 5.

    Anglers are advised that instream construction will occur Mondays through Thursdays, 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. through October 3 of this year. Heavy equipment will be actively operating in the river channel and along river banks. During these hours, river waters may become muddy (turbid) and fishing may be affected in the immediate vicinity and downstream of construction activities. There will be no instream construction activities Fridays through Sundays.

    River channel and trout habitats are being restored for approximately 1.5 miles along the South Platte River. The upstream boundary is a posted property boundary marker (end of the improved habitat reach). The downstream boundary is the County Road 59 bridge crossing. This project will continue for two years from August to October 2013 and July to October 2014.

    Alternative angling opportunities include two miles of the South Platte River below Spinney Mountain Reservoir Dam and the South Platte River below County Road 59 bridge to ElevenMile Canyon Reservoir.

    This project was proposed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and is funded jointly by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Park County Land and Water Trust Fund Board, and is permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Project cooperators include Aurora Water Department, Cheyenne Mountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Colorado Department of Corrections, Colorado State Parks, Denver Water, and the Park County Land and Water Trust Fund Board.

    Patience during the habitat construction period will be most appreciated.

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here.


    Kerber Creek cleanup annual Celebration of Success recap

    August 5, 2013

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    From the Valley Courier (Lauren Krisansky):

    The project held its annual Celebration of Success in Bonanza yesterday with a number of land use agency representatives and a crew of south central Kansas Boy Scouts coming off a week long hitch working to improve the creek that is slowly recovering from the poisonous aftermath of once upon a time mining operations. The six youth and their two leaders installed 600 feet of waddles – straw fiber rolls used to prevent erosion, sediment and storm water run-off – on Carol and John Wagner’s creek side property. They also performed maintenance work on the upstream Superior Mill Site that included erosion protection and fence repair…

    The project is comprised of 16 partners including the BLM; the United States Forest Service; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the Natural Resources Conservation Service; Trout Unlimited; the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment; the Rio Grande Watershed Conservation and Education Initiative; and the Bonanza Stakeholders’ Group, which represents the interests of Kerber Creek watershed private landowners.

    Since 2008, the Office of Surface Mining’s Western Hardrock Watershed Team/AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America Program (OSM/VISTA) has provided a full-time staff member to serve as the project’s watershed coordinator. This year’s volunteer, Trevor Klein, however, marks the last to serve due to a shift in priorities…

    So far, the project has treated more than 60 acres of mine waste deposits, restored more than 4,000 feet of stream bank and raised $2 million in grant funding. The efforts have improved the Kerber Creek’s aquatic ecosystem, enabling the fish populations to stabilize, and the work has received six major awards at regional, state and national levels.

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here.


    ‘…the mountain opens like a wound, oozing a sticky, white, webbed lattice over red ground’ — The Durango Herald

    August 5, 2013

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    Here’s Part I of The Durango Herald’s series on cleaning up Cement Creek written by (Chase Olivarius-Mcallister). Click here for the photo gallery. Here’s an excerpt:

    At Red and Bonita Mine, the mountain opens like a wound, oozing a sticky, white, webbed lattice over red ground. There, especially after heavy rains, toxic amounts of metal gush out from within the mountain and bleed into Cement Creek. Peter Butler, co-coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group and chairman of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission, said Cement Creek is one of the largest untreated mine drainages in the state of Colorado…

    Like all great earthly calamities, the environmental problem posed by Cement Creek – daunting, scientific and indifferent to protest – becomes human – legal, social, financial and technological – as soon as the focus moves to solutions. In this three-day series, The Durango Herald explores what has been done about this environmental hazard, possible ways forward, and what cleaning up Cement Creek might mean to Silverton, town motto: “The mining town that never quit.”[...]

    For much of the 1990s, scientists took heart that the metals flowing into the Animas from Cement Creek were diluted by the time the water reached Bakers Bridge, a swimming hole for daredevils about 15 miles upriver of Durango. But between 2005 and 2010, 3 out of 4 of the fish species that lived in the Upper Animas River beneath Silverton died. According to studies by the USGS, both the volume of insects and the number of bug species have plummeted. And starting in 2006, the level of pollution has overwhelmed even the old bellwether at Bakers Bridge: USGS scientists now find the water that flows under Bakers Bridge carries concentrations of zinc that are toxic to animal life.

    Bill Simon, co-coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group, said cleaning up the environmental damage wrought by mining remains the unfinished business of previous centuries. “Getting anyone to pay is notoriously difficult,” he said. He noted that without robust regulation, it was common practice from the 1870s on for mining companies to take what they could and then go broke, abscond or incestuously merge with other mining entities, leaving the future to foot the bill…

    What keeps them working together? Simon, a longtime coordinator of the stakeholders group, said, “There is this overwhelming feeling: Let’s spend the money on the ground rather than in litigation.”[...]

    For a while, it appeared that the stakeholders’ collaborative effort to clean up Cement Creek was working: After Sunnyside Gold Corp. stoppered American Tunnel with the first of three massive concrete bulkheads in 1996, declining water flow from the site meant less metal pollution in Cement Creek. But Butler said that in 2004, the bulkheads stopped functioning like a cork in a wine bottle. Instead, they started working like a plug in a bathtub: Water, prevented from exiting the mountain through American Tunnel, rose up within the mountain until it reached other drainage points, namely, the Red and Bonita, Gold King and Mogul mines. Since then, Butler said, data shows that most metal concentrations in Cement Creek have “easily doubled” their pre-bulkhead amounts. He said as a result, the recent environmental damage done to the Animas has far outpaced gains made in other stakeholders group cleanup efforts, like the remediation of Mineral Creek, another Animas River tributary…

    Though federal budget cuts have seriously diminished the EPA and gutted its Superfund monies, the EPA says the mine drainage in Silverton has gotten so bad it may yet pursue a Superfund listing. And without federal intervention, even stalwarts of the Animas River Stakeholders Group say it’s not clear there will ever be enough money to clean up Cement Creek.

