Repair projects dating from 2013 flood still in progress — The Canyon Courier

Evergreen Colorado Flooding September 2013 via Business Insider
Evergreen Colorado Flooding September 2013 via Business Insider

From the Canyon Courier (Sandy Barnes):

Concrete barriers along the eroded creek bank in downtown Evergreen are still in place nearly two years after the 2013 flood that caused the damage.

Evergreen businessman Jeff Bradley, manager of the property, said he has obtained a permit from Jefferson County for the project, and has plans to restore the bank. Bradley said he also needs a permit from the federal government, although the project does not involve funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

A few miles down Highway 74 at Lair O’ the Bear Park, a bridge restoration project dating from the 2013 flood is scheduled for this fall…

Another major bridge project is in the works at Evergreen Lake Park, which is owned by Denver Mountain Parks. The aging bridge that provides the only vehicle access to the park is scheduled for replacement next year. The Evergreen Park and Recreation District and the Evergreen Metropolitan District are each contributing $40,000 for the project, which is estimated to cost $790,000. The park district has added an additional $40,000 from Jeffco grant funding it received to assist with the bridge replacement cost.

The 2013 flood contributed to the deterioration of the bridge at the Lake Park, EPRD board member Peter Lindquist noted.

Evergreen Metro District offers help with water rights issue at Buchanan Ponds — the Canyon Courier

Buchanan Pond, Evergreen via
Buchanan Pond, Evergreen via

From the Canyon Courier (Sandy Barnes):

The Evergreen Metropolitan District is offering the use of its senior water rights to guarantee a supply of water for two ponds at Buchanan Park.

Since discovering that the Evergreen Park and Recreation District has no identifiable water rights for the ponds next to Buchanan Rec Center, Ellen O’Connor, EPRD executive director, has been working with state water board officials and the EMD to resolve the issue. One possibility is using EMD water in the ponds rather than attempting to acquire water rights, O’Connor said at the Feb. 24 EPRD board meeting.

Because the park district has no clear water rights for the ponds, someone else could grab them, EPRD board member Peg Linn pointed out.

A worst-case scenario is that the ponds could be drained and dry, said EPRD board member John Ellis.

Before EMD water can be brought to the ponds, the Evergreen metro and park districts need form a partnership and reach an agreement. An engineering assessment and legal work also needs to be done at an estimated cost of $35,000 — an amount the EMD is asking the park district to pay.

“EPRD will be responsible for the costs associated with the proposal research,” said Dave Lighthart, EMD general manager.

During discussion of the issue at the Feb. 25 meeting of the EMD board of directors, member Mark Davidson advised caution while proceeding with the plan.

“We can’t get our water rights harmed,” said Davidson.

“We’re going to need to a lot more information to make our decision,” said EMD board member Scott Smith.

Both Davidson and others at the EMD meeting said the cost of using EMD water would be far less for the park district than going to water court and trying to gain water rights.

“In the final analysis, the plan that we proposed is the most sustainable,” said attorney Paul Cockrel, who represents the EMD.

“There’s a way to make this work,” said Ellis, who serves on the board of both the Evergreen metro and park districts. “This process would be less expensive than acquiring water rights.”

Ellis suggested that Lighthart make a presentation at the next EPRD board meeting on the plan to assist the park district. He and Linn are on a subcommittee of the EPRD board that has been examining the water rights issue in recent months.

A related issue is that the EPRD owns the dams at Buchanan Ponds and is responsible for maintaining them, said O’Connor.

A recent state inspection of the dams revealed the need for some repairs, she said. O’Connor expressed her appreciation to the EMD, which she said assisted the park district with a camera inspection to ensure that the dams had no major repair issues.

“The big concern was with the locks and pipes, and those are fine,” said Peter Lindquist, president of the EPRD board.

The EPRD also needs to provide the state with an emergency evacuation plan in event of the dam breaking, O’Connor added.

Troublesome water source

The source of water for Buchanan Ponds is Troublesome Creek, a tributary of Bear Creek that flows under the Highway 74 overpass near the property in Bergen Park. When the EPRD bought the property for Buchanan Park in 1994, it did not appear that water rights were attached to the ponds.

David Nettles, an engineer with division 1 of the Colorado Division of Water Resources, said he doesn’t see any water rights to the ponds, which formerly were part of the Village at Soda Creek development. In the early 1980s applications were filed by Gayno Inc. and George Alan Holley to acquire water rights for the planned project. Those rights were tied to an original decree dating from 1884 for the Lewis and Strouse Ditch.

