California Gulch superfund site update

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Here’s an update about progress at operable unit 11 up at the California Gulch superfund site in Leadville, from Ann E. Wibbenmeyer writing for the Leadville Herald Democrat. From the article:

This area, also known as the 11-mile reach, can be seen from U.S. 24 south of Leadville near the Hayden Ranch. The work done in this area was the subject of a tour taken by the Lake County Open Space Initiative on Sept. 10. The issues in the area were caused by the mining operations on the east side of Leadville, according to Mike Holmes, project manager with the EPA. Waste from the mines would wash down the river and deposit along the riverbank, creating areas where no vegetation would grow. The goal of the project along the 11-mile reach is to remediate these fluvial tailings piles along the river.

This project is different than most remediation projects with the EPA, said Holmes. Part of the funding for this project came from a natural resource damages settlement that put money in a trust for state and federal agencies to use on habitat restoration. With this funding, for the first time, remediation is being done in conjunction with restoration, said Holmes. Usually the EPA does the remediation of mine waste, then Division of Wildlife or State Parks, for example, come in to restore the wildlife. Both were done this summer on the same project on the banks of the Arkansas River.

For the remediation, sugar beet pulp was used to neutralize the low pH, or acidity, of the soil. The pH of sugar beet pulp is 8, or basic, according to Holmes. There is calcium carbonate that releases over time in the pulp for a long-term remedy for the soil. Once this occurred, natural grasses and willows were transplanted to the river banks where there was no vegetation before. This will help in the restoration process as well, according to Nicole Vieira with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. This vegetation will make the banks more stable, especially with the unsteady releases from Turquoise Lake.

Another part of the restoration process was placing cross veins in the river. These are rows of boulders across the river that slow down the flow in specified areas. The river bed is excavated so that deep pools are created around the rocks for fish to live in the winter, she said. This will cut down on the amount of migrating in the winter to allow for healthier growth of fish, she said.

Meanwhile a new citizen advisory group is forming to oversee operable unit 6. Here’s a report from Ann E. Wibbenmeyer writing for the Leadville Herald Democrat. From the article:

According to Jennifer Lane, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lake County Commissioner Mike Bordogna and Leadville Mayor Bud Elliott, the new CAG will be a completely different group than the existing group. Members of the existing citizens’ group are welcome to join the CAG, said Lane. Bordogna said that the two groups could work on parallel tracks. The difference, he said, is that the citizens’ group was appointed by the previous board of commissioners to advise the commissioners. This CAG would be set up under EPA guidelines, use EPA funds and advise the EPA.

The EPA is looking to cap more tailings piles in OU6, according to a report from Ann E. Wibbenmeyer writing for the Leadville Herald Democrat. From the article:

At a public meeting on Sept. 17, [Linda Kiefer, project manager for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] outlined the pilot study and the four methods being tested as possible remedies for the Greenback, RAM and Makato tailings piles in Stray Horse Gulch. These piles are visible both from the Mineral Belt Trail and East 5th Street, or CR 1. Under the original record of decision for remediating the operable unit 6 of the California Gulch Superfund site, there were two piles that were capped as part of the remedy. The rocks that were used to cover those piles changed the appearance of those historic tailings, which have since been referred to as “the wedding cakes” by Leadvillites ever since. The other part of this decision was to send other acidic runoff into the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel, which was supposed to be plugged to ensure that all the water would be treated in the plant run by the Bureau of Reclamation.

This brought the EPA to announce earlier this year that the remedy chosen in 2003 was not working, and it informed the Lake County commissioners that capping otherwise undisturbed piles was the next option. In 2003, this was an unpopular option, because the community wanted to preserve the history of those piles. The community still wants to preserve that history. The pilot study is an attempt to compromise by capping the piles, but making them blend into the other historic mine piles.

On one section of the test pile, shotcrete will be used as the capping material. This is a light concrete that is sprayed onto the pile. It can be done with various colorations, according to Kiefer. The section next to the concrete will be covered with inert rock and stabilized with timber cribbing, much like what is seen from the Mineral Belt Trail. The inert rock, which is non-acid producing waste rock from other piles, would retain the historic look of the piles…

The hope is that the construction of the test site will be done by the end of October, when the community will be invited on a field trip to see the outcome of the test pile.

More California Gulch coverage here.