    Here’s Part II. Here’s an excerpt:

    According to Bill Simon, a co-coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group, an organization that has tried since 1994 to ensure the Animas River’s water quality, the science behind the cleanup is comparatively simple: A limestone water-treatment plant would do the trick. The catch with this technology, he said, is that it’s expensive. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates it would cost between $12 million to $17 million to build and $1 million a year to run – in perpetuity.

    Sunnyside Gold Corp. was the last mining company to operate in Silverton. Bought in 2003 by Kinross Gold Corp., an international mining conglomerate that generated billions in revenue last year, Sunnyside denies all liability for cleaning up Cement Creek. Sunnyside officials argue the state released it from liability in an agreement that partly depended on its building the American Tunnel bulkheads. These are the same bulkheads that, according to government scientists, are causing unprecedented amounts of metal to leak from mines higher up the mountain and flow into Cement Creek. The toxic cargo in turn flows into the Animas River.

    Larry Perino, Sunnyside’s representative in Silverton, said the company has offered the EPA a $6.5 million settlement – an offer the EPA is mulling. In return for the money, Perino said Sunnyside is merely asking the EPA to reiterate that it is not liable for all damage going forward…

    If Sunnyside wants the EPA to release it from liability, at $6.5 million the EPA probably isn’t biting.

    “$6.5 million is a starting point,” said Mike Holmes, the EPA’s Denver-based remedial project manager for Region 8, which includes Silverton. The EPA could turn to the Superfund, a designation that gives the agency broad powers to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous substances and force responsible parties to pay for the cleanup.

    Perino said Sunnyside vehemently opposes Cement Creek becoming a Superfund site, noting the people of Silverton oppose it, and that the designation likely would undermine Silverton’s economy and Sunnyside’s collaborative work with the Animas River Stakeholders.

    Peggy Linn, the EPA’s Region 8 community involvement coordinator, said if Silverton would support the EPA designating upper Cement Creek a Superfund site, making it easier for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to sign off on the designation, the agency might have a limestone water-treatment plant up and running within five years…

    And using about $8 million from government grants and in-kind donations, the group has managed significant environmental progress, including the cleanup of Mineral Creek. It has also lobbied U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton to push Congress for good Samaritan legislation. This would protect “vigilante” environmentalists from taking on liability for the sites they try to reclaim.

    During Animas River Stakeholders meetings, there is a lot more talk about exciting emerging technologies that might address the mine drainage into Cement Creek cheaply than there is hot talk about holding Sunnyside’s feet to the fire.

    An exception is Todd Hennis, owner of the Gold King Mine, who places the blame on Sunnyside and who is frustrated by others’ complacency on the subject. Metals draining out of Gold King Mine have increased tremendously since Sunnyside placed bulkheads into the American Tunnel. During a recent stakeholders meeting in Silverton Town Hall, Hennis lambasted the environmental record of Kinross Gold Corp., the mining conglomerate that owns Sunnyside. He said the only solution was for Sunnyside to remove the bulkheads from American Tunnel and pay for Cement Creek’s cleanup…

    Asked how personal tensions with Hennis were affecting the Animas River Stakeholders, co-coordinator Simon acknowledged, “we’ve all had our problems with Todd.” He said he did not like discussing it. “I think when Todd enters it, the conversation becomes kind of cheap and trite. We’ve all committed our lives to this thing.”

    More Animas River watershed coverage here and here.


    USFWS et. al. to provide $12 million for fish habitat conservation projects, Colorado’s share = $1.3 million

    July 17, 2013

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    Here’s the release from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Laurie Parramore):

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners are providing $12 million during the next three years to support 75 fish habitat conservation projects in 27 states, ranging from restoring submerged aquatic vegetation and oyster beds in Florida and New York to restoring degraded stream and estuary habitat for native fish in Hawaii.

    “Together with our partners, we identified the 75 projects through the National Fish Habitat Partnership, a diverse coalition of public and private organizations that works to reverse declines in fish habitat through voluntary, non-regulatory actions,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “The projects will benefit aquatic species by protecting, restoring and enhancing stream, lake and coastal habitat as well as anglers by improving recreational fisheries. In doing so, they will also give a boost to local communities that benefit from the outdoor recreation economy.”

    The National Fish Habitat Partnership helps Service biologists prioritize conservation work to get the greatest benefit for fish and other aquatic resources and ultimately for the American people. The partnership recently completed the first nationwide scientific assessment of the status of fish habitats and identified conservation priorities across the country.

    To fund the projects, the Service is providing $3.17 million this year, with nongovernmental organizations, state resource agencies and other partners contributing an additional $9.45 million during the next three years.

    Through the funded projects, partners will work in priority areas to restore stream banks, remove man-made barriers to fish passage, reduce erosion from farm and ranchlands, and conduct studies to identify conservation needs for fish and their habitats. Expected results of the projects include more robust fish populations, better fishing and healthier waterways. Many of the projects also are designed to help fish populations adapt to the effects of climate change and other environmental disruptions.

    “Better fishing is a big benefit of these projects,” said Kelly Hepler, Assistant Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Chairman of the National Fish Habitat Board. “With better fishing come more tourism, tackle sales and other economic activity, as well as a better quality of life in local communities.”

    Projects sponsored by the Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership will restore submerged aquatic vegetation and oyster beds in Florida and New York. The Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture will remove barriers in Maine and Pennsylvania and remediate acid mine drainage in Virginia. The Western Native Trout Initiative will restore habitat that is crucial to cutthroat trout, Gila trout and bull trout, all of which are imperiled. Projects sponsored by the Hawaii Fish Habitat Partnership will restore degraded stream and estuary habitat for native fish.

    The list of projects can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/fisheries/whatwedo/NFHAP/documents/2013_FWS_funded_NFHP_projects_listed_by_State.pdf

    For more information about the National Fish Habitat Partnership, visit http://www.fishhabitat.org and connect on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/NFHAP.