It’s possible the rights were subsequently abandoned because of a failure on the part of the previous owners to file a required diligence report with the state, Nettles said.

The developers of the Village at Soda Creek were seeking a conditional water right for their project in the 1980s. According to state law, when a project is completed, the property owner must go to water court and file for an absolute right.

Every six years, the owner of a conditional water right also is required to file an application for a finding of reasonable diligence in the water court of the division in which the right exists. The owner of the conditional right has to prove that he has been pursuing completion of the project related to the water use for which he applied.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

Evergreen: Popular fishing holes need to shore up water rights

Buchanan Pond, Evergreen via
Buchanan Pond, Evergreen via

From the Canyon Courier (Sandy Barnes):

The two ponds beside Buchanan Rec Center are stocked with trout and are popular among Evergreen residents and visitors who like to try their luck fishing.

The source of water for the ponds is Troublesome Creek, a tributary of Bear Creek that flows under the Highway 74 overpass near the property in Bergen Park.

Since Buchanan Park was developed in the early 2000s, maintaining water for these small lakes has not been a significant issue.

However, the Colorado Division of Water Resources recently informed the Evergreen Park and Recreation District of a potential problem concerning water rights for the Buchanan ponds, said Ellen O’Connor, EPRD executive director.

“We have learned the ponds were originally part of the Village at Soda Creek Lake development,” O’Connor said. “The original water rights were pretty robust and included storage, irrigation and augmentation.”

However, it is unclear as to whether the park district acquired those water rights when the property was purchased for Buchanan Park in December 1994.

“We’re trying to make them aware of the issue,” said David Nettles, an engineer with division one of the Colorado Division of Water Resources. “Someone could seek water rights from the ponds.”

“From looking at what I have, I don’t see any water rights,” Nettles remarked.

The park district would be notified if someone filed a claim for water rights at the Buchanan ponds, he added.

There are two inactive cases on file with the state water court regarding water rights for the Village at Soda Creek development. In the early 1980s applications were filed by Gayno Inc. and George Alan Holley to acquire water rights for the planned project. Those rights were tied to an original decree dating from 1884 for the Lewis and Strouse Ditch.

It’s possible that the rights were subsequently abandoned because of a failure on the part of the previous owners to file a required diligence report with the state, Nettles said.

To address the issue, EPRD has formed a two-member subcommittee. Board members John Ellis and Peg Linn are researching the matter and are expected to report to the board on their findings. O’Connor also has been conferring with Tim Buckley, the water commissioner serving the district for Evergreen…

Historic water issues at Buchanan Park

When Thomas Bergen, founder of Bergen Park, acquired his homestead from the federal government in 1875, water rights for the property were not a given.

The homestead certificate, which bears the signature of President Ulysses Grant, gave Bergen and his heirs an 80-acre tract of land, subject to “any vested and accrued water rights for mining … and rights to ditches as reservoirs used in connection with such water rights, as may be recognized and acknowledged by the local customs, laws and decisions of the courts.”

The Evergreen Park and Recreation District purchased two parcels of this historic property from the Fahnenstiel family in 2006 as part of a bond issue. This property is now part of Buchanan Park and the site of the Evergreen community garden, which is served by water taps provided by the Evergreen Metropolitan District.

A final note: While it is impressive to see, the authenticity of the signature of President Grant on the 1875 homestead certificate for Bergen is questionable. According to historical research, secretaries copied presidents’ signatures onto these documents after being authorized to sign them as proxies by President Andrew Jackson in the 1830s.

More water law coverage here.

Post-flood master plans for three Boulder County creeks ready for review — Longmont Times-Call

From the Longmont Times-Call (Joe Rubino):

It’s been more than 15 months since Boulder County was wracked by historic rainfall that caused area creeks to jump their banks, and, in some cases, create new channels entirely, resulting in extensive damage to homes and infrastructure along the way.

Following an exhaustive public process, Boulder County officials announced earlier this month that they have finalized post-flood master plans for three local creeks: Fourmile, Left Hand and the St. Vrain.

The plans are meant to be comprehensive guides outlining how best to restore and stabilize the watersheds for each body of water, including recommendations for bank stabilization, debris removal, re-vegetation and even channel realignment on public and private properties.

While many of the individual projects contained in the plans are not funded, charting them out is expected to give stakeholders, especially municipalities, a leg up in securing the money needed.

“If we identify the improvements in the plans it makes it much more likely they will be funded by grants coming from the state and federal government,” Boulder County Transportation Director George Gerstle said.

