Rio Grande Basin Roundtable meeting recap

March 16, 2015

Kerber Creek

Kerber Creek


From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Scars from the San Luis Valley’s mining days are slowly healing.

Kerber Creek in the northern part of the Valley is one of the places where mining provided a temporary income and left a permanent scar on the area’s land and water.

Trout Unlimited and several partnering organizations are gradually working to revive the soil and water along Kerber Creek, which flows through Bonanza and Villa Grove, where mine tailings rendered land and fishing streams lifeless for many years. Yesterday the Valley-wide water organization, Rio Grande Roundtable, approved $30,000 out of its basin funds towards a $277,677 project covering about six acres in the middle portion of the Kerber Creek Restoration Project. Project Manager Jason Willis explained this would tie together restoration efforts already conducted in this section.

There are 13 tailing deposits in this small area alone, Willis explained, seven on one side of the creek and six on the other.

Work will begin in conjunction with 5,900 feet of in-stream improvements by Natural Resources Conservation Service this summer and wrap up this fall to improve vegetation and water quality on this stretch of Kerber Creek.

Willis explained that amendments such as limestone provided by the Bureau of Land Management will be added to the soil in phytostabilization efforts, and metal tolerant native species will be planted. The goal is to create a self-sustaining system similar to the undisturbed landscape that existed before the mining occurred, Willis explained.

He shared videotaped comments of landowner Carol Wagner who has owned a ranch along Kerber Creek since 1986. She explained how the quality of water in the creek had improved from extremely poor and unable to support fish habitat when she bought the property to a much more vibrant and beautiful state since restoration efforts began. Landowners such as Wagner contribute towards the restoration project , which includes several partners such as BLM, NRCS and the Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety.

In addition to providing funds for the ongoing Kerber Creek restoration, the Roundtable yesterday heard a preliminary funding request , which will be brought back next month for formal action, from Judy Lopez for $45,300 over a three-year period from the basin account for education and outreach efforts such as newspaper articles, radio shows, educational videos, web page updates, project tours and administration. The roundtable also voted to establish an executive committee to help manage roundtable business such as planning the meetings, agendas and speakers and reviewing applications. The committee will consist of the three officers, who until the end of the calendar year will continue to be Chairman Mike Gibson, Vice Chairman Rio de la Vista and Secretary Cindy Medina, as well as roundtable members Peter Clark, Ron Brink, Judy Lopez , Heather Dutton, Steve Vandiver, Charlie Spielman, Nathan Coombs and Karla Shriver. Also during their meeting on Tuesday the roundtable members heard a presentation on geophysical and hydrophysical logging tools and techniques by Greg Bauer of COLOG who shared various tools to learn what’s going on beneath the surface. He said many of these tools could be used for well logging that could be accurate and cost effective. Theroundtablealso heard a report from Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 3 Engineer Craig Cotten that the snowpack in the Rio Grande Basin is now up to 87 percent of average, about where the basin has been at this time of year for the past couple of years. The National Weather Service forecast through the summer calls for above-average precipitation.


Workshop to focus on Big Thompson River restoration — @coloradoan

February 26, 2015


Circle of Blue: Of new water projects Congress authorized last year, ecosystem restoration fared best in Obama budget

February 23, 2015


@USGS: Largest Dam Removal in U.S. History Scientifically Characterized

February 17, 2015

Here’s the release from the United States Geological Survery:

The effects of dam removal are better known as a result of several new studies released this week by government, tribal and university researchers. The scientists worked together to characterize the effects of the largest dam removal project in U.S. history occurring on the Elwha River of Washington State. New findings suggest that dam removal can change landscape features of river and coasts, which have ecological implications downstream of former dam sites.

“These studies not only give us a better understanding of the effects of dam removal, but show the importance of collaborative science across disciplines and institutions,” said Suzette Kimball, acting director of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Five peer-reviewed papers, with authors from the U.S. Geological Survey, Reclamation, National Park Service, Washington Sea Grant, NOAA Fisheries, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, and the University of Washington, provide detailed observations and insights about the changes in the river’s landforms, waters and coastal zone during the first two years of dam removal. During this time, massive amounts of sediment were eroded from the drained reservoirs and transported downstream through the river and to the coast.