    From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

    Colorado will receive $1, 337,100 for three projects this year. They are a fish passage on Fountain Creek to benefit native plains fishes; Phase I of a sediment mitigation project on Bear Creek and a fish passage on Milk Creek for Native Colorado Cutthroat Trout Habitat Restoration.

    More conservation coverage here.


    Restoration projects targeting riparian health and recreational opportunities planned for the Poudre River

    July 14, 2013

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    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

    Fort Collins officials are planning a series of projects aimed at improving the river’s ecological health and recreational opportunities. Highly visible work is expected to be done at city-owned natural areas from the North Shields Ponds to Arapaho Bend near Interstate 25. Part of the work will involve reducing the height of river embankments that were built up over the years through gravel mining and building irrigation ditches to carry away the river’s water. The construction won’t be pretty, said John Stokes, the city’s director of natural resources. But in time, affected areas are expected to recover as plantings of native grasses, shrubs and trees take root…

    Intertwined with the work at natural areas in the coming years will be several major construction projects, including building a channel to carry stormwater runoff from the area around West Vine Drive to the river. The Colorado Department of Transportation is planning to replace the bridge that carries Mulberry Street over the river — a project that is expected to begin this fall and last more than a year — and Larimer County is planning to replace the Shields Street Bridge in 2015…

    Restoring and supporting the river’s ecology is a major thrust of projects planned at the city’s natural areas, Stokes said. But so is enhancing the recreational experiences of residents who bike, walk, fish, watch wildlife and float along the river. The popular Poudre River Trail will be redesigned and moved in places, including the former site of the Link-n-Greens golf course, where Woodward Inc. is planning to build its world headquarters. Woodward has donated 31 acres of the 101-acre site to the city for a natural area. The construction site is expected to be fenced off soon with grading work expected to begin in August, said Rick Bachand, environmental program manager for the Natural Areas Department…

    Extensive embankment work also is planned at the Sterling Natural Area. Material heaped along the river decades ago will be used to fill in part of Sterling Pond, which is a former gravel pit, to create habitat The work is expected to begin this winter if permits can be obtained from regulatory entities including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Stokes said…

    At the same time, a massive concrete diversion built to supply the Josh Ames Ditch, which no longer carries irrigation water, will be removed or modified. The structure stretches across river; its drop of roughly 5 feet prevents fish and insects from moving upstream.

    More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.


    Federal money for wildfire mitigation lands in Colorado

    July 6, 2013

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    From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

    Greeley has been reimbursed another $350,000 in federal dollars for mitigation following last year’s High Park and Hewlett Gulch fires, bumping up the city’s total reimbursement to $576,000. It brings the final count for the city’s out-of-pocket expenses to clear Greeley’s water supply of soot and ash to $1.2 million. Eric Reckentine, Greeley’s deputy director of water resources, said that’s the last Greeley will pay. Following Congress’ passage of a bill this spring to fund the protection of threatened water sources in Colorado, the remainder of mitigation will be fully funded by federal dollars, he said.

    Last fall, stakeholders in the Poudre Canyon — Greeley, the city of Fort Collins and the tri-districts (North Weld County, Fort Collins-Loveland and East Larimer County water districts) — agreed to share the cost of keeping water supply in the Poudre River clean. They paid a combined $4 million to treat the most-damaged areas, covering about half of what was needed.

    This year, the rest of the tab — at a cost of about $7.3 million — will be picked up by the federal government, with Greeley’s $1.2 million used as matching funds for federal grant money, Reckentine said.

    Fort Collins and the tri-districts also have been reimbursed by National Resources Conservation Services.

    In the mitigation process, mulch and straw is dumped from helicopters to keep soot, ash and debris from slipping off of hills and into the water supply. Reckentine said Greeley will still be responsible for managing some of the mitigation. He said the city hopes to see work on burn areas start in mid-August.

    From KUNC (Erin OToole):

    Last fall, the three water districts in Weld and Larimer counties, and the cities of Greeley and Fort Collins agreed to share the cost of keeping water in the Poudre River clean. Stakeholders paid a combined total of $4 million to treat the most damaged areas – only about half of what was needed.

    This year the rest of the tab – about $7 million – will be picked up by the federal government. Fort Collins and the tri-districts are also being reimbursed.


    Buena Vista: Cottonwood Creek project improves fishery

    June 17, 2013

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    From The Mountain Mail (Nancy Best):

    Trout Unlimited, a national conservation organization, is active in the local area through its Collegiate Peaks Anglers chapter. The chapter serves the Upper Arkansas Valley from Leadville to Cotopaxi and boasts some 300 members. Despite its name, Trout Unlimited is not a fishing club; indeed, there are members who do not fish. However, what is common among them is a love of the outdoors and natural settings.

    One project that TU spearheaded was the creation of the Buena Vista Wildlife Area on CR 361 just off CR 306, from what was an inaccessible marshy meadow and a section of Cottonwood Creek that was too straight and shallow for fish to thrive in.

    Local TU member Bob Gray explained what was involved. A year was spent writing and presenting a grant to the federal program Fishing Is Fun. A wetland mitigation plan was submitted, and many different aspects of the project that needed to be coordinated were put in place. Then, it took only the month of August 2006 to actually construct the BV Wildlife Trail and rebuild the section of Cottonwood Creek running alongside it.

    Led by TU, it truly was a town effort. ACA Products donated gravel and boulders. Town trucks hauled gravel, local graphic designer Sherry York researched and wrote informational signs, and Weston Arnold and Zeke Farber, two students in the high school metal shop program, constructed a handicapped guardrail to make fishing accessible to those in wheelchairs. The Department of Corrections heavy equipment program, led by Tom Foreman and Tom Bowen, provided machines and labor.

    Rod van Velson, before his retirement from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, mapped out a new stream, designing where rocks should be placed and how they should be oriented in order to direct the water flow, create holding pools, undercut banks, speed up or slow down the creek and stabilize banks, all to make an inviting home for brown trout.