Gerstle’s was among many county departments, including Land Use, Open Space, and Health and Environment, that contributed to drafting the master plans, but he credited the property owners and other groups concerned with the county’s environment with spurring the process forward.

“Though we lead the efforts it really was a coalition of all the property owners and all of the interest groups that really made this possible,” he said. “It was a pretty intensive effort by a lot of people to put together, but I think some pretty great documents have come out of it.”

The county also employed the services of engineering consulting firm Michael Baker for the process.

Naturally, there are many property owners who want to get to work on when the county’s various creeks and streams pass through their land, and Gerstle said the master plans are an important tool to make sure all work that is done has the entire watershed in mind.

“A lot of property owners want to do something to stabilize the creek and this provides guidance on how to do it while maintaining the environmental integrity,” he said. “One thing we learned is we can look at (the creeks) bit by bit, we have to see how it all works together.”

A creek of particular importance is the St. Vrain.

Gerstle pointed out that the stream completely changed its traditional alignment just west of Longmont, leading to heavy damage in the city. The master plan outlines steps to put it back in its channel and keep it there in a way the respects the natural environment.

Dale Rademacher, Longmont’s general manager of public works and natural resources, said he appreciated the opportunity for collaboration presented by the master planning process and the way it looked at the St. Vrain as a whole from it origins near the Great Divide down to it confluence with Boulder Creek.

“We’re pretty happy with the outcome. This is a foundational document necessary to go forward for state and federal funding and we think it serves that purpose pretty well,” he said.

Rademacher highlighted one project in the St. Vrain plan that he said could be underway next month. It involves creation of an overflow channel for Heron Lake that would direct flood waters away from Airport Road, an important street that still has flood barriers sitting alongside it just in case.

Rademacher said the Heron Lake project is intended to “intercept flood flows that may come through the area again,” and protect property nearby. He said the project, which is the subject to an intergovernmental agreement between city and county officials, is expected to cost around $700,000 and is being put out to bid within the next week with construction hopefully beginning in January.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

Dredging planned for Evergreen Lake in the spring

Evergreen Colorado Flooding September 2013 via Business Insider
Evergreen Colorado Flooding September 2013 via Business Insider

From the Canyon Courier (Beth Potter):

Officials are planning to dredge Evergreen Lake in the spring to clean out sediment brought in by the September 2013 flooding.

The “stealth” dredging project will be done with a pontoon boat to minimize the impacts on lake users, said Dave Lighthart, general manager of the Evergreen Metropolitan District.

Sediment material will be pumped from the boat through a pipe to a “de-watering” operation that will separate the water from the sediment. The water will be treated before being put back into the lake, Lighthart said.

“We’re trying to be as unobtrusive possible,” Lighthart said. “The lake is pretty visible and used for recreation, so we don’t have that ability to isolate and drain it.”

The project is expected to take a little longer and cost a little more than it would otherwise, because of its unobtrusive nature, Lighthart said. But the lake also serves as Evergreen’s raw drinking water source, which means the water can’t be pumped out, he said.

Some $880,000 in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds and state funds will pay for the project. An estimated 12,000 cubic yards of sediment were deposited in the lake during the 2013 flooding, Lighthart said.

The sediment will help with cleanup of the EDS Waste Solutions Inc. site on Highway 73. The 549-acre site is owned by the city and county of Denver, which plans to get the land back to its natural park-like state over a two-year period, said Bob Finch, natural resources director at Denver Mountain Parks, a division of the Denver Parks and Recreation Department.

“(This) helps them, and it certainly helps us,” Lighthart said of the plan to take the sediment to the landfill site.

Dredging work is expected to start in late March or early April after ice has melted off the lake, Lighthart said. It’s expected to take place near the south side of the “islands,” he said, where a survey showed most of the sediment was deposited during the flooding. Government funds must be spent by June 2016, he said.

More Bear Creek watershed coverage here.

Bear Creek mystery: Water testers seek source of E.coli contamination — The Denver Post

Bear Creek near Evergreen
Bear Creek near Evergreen

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Twice a month, Metropolitan State University student biologists David Watson and Stephen Aderholdt have been slogging through contaminated Bear Creek testing the water, at work on a mystery of how its once-pure currents turned foul.

They’ve documented E.coli bacteria levels up to 19 times higher than the state health limit.

“Why is there so much E.coli? Where is it coming from?” Aderholdt, 31, said on the banks on a recent Saturday.

