Eagle hosts river corridor plan meeting, Wednesday, January 6th


Update: Matt Farrar sent the following in email:

Just so you are aware, the meeting on Wednesday night is intended to be an opportunity for the engineering firm (S20 Design) that the Town has hired to gather public input on the design of in-stream and riverbank improvements for the Eagle River Park. S20 is not working on the design of the riverside park area. Unfortunately the Vail Daily article didn’t do a great job of explaining the intent of Wednesday’s meeting so I have feeling there might be some confusion about the purpose of Wednesday’s meeting. I have attached a poster that was prepared for the upcoming meeting. Feel free to distribute this poster if you’d like.

From the Vail Daily:

The town of Eagle will host a public information meeting regarding the recently adopted Eagle River Corridor Plan on Wednesday.

The session is planned at 6 p.m. at Eagle Town Hall.

The Eagle River Corridor Plan was officially adopted by the Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission Dec. 1. Adoption of the plan establishes the document as the town’s guide for future growth and development along the Eagle River.

“The Eagle River is a tremendous asset of the town of Eagle, and this plan will enable the community to take better advantage of this natural resource,” said Eagle Town Board member Andy Jessen. “The community has made it clear that they want to connect the town with the river, while preserving it for future generations.”

The planning process for the Eagle River Corridor Plan began in September 2014. The plan was prepared in partnership with Community Builders (formerly the Sonoran Institute) and under the guidance and direction of a steering committee that was comprised of interested citizens, landowners, elected and appointed public officials of Eagle and Eagle County staff. There were several opportunities for public input regarding the plan and a total of five drafts were prepared throughout the course of the planning commission’s review.

“We heard loud and clear through our river corridor planning process that the community wants improved access to the river. The Chambers Park boat ramp improvements are a great start. These improvements are something that the town can build off of as the Eagle River Corridor Plan is implemented over the coming years.” — Matt FarrarAssistant planner, town of Eagle


The planning area encompasses approximately 3.4 miles of the Eagle River and more than 300 acres. Design and construction of the Eagle River Park, much of which is located at the current truck parking site on the eastern side of the Eagle County Fairgrounds, was identified as a priority. The town has hired an engineering firm, S20 Design, to work on the design of in-stream and riverbank improvements and is negotiating with a landscape architect firm, studioINSITE, to create a conceptual landscape plan of the Eagle River Park that will be used to guide future discussion with the public on what the park should include.

The park plan includes a variety of amenities such as a riverside park, beaches, river viewing areas, trails and in-stream features to create a river park.

Eagle officials say the park plan reflects six major themes:

• Conservation: Protect water quality of the Eagle River and create a network of open space along the river to preserve important wetlands, riparian areas and wildlife habitat while allowing for active recreation in select areas.

• Economic development: Increase public and private sector investment within the river corridor that results in economic growth.

• Recreation: Provide high quality, river oriented recreation amenities that allow for a wide variety of user groups to enjoy the Eagle River and its immediate environs.

• Place making: Create authentic and memorable places along the Eagle River for both residents and visitors.

• Transportation and access: Provide safe and convenient public access from Eagle’s neighborhoods to the Eagle River.

• Education and awareness: Use elements of the Eagle River and adjacent land to promote understanding of the river ecosystem and other qualities of the river corridor.

“The Eagle River is probably our most under utilized natural resource,” Jessen said. “We’ve seen success with our trail building efforts; the town of Eagle River Corridor Plan allows for additional recreation opportunities in Eagle, as we continue to establish ourselves as a premier outdoor recreation destination in Colorado and provide a high quality of life for our residents and guests.”


Last fall, the town of Eagle worked with S20 Design to improve the Chambers Park boat ramp. S20 enlarged the take-out eddy for the boat ramp and did some boulder terracing work along the edge of the eddy. The improvements to the eddy should make it easier for boaters to catch the eddy for the Chambers Park boat ramp and avoid the Rodeo Rapids down river. The boulder terracing will reduce erosion and impacts from boaters walking the bank. The boulder terracing also creates convenient access for visitors to relax and hang out next to the river.