    The concerted effort of those mentioned, plus other businesses and many volunteers, led to the rewards of having a trout stream close to town and a trail with interpretive signs that has the potential to expand. Gray said, “I think of the future of this area and how spectacular it would be to one day see open space and a trail all along Cottonwood Creek.”

    The brown trout living in other parts of Cottonwood Creek have realized what a nice home this specifically designed area is and have migrated to it, increasing in size and number, making this a naturally reproducing brown trout fishery.

    For fishermen, what makes for an ideal habitat for the trout also makes for technically challenging fishing. At the same time, the area has been improved for animals and birds, with elk wintering in the town-irrigated meadow and bluebirds nesting in the locally made birdhouses.

    Members of TU continue to monitor and maintain the area. Some members, like Boys & Girls Club Board President Karen Dils, pick up trash, while others transplant willow trees to keep the shoreline as it should be.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    Colorado State Representative Don Coram plans to shutter and restore four uranium mines

    June 12, 2013

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    From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

    The action follows several years of legal pressure by activists on the state and federal government to shut down the old uranium mines that dot the landscape of San Miguel and Montrose counties.A 2008 state law required all uranium mines to meet a higher level of regulatory scrutiny. State mining regulators are now demanding that all mine operators either submit a detailed environmental-protection plan or shut down their mines and reclaim the land.“Economically, it seemed to be more feasible to me to do a reclamation plan. It was strictly a matter of economics,” said Coram, a Montrose Republican whose district includes Montezuma County. Coram’s company, Gold Eagle Mining Inc., bought the mines in 1998. Three are close to the Dolores River at Slick Rock. The fourth overlooks the Paradox Valley in Montrose County. They have been out of operation almost constantly since the early 1980s. The state has given him until May 2014 to finish reclamation of the sites.

    But even as they enter the cleanup stage, the mines remain as controversial as ever. A mining watchdog group called Information Network for Responsible Mining, or INFORM, has been hounding Coram and other mine operators, and the group submitted a harsh objection to Coram’s request earlier this year for an extension of his permit to leave the mines idle.“We will not mince words in criticizing the condition of the Slick Rock mines: They are dangerous to public health, to the Dolores River, to wildlife, and to the ecosystem they actively pollute. These mines represent egregious examples of neglect and mismanagement and have been allowed, for many years, to erode their toxic and radioactive contaminants directly into the Dolores,” INFORM’s objection stated.Coram sharply disputes the charges…

    Tony Waldron of the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety said Coram’s mines are not polluting the Dolores River…

    Radiometric readings near the mines show nothing above the natural background levels of radiation.However, stormwater does run off some of the mining waste piles, Waldron said. As part of the reclamation work, Gold Eagle will have to flatten the piles to reduce the risk of tainted water spilling off the site.Other reclamation work includes closing portals, replanting vegetation and removing old buildings.

    More nuclear coverage here and here.


    Restoration: Pennsylvania Mine cleanup to begin

    May 19, 2013

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    From the Summit Daily News (Breeana Laughlin):

    Cleanup work at one of Summit County’s most polluted landscapes will begin this month — more than a century after toxic metals were released from the Pennsylvania Mine site. The mine operated from the late 1880s into the early 1930s. It produced more than $3 million in silver, lead and zinc. But the mine exposed a source of toxic heavy metals that drain into Peru Creek, choking fish from the stream and sending pollutants into the Snake River.

    Today, Peru Creek is devoid of aquatic life. The Snake River, which the creek drains into, supports a limited number of species only in its lower reaches.

    Individuals and groups have recognized the mine as a tainted site and have been trying to address the problem since the late 1980s. But until now, little has been done to terminate the source of the pollution. “There have been several smaller mine cleanups in that basin with state and grant funding. But everyone has recognized that the major issue remains the Pennsylvania Mine,” said Brian Lorch, a county official overseeing open space and trails.


    Wildland Restoration Volunteers High Park Post-Fire Restoration, May 23

    May 18, 2013

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    From Wildland Restoration Volunteers:

    WRV is working with our partners to address the long-term restoration needs caused by the High Park Fire. Our goals are to protect downstream water quality, prevent erosion, and stabilize slopes. To achieve this, we distribute native grass seeds, lay out mulch and install erosion control structures We believe this will help rivers, roads, water infrastructure, and communities.

    For this project, we will be finishing the installation of wattles on a hill slope to stabilize the slope. We would love to have your help!

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here.


    Restoration: CSU Researchers Identify Environmental Risks and Opportunities for Conservation of Native Colorado Trout Populations

    May 12, 2013

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    Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jennifer Dimas):

    With only 14 percent of their original habitat remaining, native Colorado River cutthroat trout have been forced into isolation by habitat loss and invading non-native trout in relatively short reaches of high-altitude headwater streams. A new research paper by scientists at Colorado State University’s Warner College of Natural Resources has found that 63 percent of the remaining populations will be at some risk of decline or extinction by 2080.

    There are 309 individual fragments of rivers and streams where pure Colorado River cutthroat trout still persist in the Colorado River Basin. The CSU researchers developed models to assess the probabilities for a variety of risks to trout in these populations, including those from a warming climate as well as increases in drought that causes stream drying and wildfire that can produce erosion of sediment into streams.

    Researcher and lead author on the paper James Roberts first developed a sophisticated model to predict future stream temperatures from the latest predictions of future air temperatures and stream flow under climate change, as well as a range of other important variables such as latitude, slope, and elevation. The researcher team then analyzed the impacts of potential environmental disturbance events, such as fire, erosion and drought. What they found was a surprising paradox, and an opportunity for conservation.