150 volunteers show up for Lake Pueblo cleanup day

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Here’s a recap of yesterday’s cleanup at Lake Pueblo, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

By the afternoon, they had bagged 2,000 pounds of trash. “We only had hand scales, but we also found things like couches and tires that we couldn’t weigh,” said Tracy Wynn, owner of Aquatic Adventures. “Next year we hope to obtain two industrial floor scales so we can get actual weight on everything collected.” Most of the people worked along the shoreline, but a few divers showed up as well. Boaters ferried crews to shallow coves as well…

Future events will take place on the third Saturday in September to coincide with Project AWARE (Aquatic World Awareness, Responsibility and Education), Wynn added. To help with next year’s event, contact Wynn at 543-3483.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

CWCB: Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District scores $190,000 for water availability study

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The study was one of 14 grants totaling $3.3 million from the Water Supply Reserve Account, which is administered by the CWCB based on recommendations from the Interbasin Compact Committee and nine basin roundtables. The Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District plans to use the $190,000 from the CWCB as part of a three-year, $400,000 study with the U.S. Geological Survey and other partners to determine water availability.

Also approved last week were three grants from the Rio Grande basin: San Luis Valley Resource Conservation & Development, $200,000 toward a restoration project of Willow Creek, a tributary of the Rio Grande near Creede with historic mine contamination. Trinchera Irrigation Co., $200,000 toward restoration of a diversion canal. Colorado Rio Grande Restoration Foundation, $31,500 for planning studies.

More CWCB coverage here.

Hermosa Creek: Prime cutthroat habitat

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From The Durango Herald (Paul Shepard):

The Hermosa Creek basin has two outstandingly remarkable values: recreation, and fish and wildlife. Virtually all outdoor recreation activities are allowed including mountain biking, hunting, fishing, camping, off-roading, horses, hiking, climbing, kayaking, skiing, snowshoeing and recreational vehicles. The basin also supports local agriculture with grazing allotments. To build on the outstandingly remarkable value of fish and wildlife, the Colorado River cutthroat trout reintroduction program is under way, with the Division of Wildlife working with the Forest Service…

Hermosa Creek is considered to be the top location in Colorado because it meets the criteria needed for success, including a waterfall on the East Fork to act as a barrier. If a waterfall is not available, a man-made one must be built. The barriers are needed to keep invasive trout from moving upstream and compromising the native-only populations. Barriers cannot be built just anywhere. Available geologic features must include sufficient gradient and a pinch-point. Additionally, a road must be near for equipment and stocking trucks. Such a road exists in Hermosa Park…

Nearly two decades ago, the Forest Service began this process by acquiring Purgatory Flats on the East Fork of Hermosa via a land swap. In 1991, the Division of Wildlife turned this reach into a cutthroat-only fishery above Sig Creek falls. Two years ago, a man-made barrier was built on the main stem at Hotel Draw, and the reintroduction is ongoing. Once the main stem is completed, this will create two separate populations. Thus far, the cutthroat reintroduction program is considered to be a success. However, the ultimate goal is to connect these two populations, allowing for movement between drainages and promoting population diversity. The Hermosa Park private parcel is the limiting factor to complete success. This is because the confluence of these two sections resides on this private property and is out of the jurisdiction of the Forest Service…

Two years ago, Hermosa Creek received the designation of “Outstanding Waters” by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission. The creek has such high water quality that, by law, it can’t be compromised. Hermosa Creek is the only stream in Colorado with this designation outside of a national park or wilderness area. Also, the Hermosa Creek watershed is Colorado’s largest unprotected roadless area. Literally tens of thousands of acres are so pristine, they are eligible for wilderness designation. And all this is little more than a half hour’s drive from Durango. However, the Hermosa Park private parcel sits right in the middle of this amazing open space. In an open and public workgroup formed in 2008, unrelated to the land swap issues, a consensus values statement for the Hermosa basin was articulated as: The Hermosa Creek area is exceptional because it is a large, intact (unfragmented) natural watershed containing diverse ecosystems, including fish, plants and wildlife over a broad elevation range, and supports a variety of uses, including recreation and grazing, in the vicinity of a large town.

This diverse working group – – sees the value of an intact watershed and recognizes the special and unique characteristics of the Hermosa Creek area.

More Hermosa Creek watershed coverage here.

Big Thompson River Revival

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Here’s a recap of yesterday’s waterway cleanup sponsored by the city of Loveland and the Big Thompson Watershed Forum, from Pamela Dickman writing for the Loveland Reporter Herald. From the article:

The city of Loveland and the Big Thompson Watershed Forum jointly hold two waterway cleanups per year. This one, the fall cleanup, was called the Big Thompson River Revival. Volunteers found all sorts of debris in the river from flip-flops to alcohol bottles to a traffic cone to measuring tapes and more…

Alexander Alden, 7, and Jasmine Kristjansdottir, 10, stuck to the banks of the river with family members and friends. Alexander’s Boy Scout troop encouraged members to participate, but that is not the only reason he decided to pick up trash. Alexander said he was out at Fairgrounds Park “for the waterways.” “The water is what we drink,” he said. “It comes in all sorts of liquids we drink.” Jasmine added, “I’m here to help the world.”