S20 Design’s work also entailed repositioning the boulders in the weirs located upstream and downstream of the boat ramp. Upstream and downstream boulders were reconfigured to improve the function of the eddy at higher river flows to discourage people from climbing out onto the boulders at higher flows.

“The improvements made at the Chambers Park boat ramp this fall create better access to the takeout eddy and the boat ramp, improve safety and create a unique place in Eagle for people to hang out along the river,” said Matt Farrar, town of Eagle assistant planner. “We heard loud and clear through our river corridor planning process that the community wants improved access to the river. The Chambers Park boat ramp improvements are a great start. These improvements are something that the town can build off of as the Eagle River Corridor Plan is implemented over the coming years.”

For more information about the Town of Eagle River Corridor Plan, contact Matt Farrar at 970-328-9651 or matt.farrar@townofeagle.org.

Here’s the link to the Eagle River Corridor Plan.

Eagle River Basin
Eagle River Basin

Mosca sewage treatment update: “This is not the smell of money” — Gigi Dennis

Septic system
Septic system

From the Valley Courier (David Gilbert):

Long-awaited grant funding has finally come through to finance the construction of a sorely-needed sewage treatment system in Mosca.

Alamosa County officials recently received approval of a grant request from the state’s Department of Local Affairs, or DOLA, for $634,500, which will cover a sizeable chunk of the roughly $1.2 million price tag to replace the aging septic systems in the little town.

The balance of the project’s cost will come from a grant and loan package from the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA.

The grants were won through a spirited and determined effort largely spearheaded by Alamosa County Deputy Land Use Administrator Rachel Baird and Code Enforcement Officer Jinger Tilden.

DOLA grants require the community requesting the money to match awards with funds from other sources, some of which must be loans to ensure that agencies have some “skin in the game.” The USDA package totals $810,000, of which $160,000 is in the form of a 40-year , 2-percent interest loan that will be paid back by users of the Mosca system.

The awards signal the beginning of the end of the lengthy saga of sewage problems in the town. The 55 users of Mosca’s current system mostly residences utilize 10 clustered septic tanks installed in the early 1980s, which must be regularly pumped out. Two of the tanks are critically damaged and require bi-weekly pumping. The tanks’ leach fields are so saturated that they are essentially non-functional , and the fields are only 50 feet from wellheads, which is less than the 100-foot minimum distance now required by code. The new treatment plant will be a modern system called a sequencing batch reactor, which uses oxygen and bacteria to digest waste.

Construction on the new plant is likely to begin in spring, and officials anticipate it will be on-line before the snow falls next year.

It will cost a little more than $24,000 a year to operate , including the salary for one maintenance person, as well as money set aside in an emergency fund. The annual cost is an improvement over the current system, which the county subsidizes at a cost of more than $30,000 a year. Payments by the system’s users often added up to only $7,000 a year.

The new system will be fully self-supported by its users. Households using the current system pay $25 a month. The fee to use the new system will be higher, but a final monthly figure hasn’t been arrived at, though it will be limited to a proportion of the town’s median income.

The system is designed to be low-maintenance , long lasting, and to allow for expansion and greater capacity. The shortest lifespan of any system component is said to be 75 years. Alamosa County officials have been seeking a solution to the problem since the mid-1990 s, but three previous attempts to secure funding from the state were rebuffed.

Meanwhile, problems in the town got steadily worse. Sewer lines to houses back up regularly. Cracked tanks leak sewage to the surface, causing a foul odor to hang over the town at times.

“They’re just ticking time bombs for a health crisis,” Baird said.

The Mosca sewage issue has been a “noose around the neck” of the county for a long time, said Alamosa County Administrator Gigi Dennis.

“This is not like Greeley and the stockyards,” Dennis said. “This is not the smell of money.”

Dennis commended the efforts of Baird and Tilden. “These two ladies have been quite tenacious,” Dennis said.

Eliminating the sewage problem leaves Mosca poised for growth, Baird said.

“It’s a well-positioned town,” Baird said. “It’s the closest town to the Great Sand Dunes. The employees might just live there if there weren’t consistent odor problems.”

Dennis agreed that the new system sets Mosca up for comfortable future development .