    The scientists report that none of the populations of cutthroat trout are expected to be at risk of acute mortality from increasing temperatures as the climate warms, even 70 years in the future. This is because these native fish have already been forced into refuges in short high-altitude streams, above barriers that prevent invasion by non-native brook, rainbow, and brown trout. As a result, the surviving populations are less susceptible to extreme temperature changes such as those that will occur at lower elevations. However, these isolated havens of cool-water habitat are also at the crux of what is jeopardizing the Colorado River cutthroat trout population.

    The study reported that the fish living in these short stream reaches are highly vulnerable to potential effects of drought, fire, sediment deposition and freezing because they lack the habitat that would shelter them from these events that longer stream segments would afford. In addition, the isolated populations are also compromised by genetic risks that occur in small populations.
    Because Roberts’ models looked at each risk factor for each stream where the native trout still occur, the researchers are able to identify in which of the 309 fragments restoration to expand the native trout’s habitat can be most effective. Furthermore, they are able to determine approximately how many kilometers long a stream fragment needs to be in order to provide adequate habitat for enhanced persistence rates.

    “The complexity and depth of this study has allowed us to sharpen our focus and help managers create sustainable solutions for this iconic native fish species,” said Roberts. “Our hope is that this research will empower land managers with the tools and information needed to make a significant impact on the conservation of native Colorado River cutthroat trout for generations to come.”

    The paper, Fragmentation and thermal risks from climate change interact to affect persistence of native trout in the Colorado River basin, is published in the May 2013 issue of Global Change Biology. The study was conducted using data from the upper Colorado River Basin, which includes all tributaries above Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell.

    Roberts, now working with the U.S. Geological Survey, conducted the research over three years while he was a post-doctoral researcher with CSU’s Warner College. CSU scientist Kurt Fausch served as Roberts’ research advisor and co-author, and is a professor in the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology and a world-renowned expert in the ecology and management of trout and other stream fishes. Other co-authors of the study are Mevin Hooten with the USGS Colorado Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and CSU alumnus Doug Peterson with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    “The exciting outcome of this research is that we now have a targeted tool to help land managers plan efficient and strategic habitat restoration to reduce these risks,” said Fausch. “In many other cases, managers may be able to do little for native trout as the climate changes and makes streams too warm for their survival.”

    From the Summit Daily News (Breeana Laughlin):

    Rising water temperatures, the Colorado State University study concludes, aren’t impacting the indigenous fish like some of its non-native brothers.

    Results of the study, which included six streams in Summit County, indicate that the hardy fish may be less susceptible to increases in water temperature than other trout.

    Researchers James Roberts and Kurt Fausch are suggesting this may be because cutthroat trout have already sought refuge in short, high-altitude streams, above the barriers that keep out non-native brook, rainbow and brown trout.

    Although isolated havens of cool-water habitat could help native trout survive future temperature increases, they still face peril in the event of a drought, fire or hard freeze because they don’t have the expansive habitat larger fish populations rely on to survive.

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here and here.


    Bennet, Tipton Reintroduce Companion Bills to Preserve Hermosa Creek Watershed

    May 12, 2013

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    Here’s the release from US Representative Scott Tipton’s office:

    Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Scott Tipton are introducing a bill to protect more than 100,000 acres of the Hermosa Creek Watershed, an area in the San Juan National Forest north of Durango. The bill would establish management for the Hermosa Creek Watershed based on recommendations from the Hermosa Creek River Protection Workgroup, which included local water officials, conservationists, sportsmen, mountain bikers, off-road-vehicle users, outfitters, property owners, grazing permit holders and other interested citizens. Bennet’s bill was introduced today, while Tipton will introduce his bill in the House as early as tomorrow.

    “We are lucky in Colorado to be able to enjoy many of the country’s most beautiful landscapes in our backyards. The Hermosa Creek Watershed represents some of the best Colorado has to offer,” Bennet said. “This bill will protect this land for our outdoor recreation economy and for future generations of Coloradans and Americans to enjoy. It is the result of a local effort that took into account the varied interests of the community, and that cooperation helped us put together a strong bill with the community’s input.”

    “As one of Colorado’s most scenic areas, Hermosa Creek has long been treasured by the local community and by countless visitors who have explored all that the region has to offer,” Tipton said. “Local stakeholders including snowmobilers, anglers, hunters, other outdoor enthusiasts, elected officials, miners and Southwest Colorado residents have voiced their support to preserve the Hermosa Creek watershed and the multiple use recreation opportunities it provides. In response to this locally driven effort, Senator Bennet and I have joined together to put forward legislation to, without any additional cost to taxpayers, protect and preserve this special place, and ensure that Coloradans as well as visitors to our great state have the opportunity to experience Hermosa Creek’s abundant natural beauty for generations to come.”

    “On behalf of the La Plata County Commissioners, I thank Senator Bennet and Congressman Tipton for their great work for the interests of La Plata County citizens,” said Julie Westendorff, La Plata County Commissioner. “This bill protects the clean waters of our Hermosa Creek and promotes the responsible use of federal lands for the recreation that supports our economy and sustains our quality of life.”

    “We are very excited about this bill. We are hopeful that all the hard work and cooperative partnership that went into the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act will lead to the swift passage of this bill for the benefit of Southwest Colorado and all the visitors to our area.” said Pete McKay, San Juan County Commissioner.

    “The Hermosa Creek Wilderness bill rests on a foundation of broadly-based stakeholder input,” said Dick White, mayor of Durango. “It will protect the watershed while preserving historical and recreational values. In addition, it provides protection for iconic scenic and recreational areas near the City of Durango. The bill will contribute both to the natural amenities that attract residents and tourists to Southwest Colorado and to the economic benefits that they bring.”

    “It was my privilege to represent the interests of the Southwestern Water Conservation District and San Juan County, Colorado during this process. Interests of the Southwestern Water Conservation District included protecting existing water rights and uses; and, the potential for future water development. The interests of San Juan County included protecting existing water quality, county road access, mineral development potential, forest product harvesting, and recreational uses,” wrote Stephen Fearn, President, Jo Grant Mining Company, Inc. “Both the District and San Juan County have voted to support the proposed legislation.”