More Big Thompson watershed coverage here and here.

Arkansas River Basin Water Forum: Invasive mussels update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’ve not seen the adults [quaggas/zebra mussels], just the veligers (larvae),” said Elizabeth Brown, invasive species coordinator for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. “We’re on the cutting edge of doing the testing to find them.” Brown spoke this week at the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, held at Colorado State Univer- sity-Pueblo. Last year, evidence of mussels was found in seven Colorado reservoirs and lakes after they were first detected in Lake Pueblo in January 2008. A total of 102 bodies of water were tested, which means that boat inspection programs or closures of some lakes were successful in stopping mussels from spreading further than they have, Brown said. “The mussels move from body to body of water primarily by boats,” she said…

Brown speculated that more adults have not been found because the zebra and quagga mussels are mainly populating the sediments at the bottom of lakes…

At Pueblo, there were 67 plankton tows, mostly performed by a team led by Colorado State University biology professor Scott Herrmann. The samples were tested at the university, by the Bureau of Reclamation and by the Division of Wildlife. Wildlife found that 70.8 percent of the samples tested positive, with anywhere from one to 76 veligers found in each of the positive samples. The DNA of the veligers was tested as well, showing that both zebra and quagga mussels have breeding population in the lake.

Reclamation last year completed a risk assessment of Lake Pueblo, finding that because of fluctuations in water, dissolved oxygen levels do not favor large outbreaks of mussels. Water providers are wary, however. The Pueblo Board of Water Works is making $1 million in upgrades to its intake system because of the threat.

More invasive species coverage here and here.

San Miguel County: Water 101

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Here’s a recap of Friday’s Water 101 event in Telluride, sponsored by the New Community Coalition, the San Juan Citizens Alliance, the San Miguel Whitewater Association, the Telluride Institute, the Southwestern Water Conservation District and the Water Information Program, from Ben Fornell writing for the Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

On Friday, Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Gregory Hobbs was in Telluride to explain how the laws that govern water rights came into being…

Part history lecture, part legal discussion, part vacation slide show, the justice said he was eager to take the members of the room on a “journey,” through the water-sharing cultures of various ancient peoples and into modern day Colorado…

And the crowd of more than 100 packed into the town council room in Rebekah Hall seemed to have no problem sitting attentively at the judge’s feet while he unwound a yarn as long as the Colorado river itself. Slated for an hour, the judge’s talk lasted nearly two, but everyone seemed to be in rapt attention. At the end, the crowd pined for more questions, and despite warnings of “just one more” from a moderator, the judge indulged his desire to dialog with the crowd.

One of the major concepts the judge discussed was the idea that, in Colorado, one has the right to cross private lands in order to obtain water — both physically and with a ditch or conduit.

More Colorado water coverage here.

Greeley Chamber of Commerce: Water Wisdom 101

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From The Greeley Tribune (Mike Peters):

In Weld County, where the average precipitation is only 12 to 14 inches per year, water is a valuable commodity. About 50 people from Greeley and Weld County learned that lesson Friday as they took the 2009 Ag Tour — Water Wisdom 101 — of water facilities and heard the water history in Greeley and Weld County…

The tour is an annual event, sponsored by the Greeley Chamber of Commerce, for anyone interested in learning about agriculture in Greeley and Weld. “We want you to look at water,” said Chamber Executive Director Sarah MacQuiddy, “from different points of view — environmental, recreation, development and agriculture.” Meg Spencer of Thrivent Financial of Greeley attended the tour “because you can’t live in Weld County and not know about water. It’s too important.”[…]

The No. 3 ditch was the central irrigation ditch through Greeley and still winds through the city today. Clifford Clift, president of the Greeley Irrigation Co., told the group that “everybody seems to take water for granted, but Greeley wouldn’t exist today without No. 3 ditch.” The ditch was dug by the pioneers to bring water from the Poudre River into the Union Colony for irrigating crops. The Greeley Irrigation Co., along with the city of Greeley, oversees the ditch today and releases water for farmers in this area.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Dillon Reservoir ending water year with cushion for winter

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From the Summit Daily News:

Denver Water officials said this week that Dillon Reservoir water storage is slightly above average for this time of year. Going into the winter with a slight cushion helps ensure the reservoir will refill fully next spring, said Bob Peters, a water resource manager with Denver Water. In one of its regular updates on reservoir operations, Denver Water outlined dry, normal and wet scenarios. Even with a drier-than-average winter, the reservoir is likely to fill.

More Denver Water coverage here.