“If they get more businesses or homeowners who want to tap into it, they’ve got a safe system they can access,” Dennis said. Tilden said that many Mosca residents felt left out of the process that left them with the clustered tanks over 30 years ago, and that she and Baird strove to ensure thorough community input in the current effort. She stressed that the county will not leave Mosca residents holding the bag with the new system.

“The county’s going to help the community,” Tilden said. “We’re not giving up on them.”

Tilden said winning the award was thrilling.

“I started crying,” Tilden said. “Rachel screamed. It was so gratifying. They’ve been trying to figure this out since 1996, and it seems we’ve finally got it all squared away.”

Restoring dams at Scott Ponds proving difficult — Estes Park Trail-Gazette

Estes Park
Estes Park

From the Estes Park Trail-Gazette (David Persons):

It’s been over two years since the September 2013 flood ravaged the Fish Creek area, washing away roads, destroying homes and property, and making a mess of miles of water and sewer lines.

It also destroyed Scott Ponds, a wildlife and recreation area that is a big part of the quality of life for those who live in the nearby Carriage Hills subdivision.

The flood waters actually caused the dam on the lower, or eastern-most pond (Carriage Hills No. 2) to be breached, sending an additional surge of water that resulted in significant damage along the creek area below the dam.

Since then, local officials and residents have worked closely together on a resiliency plan for the Fish Creek area and a plan to restore the Scott Ponds.

Throughout 2015, plans moved forward to that end.

First, the town hired consultant Cornerstone Engineering and Surveying, Inc. in May to begin a public process to design repairs to the dams and/or ponds.

Then it obtained funding for the project. The town was awarded a $925,000 conditional Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery by the Colorado Office of Emergency Management. It requires the completion of the project within one year. The award also was partnered with another grant of $146,000 for river restoration near the Fall River power plant.

Public input was then sought in early July. The general consensus was to repair the dams rather than restore the area as a wildlife/wetlands natural area.

The Estes Park Town Board agreed with residents in mid-July and authorized town staff to move forward with plans to restore the dams. An additional public review of the plans was held in August.

In late August, the Scott Ponds dams restoration project went out to bid. That’s when the project was dealt a serious setback, or as Estes Park Public Works Director Greg Muhonen called it, “a complicated twist.”

Muhonen, addressing the Estes Park Town Board in early November, told the trustees that problems had arisen with the two companies that had submitted bids — Kelly Trucking of Golden and Dietzler Construction of Berthoud.

Muhonen said that both companies submitted bids over budget. Muhonen said Public Works staff worked with Kelly officials to reduce the scope of the project to a level that would meet the state engineer’s requirements and also meet the town’s grant funding amount. However, Kelley Trucking officials notified the town on Nov. 4 that it was withdrawing from the project due to budget constraints, redesign plan approval, and a postponed construction start date.

El Niño update

Westwide SNOTEl January 3, 2016 via the NRCS
Westwide SNOTEl January 3, 2016 via the NRCS

From The Mountain Mail (Samantha Gillespie):

Salidans experienced a year of above-average precipitation in 2015, reaching 15.86 inches at year-end, and, because of continuing El Niño conditions, investing in snow tires was a good idea.

Weather experts predict “a strong likelihood” of another 3 to 4 months of above-normal precipitation, Tony Anderson with the National Weather Service in Pueblo said Wednesday.

But 2015 weather was good for Chaffee County, bringing excellent skiing conditions in time for the holidays, and Jim Aragon, Colorado Parks and Wildlife area wildlife manager, said despite making hunting more challenging, those weather conditions have been good for wildlife.

“We are currently in a very strong El Niño that should be reaching maximum intensity right about now,” Anderson said. He added conditions are expected to weaken to neutral by late spring or early summer.

Despite variations in precipitation across the state, overall Colorado saw considerably more precipitation in 2015 than in 2014…

The Natural Resource Conservation Service estimates that current snowpack is above historical averages throughout the south central and southeastern regions of Colorado.

“The current snowpack and weather patterns look promising, but we are still a long way from spring,” Anderson said.

“It is snowing in all the right places,” Aragon said, which is good for wildlife but was difficult for hunters.