    The bill, which is cosponsored by Senator Mark Udall, would designate roughly 108,000 acres of San Juan National Forest land as the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Area. Much of the land would remain open to all historic uses of the forest under the bill, including mountain biking, motorized recreation, and selective timber harvesting. Grazing will continue to be allowed in the entire watershed.

    In accordance with the consensus recommendations of the Hermosa Creek Workgroup, roughly 38,000 acres of the watershed would be set aside as wilderness, to be managed in accordance with The Wilderness Act of 1964. No roads or mineral development are permitted in wilderness areas; while hunting, fishing, horseback riding and non-mechanized recreation are allowed.

    Per the community recommendations the following trails all remain open to mountain biking: Hermosa Creek, Dutch Creek, Elbert Creek, Corral Draw, the Colorado Trail, Little Elk Creek, Jones Creek, Pinkerton-Flagstaff and Goulding Creek. Also, in keeping with the community recommendations, the following trails will remain open to motorized use: Hermosa Creek, Jones Creek, Pinkerton Flagstaff, Dutch Creek and Corral Draw. In addition the bill will allow areas in the Hermosa Creek watershed currently used by snowmobiling to remain open to that use. Also, at the request of Silverton and San Juan County, the bill ensures areas currently open to snowmobiling on Molas Pass will remain open for that use.

    The bill contains several provisions to provide for active land management in areas designated by the bill as necessary to control wildfires, insect infestations and disease outbreaks. Finally, per the request of the Durango City Council and La Plata County Commission, the bill would prohibit future federal mineral leasing on Animas Mountain, Perins Peak, Ridges Basin and Horse Gulch.

    Supporters of the bill include the City of Durango, the La Plata County Commission, the San Juan County Commission, the Wilderness Society, Trails 2000, Four Corners Back County Horsemen, Jo Grant Mining Company, Inc., in addition to numerous business and sportsmen groups, among others.

    More Hermosa Creek Watershed coverage here and here.


    Restoration: Mary Murphy Mine project set to start mid-summer

    May 12, 2013

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    From The Mountain Mail (Maisie Ramsay):

    High on Chrysolite Mountain south of St. Elmo sits the Mary Murphy Mine, one of many nearly abandoned mining sites dotting the landscape of Chaffee County. The mine, a once-rich source of gold and silver, is now a pollutant. “It’s discharging metals into Chalk Creek. It makes it difficult for fish to survive,” said Jeff Graves, senior project manager for the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety.

    Work is now under way to permanently stop the mine’s discharge of zinc-laden water toxic to fish – runoff linked to a 1986 fish kill. “The goal is to reduce the amount of discharge significantly and by that hopefully improve water quality within Chalk Creek,” Graves said.

    The reclamation agency is seeking bids on the first phase of a two-stage project to end contaminated seepage from the site, described in a 2009 state report as the “single greatest contributor of heavy metals” in Chalk Creek. The first phase of the estimated $500,000 project is set to begin mid-summer, Graves said.

    The project will reinforce the mine’s Golf Tunnel to prevent it from collapsing on workers during the second phase of the project, when a long-term barrier will be put in place. The tunnel will be stabilized, the floor cleaned of muck, ventilation put into place and basic utilities installed such as electricity and telephone. The Golf Tunnel is 2,200 feet below the surface, the lowest level of the Mary Murphy Mine.

    Companies interested in the project must attend a mandatory pre-bid meeting at 10 a.m. May 7 in the U.S. Forest Service parking lot near St. Elmo. Bids must be submitted by May 23.

    Following the stabilization of the Golf Tunnel, workers will install concrete plugs designed to stop mining discharge during the second phase of the project. “It’ll be like putting a cork in it,” Graves said. The “cork” phase has not yet been scheduled. Graves could not provide a specific cost estimate, but said the installation of the concrete plugs is expected to cost more than reinforcing the tunnel.

    There are still claims on the Mary Murphy Mine, though the site is largely abandoned. The latest remediation work follows prior efforts to reduce pollution at the site through consolidation, capping and revegetation of mine tailings.

    The work is being funded by the state and federal government after it was determined that “existing landowners are nonviable … for insufficient funds,” Graves said.

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here.


    Restoration: The Eagle River Watershed Council is planting willows along Red Dirt Creek May 17-18

    May 7, 2013

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    From email from the Eagle River Watershed Council:

    We are beginning a second project along the East Fork of Red Dirt Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River. The Watershed Council, along with a team of volunteers and help from the US Forest Service and Trout Unlimited, will plant willows and remove a dirt road that is adding sediment to the creek and harming the local cutthroat trout population.

    Friday, May 17th and Saturday, May 18th we will be planting willows along the East Fork of Red Dirt Creek and we are looking for 10-15 volunteers. Call us at 970-827-5406 or email outreach@erwc.org to sign up for one or both days!

    More Eagle River Watershed coverage here and here.


    SDS: Pueblo County is looking at advance payments from Colorado Springs for Fountain Creek projects

    May 1, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Pueblo County commissioners want to explore the possibility of jumpstarting projects on Fountain Creek with advance payment of money promised by Colorado Springs Utilities as a condition for Southern Delivery System.

    “We need clarity on the acceptability of using the $50 million, using it in advance,” Commissioner Terry Hart said.

    Under its 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System, a $1 billion pipeline that takes water from Pueblo Dam to El Paso County, Colorado Springs promised to pay $50 million for flood control projects south of the city that benefit Pueblo County.

    The money is scheduled to begin arriving in five installments to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District in 2016, after SDS goes online.

    But $600,000 already has been paid to the district — $300,000 for a flood control study and $300,000 that was used to complete a master corridor study and as its share to provide interim funding to the district.

    Last week, Hart, who sits on the Fountain Creek board, was approached with the idea of asking for another $100,000 from the Colorado Springs fund to continue interim funding until the district settles on a strategy for securing a funding source. Commissioner Sal Pace asked attorneys if the county could ask for the entire $50 million to be paid sooner.