One finding that intrigued scientists was how efficiently the river eroded and moved sediment from the former reservoirs; over a third of the 27 million cubic yards of reservoir sediment, equivalent to about 3000 Olympic swimming pools filled with sediment, was eroded into the river during the first two years even though the river’s water discharge and peak flows were moderate compared to historical gaging records.

This sediment release altered the river’s clarity and reshaped the river channel while adding new habitats in the river and at the coast. In fact, the vast majority of the new sediment was discharged into the coastal waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where the river mouth delta expanded seaward by hundreds of feet.

“The expansion of the river mouth delta is very exciting, because we are seeing the rebuilding of an estuary and coast that were rapidly eroding prior to dam removal,” said USGS research scientist and lead author of the synthesis paper, Dr. Jonathan Warrick.

Although the primary goal of the dam removal project is to reintroduce spawning salmon runs to the pristine upper reaches of the Elwha River within Olympic National Park, the new studies suggest that dam removal can also have ecological implications downstream of the former dam sites. These implications include a renewal of the sand, gravel and wood supplies to the river and to the coast, restoring critical processes for maintaining salmon habitat to river, estuarine and coastal ecosystems.

“These changes to sediment and wood supplies are important to understand because they affect the river channel form, and the channel form provides important habitat to numerous species of the region,” stated USGS research scientist and river study lead author, Dr. Amy East.

The final stages of dam removal occurred during the summer of 2014. Some sediment erosion from the former reservoirs will likely continue. The Elwha Project and research teams are continuing to monitor how quickly the river returns to its long-term restored condition.

“We look forward to seeing when the sediment supplies approach background levels,” said Reclamation engineer and co-author, Jennifer Bountry, “because this will help us understand the length of time that dam removal effects will occur.”

The five new papers can be found in Elsevier’s peer-reviewed journal, Geomorphology, and they focus on the following topics of the large-scale dam removal on the Elwha River, Washington (web-based publication links using digital object identifiers, doi, are provided in parentheses):

  • Erosion of reservoir sediment
  • Fluvial sediment load
  • River channel and floodplain geomorphic change
  • Coastal geomorphic change
  • Source-to-sink sediment budget and synthesis
  • More USGS coverage here.


    Volunteers sought for environmental work on Upper South Platte

    February 5, 2015

    Upper South Platte Basin

    Upper South Platte Basin


    From The High Timber Times (Gabrielle Porter):

    People looking to help out with environmental service work along the U.S. 285 Corridor can sign up to pull weeds, build trails or work on forestry projects with the Coalition for the Upper South Platte.

    CUSP is moving into its first year of major concentration along U.S. 285, and has several projects on its summer agenda, said Bailey resident Jeff Ravage, the group’s North Fork watershed coordinator.

    The nonprofit, founded in 1998, focuses on building a healthy watershed for the Upper South Platte River — more than 2,600 acres of land from which water drains into the river. The group secured funding to help with restoration work following the Hayman Fire in 2002.

    This year, CUSP’s major priority is removing harmful non-native weeds from several areas, Ravage said. While CUSP has several sites on its summer agenda, Ravage said he would like to hear from area residents if they know spots plagued by non-native weeds.

    Volunteers will also work on building part of a connecting trail at Staunton State Park. Some can help with forestry work. Because CUSP is a nonprofit, it can perform restoration work on state, federal and private land, Ravage said.

    “We cross all fence lines, we like to say,” he said.

    Groups can sign up to volunteer for several days or weeks on specific projects. CUSP also will be hosting several one-day work stints during the summer, so neighbors can join for shorter amounts of time, Ravage said.

    Volunteers must be at least 16 years old, and those under 18 will need a guardian or responsible adult with them. All volunteers must sign waivers.


    EPA: Today is World Wetlands Day!

    February 2, 2015


    Healthy Animas, healthy animals: quality of water & vegetation is the focus of a $159K project — The Durango Herald

    January 1, 2015


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