While government agencies have done their own testing and in 2008 deemed Bear Creek officially “impaired,” expanding data gathered by the students — trained by the Environmental Protection Agency and a community group called Groundwork Denver — may be crucial in crafting a cleanup.

Denver, Lakewood and Sheridan taxpayers would be on the hook, facing federal Clean Water Act penalties, if Bear Creek water quality isn’t improved.

This is a vexing problem because Bear Creek begins as a clear, clean trickle in wilderness snow atop 14,271-foot Mount Evans, visible to residents around metro Denver. The creek cascades through forests unsullied.

But starting in foothills near Evergreen, pristine water reaches suburban homes, roads, reservoirs, septic tanks, parks used by dog-walkers, golf courses, commercial sites. Denver Environmental Health water quality scientist Jon Novick, a public health analyst, said contamination is worst as Bear Creek approaches the South Platte River, which also is contaminated with E.coli and other pollutants.

Watson and Aderholdt have recorded E.coli contamination in Bear Creek as high as 2,400 colony-forming units (cfus) per 100 milliliters. The state health limit is 126 cfus.

The data collected by the Metro State team is useful, Novick said.

“It is helpful to understand where E.coli levels are increasing and the potential sources,” he said.

Denver conducts its own tests on the creek, four times a year, and has documented E.coli during summer as high as 770 cfu.

The Metro State students conduct tests at 18 locations twice a month. They started in May 2013. The work can be difficult, clambering up and down muddy banks, kicking through ice during winter. (Bear Creek E.coli levels during winter, when E.coli often decreases, have veered above the limit as high as 325 cfu.)

Watson and Aderholdt’s boots sink into creek-bottom muck as they stand in the creek, first measuring temperature and turbidity, then filling two clear containers. They cover an 8.2- mile stretch of the creek from the South Platte to Bear Creek Reservoir.

EPA scientists who trained them analyze the samples in a federal lab and review the data for accuracy. They occasionally accompany the students and Groundwork Denver supervisor Rachel Hansgen, who also coordinates community-driven water-sampling along other creeks and rivers.

EPA project manager Karl Hermann, a senior water quality analyst, said he’s been impressed with students’ seriousness over more than a year and sees their monitoring data as helpful in moving toward a solution that could avert penalties.

Bear Creek has remained on Colorado’s list of impaired waterways for years, Hermann said. Ramped-up EPA lab work this year, using the expanding data, may help pin-point sources of the pollution.

E.coli indicates a variety of different bacteria that come from people and animals. When E.coli levels exceed 235 cfu, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment orders waterways closed for swimming.

“We know dogs are involved and that humans are involved,” Hermann said. “We don’t have wastewater treatment plants along Bear Creek. If there’s a human element, it may be septic systems that are not working quite right. We have a number of other possibilities.”

University and community science groups, when trained, can make a difference, he said.

“There are protocols. Groundwork Denver and Metro State have gone through the process of learning to do things right,” Hermann said. “They’ve refined their methods and we are really happy with the collaborative approach.”

Groundwork Denver staffers also are developing a restoration plan for the Lower Bear Creek watershed, where greenway trails already are established. They’re hoping, if all goes well and the creek can be cleaned, that this plan will be a model for dealing with contaminated urban waterways, Hansgen said.

“The scientific method is something we use purposefully,” she said. “This is work that needs to be done.”

More Bear Creek coverage here.

‘They’re [Russian Olives] thorny, nasty trees’ — Drew Sprafke


From The Denver Post (Emilie Rusch):

An offensive against the Russian olive tree — an invasive species that chokes out native cottonwoods and willows — has been launched by Denver, Lakewood, Englewood, Colorado Heights and the Fort Logan National Cemetery. “They’re thorny, nasty trees,” said Drew Sprafke, an official with the city of Lakewood Regional Parks. “When they form those dense stands, no one can get through them.”

Using a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, an 11-person crew from Mile High Youth Corps will be working through early August removing the trees from the lower Bear Creek watershed.

Introduced to Colorado as an ornamental tree, Russian olives can be identified by their narrow, silvery leaves and olive-shaped fruit. They prefer moist, riparian areas, but can be found just about anywhere — along streams, in fields and open space, even ditches, Sprafke said

The eventual goal, Sprafke said, is to remove every Russian olive from Bear Creek Lake Park to the South Platte in Denver during a multiyear process.

The trees are considered a List B noxious weed by the state of Colorado, meaning local governments are required to manage and limit their spread.

Sprafke estimates there are 1,500 Russian olives between Bear Creek Lake Park and Wadsworth Boulevard.

More invasive species coverage here.