    “If we bring it in sooner, it could be used to leverage other money,” Pace said.

    Commissioner Liane “Buffie” McFadyen said flooding on Fountain Creek is likely to be more intense after the Waldo Canyon Fire and supported using the money sooner, rather than later.

    Ray Petros, the county’s water attorney, was uncertain if advance payment is possible. Colorado Springs asked for the five-year schedule for mainly financial reasons, and the payment is just one of a series of conditions that must be met over time. “We’d have to be careful from our side that we weren’t acknowledging that SDS wouldn’t be suspended for some other reason,” Petros said.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    County staff and Colorado Springs Utilities are discussing the adequacy of revegetation requirements on the pipeline route of Southern Delivery System through Pueblo West.

    The pipeline is buried, but cuts a 100-foot-wide swath through 7 miles of Pueblo West on its way from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs.

    As part of Pueblo County 1041 conditions for SDS, Colorado Springs is bonded for two years while revegetation is completed. Although droughtresistant species are being used, seeds must be irrigated to sprout. That raised some questions Monday in a work session on SDS issues.

    “We’re in the throes of a drought, and my question is whether this is a good time to do revegetation,” Commissioner Terry Hart said. “If we’re going to be irrigating it for two years and suddenly pull off the water, what happens?”

    Attorney Gary Raso said experts from Colorado Springs Utilities and the county’s consultant, Warren Keammerer, are meeting on the issue, but the results likely won’t be known at the end of two years. The county is concerned that too many “weedy” species will take hold, rather than beneficial grasses.

    “It became clear to me that at the end of two years, the best you could conclude is that it was going in the right direction,” Raso said. “The experts don’t like being tied to (the two-year limit).”

    Hart questioned what recourse the county would have if problems surfaced five years after revegetation was deemed complete. The county has in the past altered the 1041 conditions with Colorado Springs on $2.2 million for dredging Fountain Creek through Pueblo and accepting a $15 million payment for restoration of Pueblo West roads damaged during construction.

    There also are unresolved revegetation issues with the portion of the pipeline that crosses Walker Ranches north of Pueblo West.

    Commissioners agreed that they need to further discuss issues with Keammerer.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    The High Park Fire burn scar will likely be a pain in the water supply in the Poudre for years to come

    April 28, 2013

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Trevor Hughes):

    Last fall, mudslides and rockfalls repeatedly blocked Colorado Highway 14 west of Fort Collins in the weeks following the High Park Fire. The spring runoff is poised to cause even more trouble in the coming weeks and years…

    The most recent problem in the canyon came April 21, when several rocks the size of recliners tumbled off a steep embankment and onto the road, blocking the eastbound lane. CDOT workers on Friday did some emergency work to reduce potential rockslides.

    And next month, state and federal workers will begin a series of projects aimed at keeping traffic moving on the road and keeping the water clean for drinking. Two major efforts launch next month: The first will improve culverts along the highway and reduce the amount of debris that can slide down hillsides. The second involves spreading straw on thousands of burned acres to help stabilize hillsides and aid in revegetation.

    Wildfires burn off grasses, bushes and trees that help stabilize the ground, which is especially important on steep, rocky hillsides of the kind that flank the Poudre Canyon. Without roots, branches and fronds, water, rocks and ash can cascade down the hillsides, covering the flat road below before dumping into the Poudre River.

    The river, an internationally known fly-fishing destination, ran black several times last fall as rains carried ash into it. That sludge is still visible in many areas, and its presence worries water managers.

    The Poudre River is an important source of drinking water for many Northern Colorado cities, including Fort Collins and Greeley. The High Park Fire forced Fort Collins to change how it treats Poudre River water, something that helped drive a 4 percent water rate increase that took effect earlier this year. Runoff from the burn area has also caused spikes in iron and manganese in the river, and because of those and other pollutants — and treatment for increased algae in the river water — there’s a risk the taste and smell of the city’s tap water could change, affecting the city’s numerous breweries.

    To help protect the supply’s quality and taste, Fort Collins has been using water from Horsetooth Reservoir to dilute or outright replace Poudre River water during periods of ashy runoff.

    “We will continue to have the uncertainty of the Poudre River water,” said Laurie D’Audney, a city water conservation specialist. “We just don’t know how much of it we’ll be able to treat.”

    The federal government, recognizing the impact that the fire’s lingering effects have on the water, earlier this month allocated nearly $20 million to Colorado to repair watersheds and perform flood mitigation work in the Waldo Canyon and High Park fire burn areas.

    That work will help stabilize hillsides, to reduce the amount of water and debris running downhill. And CDOT’s culvert replacements aim to ensure the water that does flow down crosses beneath Colorado 14, rather than pooling atop it.

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here.


    The Western Colorado Conservation Corps scores $10,000 for restoration along the Colorado River mainstem

    April 27, 2013

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    From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

    The Western Colorado Conservation Corps will partner with the Bureau of Land Management to remove invasive tamarisk and Russian olive trees from the banks of the Colorado River. The introduced trees suck up water needed by native flora and fauna.

    The funding is the result of a partnership between the Royal Bank of Canada and the Conservation Lands Foundation. The bank is is one of Canada’s largest corporate donors. “We are extremely grateful to RBC for helping us put ‘boots on the ground’ in Colorado,” said Brian O’Donnell, executive director of the Conservation Lands Foundation. “McInnis Canyons and the Colorado River are cornerstones of the National Conservation Lands and important to so many people. RBC’s gift has given this partnership and river an important boost.”

    McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area is part of the National Conservation Lands. The National Conservation Lands are a 28-million-acre system of protected lands in the west known for their culturally, ecologically and scientifically significant landscapes managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

    The volunteers will also remove Russian knapweed, and plant and protect native Freemont cottonwoods and coyote willow. The re-introduction of these native species will enhance wildlife habitat, help rehabilitate the river corridor and improve water quality.