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Ryan Summerlin):

While El Niño has lived up to its reputation and brought plenty of storms leading into winter, meteorologists expect January and February to be drier for the Western Slope…

So far this El Niño hasn’t behaved exactly as expected, he said. Whereas El Niño storms typically blow straight west to east, coming off the deserts of the American West, the storm systems this year have come more from the northwest, blowing in from the Alaskan gulf.

Normally the storms coming from the northwest would create some good precipitation for northwestern Colorado, but they’ve largely split into two portions: one tracking into the northeastern plains and the other into southwestern Colorado.

Coming into January, Ramey said the systems seem to be straightening out into the more typical west-to-east pattern.

From the fall and into this winter, the El Niño season has been one of the strongest on record, said Ramey. And now it’s reaching its peak.

In western Colorado, El Niño seasons tend to bring a wet fall and drier winter starting in January. Heavier precipitation tends to come back around in spring.

Forecasting models are showing that weather systems are following that trend, said Ramey.

Also, El Niño seasons bring more precipitation for the southern parts of western Colorado, leaving the northwest part of the state drier.

Mid-November 2015 plume of ENSO predictions from the Climate Prediction Center
Mid-November 2015 plume of ENSO predictions from the Climate Prediction Center

From Steamboat Today (Christine Shook):

With as much as 75 percent of the water supply being derived from snowmelt, successful water planning and management of the state’s water resources begins with a comprehensive knowledge of current snowpack conditions and the ability to make informed decisions for the upcoming water year.

Since the 1930s, the Natural Resource Conservation Service has been using scientific measurements of mountain snowpack to quantify and forecast annual water supply in 12 western states. Snow surveyors from NRCS and other cooperating agencies manually collect data, such as the snow water equivalent (SWE) and snow depth, from over 1,600 snow courses several times each winter.

The SWE is the amount of water within the snowpack and can be thought of as the depth of water that would theoretically result if the snowpack melted instantaneously.

The NRCS also operates and maintains an extensive automated system that collects snowpack and climate data in real-time, called SNOTEL (SNOpack TELemetry). A variety of information collected from the two methods are available online to the public in several user-friendly interfaces, including interactive maps and report generators. The data is also translated into water supply forecasts that the NRCS State Office issues monthly from January to June in cooperation with the National Weather Service.

So, if you are wondering exactly how this year’s snowpack is measuring up, there are nine SNOTEL sites and two manual snow courses located at high elevations within the Yampa River Basin that conveniently provide us with this valuable data.

As of Dec. 29, the Yampa and White River Basins were reporting that the snowpack is 111 percent of median conditions for SWE and 93 percent of average precipitation for water year to date. The water year-to-date precipitation represents the total precipitation since Oct. 1, usually expressed in inches.

When running a comparison report, data reveals conditions are slightly behind 2014 statistics to this day. This local data can forecast annual streamflow of the Yampa River at specific points, help us operate our local reservoirs, provide input to fisheries management, manage domestic water use and flood control and much more.

Thanks to the United States Department of Agriculture NRCS systematic snowpack inventory and monitoring program, water supplies in the high country are quantifiable, and managers are able to be alerted early in the water year on whether to expect normal flows, water shortages or floods and can make plans while there is still time to take effective action.

So, whether you are planning your irrigation schedule for the upcoming season or monitoring current powder conditions on Buff Pass, real time situational data is available at your fingertips. For more information, contact your local Conservation District or NRCS field office at 970-879-3225×3 or visit http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/.

Christine Shook is a soil conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service field office in Steamboat Springs.

2016 #Colorado #election: Adiós TABOR?

votingboothFrom The Denver Post (John Frank):

An organization backed by prominent Colorado leaders is moving toward ballot initiatives in 2016 to roll back the state’s TABOR spending caps and make it harder to amend the constitution…

The bipartisan organization tested support for the issues in a December statewide poll and recently began drafting ballot language for the potential initiatives as it prepares to conclude a five-month listening tour in January.

“I think people recognize that there’s a problem that needs to be dealt with … and therefore, there is more enthusiasm for a solution,” said Reeves Brown, the project’s director.

