Creede: Willow Creek floodplain restoration planning meetings to start this fall

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Strewn with waste rock and mine tailings and largely bereft of vegetation, the 1 1/2-mile stretch that sits astride Colorado 149 is due for a face-lift. The project will take on a number of goals, including the transformation of the creek from a braided channel that races to the Rio Grande to park, recreational and open space for the town’s roughly 300 residents.

But what residents hope to see from the 151 acres in the flood plain recently annexed by the town will be determined, in part, by what they call for during planning meetings that could come as soon as this fall. “The fall planning will be one of the next big hurdles,” said Eric Grossman, a town trustee, who sits on the four-member board of the non-profit that will direct the flood plain’s cleanup…

Grossman said initial ideas have ranged far and wide, including a community garden, open space, a miniature golf course and trails for pedestrians and ATV users…

With public input this fall, the nonprofit also is going to try to nail down the design features for Willow Creek’s new alignment. The stream has run down the flood plain in a braided channel since at least 1939, according to aerial photos that were analyzed in a 2007 study of the flood plain by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The braided structure, in combination with water and soil contamination from nearly a century of mining in the area, has led to poor ecosystem function.

An important solution for water contamination will come when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency settles on a cleanup remedy for the Nelson Tunnel, which is the watershed’s largest contributor of pollutants such as cadmium, zinc and lead. Agency officials said last month they are conducting a pair of studies that will help determine the cleanup measure for the tunnel. The tunnel, which sits upstream from the flood plain in the historic mining district, was declared an EPA Superfund site in 2008.

More Nelson Tunnel/Commordore Waste Rock superfund site coverage here and here.

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