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here and here.


    Salida: Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas Wetlands Program and Field Trip, May 14 and 18

    April 25, 2013

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    From email from the Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas:

    Wetlands Program and Field Trip

    Program – May 14, 2013, 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm, Salida Community Center

    Field Trip – May 18, 2013, 8:30 am to 11:30 am, location close to Salida, details given the night of the program

    Join us for a exploration of wetlands. What are wetlands? Why are they so important? Why should we care? And, what types of wetlands are found in Central Colorado? Bill Goosmann will help us answer these questions. Bill has a Master’s of Science and is certified as a Professional Wetland Scientist. He managed the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado Division of Wildlife wetland programs. Bill has also designed and implemented wetland creation, restoration, and mitigation projects.

    We will start with a program on May 14th at the Salida Community Center (corner of Third and F Streets), 7:00 pm. The following Saturday (May 18th) we will go out into the field to a wetland site just west of Salida. In addition to Bill, joining us on the field trip will be the Raquel Wertsbaugh, Wildlife Conservation Biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Raquel manages all the non-game programs in the region Also, Land Trust Executive Director, Andrew Mackie will round out the trip leaders. He is an avid birder and wetland ecologist by training.

    The field trip will put into practice what we learned during the program. We will also search for and discuss the many species of wildlife that depend upon wetlands.

    You must attend the Tuesday program to attend the field trip on Saturday. The program and field trip are free and open to the public. Please email or call the Land Trust to register at info@ltua.org or 719-539-7700.

    More conservation coverage here.


    Colorado Springs Utilities plans to spend $6 million on efforts to mitigate the Waldo Canyon burn scar

    April 10, 2013

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    From the USDA Blog (Mike Stearly):

    The U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Springs (Colo.) Utilities recently announced a new 5-year partnership to help restore the areas burned by the devastating Waldo Canyon Fire that tore through part of the west side of the city in 2012.

    Through the partnership, Colorado Springs Utilities will invest approximately $6 million in support of the watershed health goals and activities over the next five to 10 years. The Forest Service will complete on-the-ground project planning and treatment in areas that complement Colorado Springs Utilities investments.

    During an event at the Flying W Ranch – a 60-year-old tourist attraction destroyed in the fire – Harris Sherman, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, met with Congressman Doug Lamborn, U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennett, and representatives from the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, El Paso County Commissioners and the city of Colorado Springs.

    “This partnership will ensure improved water quality for the residents of Colorado Springs,” Sherman said. “Collaborating on watershed restoration will have a long-term positive impact on forest and watershed health and allows us to accomplish more on-the-ground projects.”

    The innovative partnership between Colorado Springs Utilities and the Forest Service is preserving and protecting crucial watersheds that provide water to Colorado’s second largest city. The signing of the agreement establishes work to reduce wildfire risk, restore burned areas, minimize erosion impacts and coordinates pre-suppression wildland fire efforts.

    “This agreement … solidifies a critical partnership with the Forest Service, a partnership that has benefited our water supply and community for decades,” said Gary Bostrom, chief water services officer for Colorado Springs Utilities. “Our ongoing relationship with the Forest Service will help us channel customer rate dollars in the most efficient way possible to protect our most vital resource and the forest that surrounds it.”

    The human-caused Waldo Canyon fire started June 23, 2012, and left a scar of more than 18,000 acres, cost millions of dollars to fight, caused the evacuation of 32,000 people, destroyed 346 homes and killed two people. The fire has since been labeled the largest, most expensive and destructive fire in Colorado’s history.

    More Colorado Springs Utilities coverage here and here.


    Remediation work has been unsuccessful at Silver Bell Mine tailings site

    April 9, 2013

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    From The Watch (Gus Jarvis):

    A settlement was reached late last month between Sheep Mountain Alliance and PacifiCorp that obligates the company to investigate and take further remediation actions on the Silver Bell Tailings located near the Ophir turn on U.S. Hwy. 145.

    Since 1998, PacifiCorp has taken voluntary steps to cap, stabilize and clean the mine tailings deposited by the Silver Bell Mill in the 1950s. For the past two years, that completed remediation work on the tailings have been in a monitoring stage. So far, the remediation work has been unsuccessful in keeping the Environmental Protection Agency’s water quality standards for the San Miguel River at acceptable levels.

    Roughly one year ago, when, according to Sheep Mountain Alliance Director Hilary Cooper, the organization was “combing” through EPA water data from the San Miguel River, downstream from the tailings, “alarming” records they believed to be Clean Water Act violations turned up.

    SMA eventually brought a citizen Clean Water Act lawsuit against PacificCorp , alleging liability due to years of illegal discharges of heavy metals, acidic drainage and other pollutants from the impoundment. All of those mine contaminants, the lawsuit alleged, were flowing out of the Silver Bell Tailings impoundment and into the Howard Fork of the San Miguel River, despite the remediation work that had been completed on the site.

    The lawsuit eventually led to a mediation process between SMA and PacifiCorp, resulting in a settlement and a consent decree announced March 21. In the settlement, both parties agreed to use a third-party expert to analyze and recommend a way forward that both parties could agree on. PacifiCorp has agreed to embark on four-step monitoring process of the tailings that will determine where the specific source of the contamination is located; once that is found, PacifiCorp will come to the table with a proposed correction.

    “What we believe is that it will lead to a replacement of the tailings cap,” Cooper said. “But this way, with an in-depth analysis of the contamination sources, we think a new cap will be engineered in a way that will have a higher chance at success than what is there right now.”[...]

    In addition to the management plan action, PacifiCorp has also agreed to pay $150,000 to the San Miguel Watershed Coalition. Under federal law, polluters found accountable under the Clean Water Act are required to pay funds in lieu of civil penalties toward local watersheds. The funds will be applied to the restoration of the Priest Lake reservoir.

    More water pollution coverage here.


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