The move to eliminate the inflation-plus-population revenue limit in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights likely would include a provision to direct surplus money that would have gone to taxpayer refunds to certain priority areas, rather than give state lawmakers free reign to spend it…

And the desire to revamp the initiative process to amend the state constitution likely would involve two elements: a super-majority to win approval and a requirement that petition signatures come from different areas of Colorado.

The tentative proposals, organizers say, represent the areas with the strongest support among the 1,500 civic and business leaders who participated in roughly two-dozen meetings across the state and the 3,500 surveys submitted online.

Brown emphasized that the final outcome remains uncertain, but it’s clear the organization is making a push to tackle some of the most contentious political issues in Colorado, despite initially suggesting it would focus on subtle, nuanced changes…

Colorado’s top elected leaders are largely reserving judgment on the issue. In a statement, Gov. John Hickenlooper said he is looking forward to seeing the end result but “it’s too early to weigh in on potential ballot issues.”

House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst said she is waiting to see the final ballot language, but said she supports the TABOR overhaul and initiative process changes. “Only by investing in our priorities can we build for our future prosperity,” the Boulder Democrat said in a statement…

Moving forward

The one idea the group did not entertain from the start is the complete repeal of TABOR, in particular the constitutional requirement that voters approve all tax hikes. However, the project’s leader said he was surprised at the level of support for removing the revenue caps, which restrict state budget spending and provide taxpayer refunds in boom years.

“There’s an increasing percentage of the electorate (for which) TABOR is not as sacrosanct as it was to some,” Brown said.

Brown said the idea has more support among likely voters when coupled with “a prescription on how it would be spent.”

The state’s current budget situation, in which it is issuing taxpayer refunds but facing spending cuts, is a motivating factor, he said.

Chris Watney, the president at the nonprofit Colorado Children’s Campaign, applauded the move. “Having more ability to invest and more flexibility in how we do so, I do think would have a positive impact on things like education and health care,” she said.

Still, the potential ballot initiative would prove hugely controversial, particularly given the emphasis from Republicans and conservatives on protecting the TABOR limits…

The effort to change the state’s initiative process may prove just as contentious. The current system allows residents to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot with signatures from roughly 100,000 registered voters and win approval with a simple majority vote.

Building a Better Colorado is considering a requirement for a super-majority vote for new initiatives — but maintaining a simple majority to change amendments that received prior voter approval. The organization is discussing a two-thirds threshold but may put the bar as low as 55 percent.

An idea to require more signatures for constitutional initiatives is another possibility, although the poll found it didn’t get much traction among likely voters, Brown said.

2015 #COleg: State Rep. Brown to focus on South Platte storage again

George Washington addresses the Continental Congress via Son of the South

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

On water, Brown is again focused on studying water storage along the South Platte River. He tried legislation last session, but it failed amid spending concerns.

“I’m going to keep pushing on that because the low hanging fruit for the Front Range is Western Slope water,” he said. “It’s easy to just send it over the hill, and we just don’t have that water to send.”


[State Senator Ellen Roberts] is also working on bills in the wake of the inactive Gold King Mine spill, in which an error by the Environmental Protection Agency caused an estimated 3 million gallons of mining sludge to pour into the Animas River on Aug. 5.

One proposal comes out of an interim water resources committee that has suggested a resolution that would encourage Congress to pass “good samaritan” legislation, which would reduce the liability associated with private entities conducting mine reclamation work.

Roberts would also like to address jurisdictional issues between states in the wake of Gold King. The incident impacted several states, including neighboring New Mexico. State agencies found it difficult to work with one another because of legal roadblocks. Roberts has proposed legislation that would eliminate some of those barriers through intergovernmental agreements.

“When minutes matter, you need a clearer pathway,” she said.

In terms of wildfires, Roberts is supporting a resolution that would ask Congress to change how it funds fire services so that it can spend more money on forest management.

The problem is that over the last several years, there has been a sharp increase in the Forest Service’s budget for fire suppression, jumping to 50 percent from as little as 15 percent 25 years ago. The agency is forced to borrow from programs that would reduce fire risk and aid prevention in order to fund suppression efforts.

“The Forest Service’s budget gets depleted with these god-awful wildfires, and so then they don’t have the money they need to actually manage the forests,” Roberts said. “It becomes a vicious cycle.”

South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia
South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia