WaterSHED Summit 2023 June 22, 2023

Watershed Summit returns!
Thursday, June 22, at Denver Botanic Gardens
Thursday, June 22, 2023

1 to 5 pm – Watershed Summit
featuring panels, presentations, and discussions

5 pm – Happy hour
featuring Stem Ciders, Howdy Beer, and plenty of food

Tickets: $60 – Register here

Registration includes access to the Watershed Summit, happy hour, refreshments, and entrance to Denver Botanic Gardens on June 22, 2023.This year, we’re excited to offer add-on optional experiences for those looking for something special before the main event:Guided tour of water-wise gardens by Denver Botanic Gardens horticulturists: $10 (75 spots available)Eat within your watershed: Locally sourced lunch prepared by SAME Café: $20 (25 spots available)The Watershed Summit, or “Shed” as it is affectionately known, has become a Colorado tradition, gathering a range of stakeholders to discuss current and future water challenges and opportunities facing the state. This year’s event will convene diverse voices and creative points of view to explore water efficient landscaping, how youth environmental education is bridging geographical divides, federal involvement in western water issues, and so much more! 

Shed ’23 returns to a fully in-person event at Denver Botanic Gardens, concluding with the ever-popular happy hour event sponsored by Stem Ciders and Howdy Beer.

This event is produced through a collaborative partnership between the One World One Water Center (a joint initiative of Metropolitan State University of Denver and Denver Botanic Gardens), Aurora Water, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Denver Water and Resource Central.
We hope you’ll join us this summer for the return of the Watershed Summit!

#Rico Reprieve + BLM revokes Moab-area lithium permit — @Land_Desk #DoloresRiver

Rico, Colorado, during its heyday in 1891. William Henry Jackson photo, Denver Public Library Special Collections.

Click the link to read the article on The Land Desk website (Jonathan P. Thompson):

CONTEXT: I’ve long been intrigued by Rico, a former mining town of about 300 people in  the western San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. On paper, Rico looks a lot like Silverton: It was platted in the 1870s on Ute land as a mining hub and flourished during its early years; it sits at about 9,000 feet in elevation, surrounded by high mountains; and it was serviced by a railroad built by Otto Mears.

Yet Rico, just 20 miles as the crow flies from Silverton, ultimately followed a far different trajectory. The 1893 Silver Panic hit both towns hard initially, but Silverton ultimately recovered and its mining industry continued to support a fairly healthy population until the early 1990s. Rico, not so much — the population in 1890 was about 4,000; by 1900 it had shrunk to 811 and continued to ebb, bottoming out at just 75 in 1980. 

Prior to mining, snowmelt and rain seep into natural cracks and fractures, eventually emerging as a freshwater spring (usually). Graphic credit: Jonathan Thompson

Mining in Rico didn’t collapse after the Silver Panic by any means. Throughout the decades, big and little firms gouged and tunneled, drilled and blasted, stoped and mucked, milled and smelted in the Rico Mountains. Sulfide-bearing iron pyrite — the active ingredient in acid mine drainage — is abundant here. So much so that in the 1950s the Rico-Argentine Mining Company and Vanadium Corporation of America began mining pyrite to produce sulphuric acid at a plant at the St. Louis Tunnel. The acid was used mainly for uranium processing at mills in surrounding lowlands. In 1980 Anaconda, a subsidiary of Atlantic Richfield, bought the Rico Argentine Mine site and surrounding lands with an eye toward molybdenum mining, but never actually pulled any ore out of the ground.

All of the mining activity permanently scarred the land, sullied the waters of the Dolores River, which passes through town, and contaminated town soils with lead. But it was never enough to revive the town’s early glory or population. Rico lost the Dolores County seat to the powerful Dove Creek pinto bean and Grange lobby in the 1940s, and the Rio Grande Southern railroad abandoned the community shortly thereafter. 

Silverton, meanwhile, held onto its branch of the Denver & Rio Grande Western railroad, helping that town to become the backdrop of many a mid-century western film and a major tourist attraction. And the relatively prosperous mining industry there had left behind infrastructure to support the new economy. Despite its scenic location, mining history, and proximity to public lands, Rico never developed a strong tourist economy — perhaps by design. In 1990 Silverton’s population was about 800; Rico’s was roughly one-eighth of that. But what Rico lacked in economic development it made up for with a rough and rustic sort of charm. 

Over the years, various entities have hatched economic development schemes. In the 1980s, the Rico Development Corporation bought most of the Anoconda/Atlantic Richfield land and other property, compiling 1,800 acres of patented mining claims and hundreds of in-town lots (and in so doing took on responsibility for water treatment at the old Rico-Argentine mine site, which didn’t end so well). Real estate developer Rico Renaissance acquired the land in the mid-1990s and worked with Rico officials to come up with a grand plan to revive, spiff-up, and build out the infrastructure needed to substantially grow the old mining town. Meanwhile, economic exiles from Telluride — 26 miles and one mountain pass away — began moving in and opening a few businesses, including a live music venue that attracted folks from around the region. 

Rico Renaissance’s plans fell apart in 2007 for various reasons, and they tried to sell the land to Bolero Mining, which wanted to build a molybdenum mine nearby, to the dismay of some and delight of other locals. The effort failed, in part because the global financial crisis diminished demand for minerals, in part because opening a new mine in this day and age ain’t easy. As if to drive home the point, in 2011 the Environmental Protection Agency ordered Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) to clean up the Rico-Argentine Mine site just north of town; it had been oozing high concentrations of zinc and other heavy metals into the Dolores River since the mid-1990s. The company has spent at least $63 million on the effort so far, even though it never made any money off of the property. 

What was left of Rico Renaissance became Disposition Properties, which continued to toy with developing the properties, but never progressed very far. Meanwhile Rico’s population has continued to grow, albeit slowly, and real estate prices have climbed. There are no homes in Rico listed for sale on Zillow, just a couple of lots priced around $200,000. But a 12-bedroom log-cabin monstrosity a handful of miles downriver from town is priced at $2.95 million. Still, the place isn’t what I’d call gentrified in any pervasive way; it retains its small-town funkiness. I passed through there last Fourth of July and was delighted to see the aftermath of a down-home parade and just dozens of folks milling about the sidewalks eating burgers (as opposed to the thousands that mob Silverton on the Fourth).

Map via The Land Desk.

Last April, Disposition finally threw in the towel and put 181 parcels covering 1,146 acres on the market for $10 million. Telluride Properties, the listing agent, marketed the property — and its potential — aggressively. It touted its geothermal properties (hot springs resort), the space for 300 new homes, potential for a land swap with the Forest Service, a parcel for a riverside lodge, and so on. It even suggested the possibility of building a chairlift, perhaps to access a Silverton Mountain-esque backcountry ski area. It did not mention the Superfund site or lead contamination; lack of infrastructure; floodplains and other geologic hazards; or Rico’s 2004 master plan objective of avoiding a “predominant resort character.”

Many locals were not amused. A resort and hundreds of new homes would certainly bring jobs and money to the area, but it would also completely overwhelm the existing community and smother its scrappy spirit. Rico townsfolk only needed to look around the region to see that amenity-economy-based prosperity has its downsides, ranging from housing crises to the widening abyss between the ultra-wealthy and everyone else. 

Rico still may get gentrified, but the threat of it becoming a glitzy destination resort appears to have subsided. On April 5, the Dolores County clerk recorded a real property transfer and a special warranty deed conveying dozens of Disposition Properties’ parcels to Atlantic Richfield. While the property transfer document remains under wraps — it’s labeled a “sensitive document” — the warranty deed includes a list of what appears to be all of Disposition’s remaining properties. The transfer fee is listed as $778.94, indicating that the sale price was about $7.79 million. 

We weren’t able to get in touch with anyone at Atlantic Richfield — now the valley’s largest landowner — about the purchase or their intentions. We can rest assured, however, that they aren’t going to be building a Rico Mountain mega-resort. Rico Town Manager Chauncey McCarthy said the mining company likely will hold onto contaminated and mining-impacted claims in order to remediate and reclaim them (which is probably why they bought the property in the first place). They may sell off other parcels and have expressed an interest in working with the town to make use of the in-town properties. The Montezuma Land Conservancy reportedly wanted to buy the property and put conservation easements on some parcels while possibly building affordable housing on others. Those kinds of scenarios seem far more likely now. 

Rico, undoubtedly, will continue to grow. But what that growth looks like and how fast it will occur seems now to be far more within the control of the community and its residents.

Dolores River watershed

Mining Monitor

NEWS: In April, the Bureau of Land Management withdrew its permit for A1 Lithium Incorporated’s Paradox Lithium exploratory drilling project near Dead Horse Point State Park outside of Moab. 

CONTEXT: The Nevada firm and its many associated companies (Blackstone, Anson, etc) has been staking claims like crazy in the region, as reported by the Land Desk over the last six months or so, and has big plans to extract and mechanically process lithium. Last September, the Moab BLM office approved A1’s proposal to drill two exploratory wells (actually, to reopen abandoned oil and gas wells for exploratory purposes) near the road to Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky unit. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance appealed the decision. 

The Utah BLM’s acting state director Anita Bilbao decided to set aside the permit. Bilboa ordered the Moab Field Office to re-open its analysis to “address SUWA’s concerns regarding a reasonable range of alternatives and to complete additional analysis regarding the cumulative impacts to water quantity.” 

A1/Anson also has the Green River Project in the works north of the aforementioned wells. In March, the company announced it had filed a notice of intent with the BLM to drill three exploratory wells there.

Prior to 1921 this section of the Colorado River at Dead Horse Point near Moab, Utah was known as the Grand River. Mike Nielsen – Dead Horse Point State Park

CO2 levels Week of 23 April 2023:  424.40 parts per million — World Meteorological Organization @WMO

Mauna Loa is WMO Global Atmosphere Watch benchmark station and monitors rising CO2 levels Week of 23 April 2023: 424.40 parts per million Weekly value one year ago: 420.19 ppm Weekly value 10 years ago: 399.32 ppm 📷 http://CO2.Earthhttps://co2.earth/daily-co2. Credit: World Meteorological Organization

Biden-Harris administration to replace Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel Treatment Plant — Reclamtion #ArkansasRiver

The LMDT is west of Hwy. 91 north of Leadville. Forest, wetlands, and a small neighborhood are located nearby. Photo credit: Reclamation

Click the link to read the release on the Reclamation webiste (Anna Perea and Elizabeth Smith ):

LOVELAND, Colo. — The Bureau of Reclamation announces a $56 million investment from the President’s Investing in America agenda for the construction of a replacement Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel Treatment Plant. Originally built in 1991, the plant removes heavy metals from contaminated water caused by mining operations in the Leadville area. It has since reached its service life, and this investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will ensure the plant continues to protect water supply

The Department of the Interior recently announced a nearly $585 million investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for infrastructure repairs on water delivery systems. Funds will support 83 projects across all five Reclamation regions, including the Leadville Mine treatment plant.

Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel outbuildings. Photo credit: Reclamation

Since 1991, the treatment plant has operated to remove lead, zinc, manganese, iron, and other heavy metals from contaminated water that flows from the 2-mile-long Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel. The plant sends 650 million gallons per year of treated, clean water to the headwaters of the Arkansas River in accordance with Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.

“The replacement of the treatment plant represents one of the key priorities that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is intended to accomplish, protecting our water supplies for people and the natural environment,” said Jeff Rieker, Eastern Colorado Area Office Manager. “This funding will allow us to replace aging infrastructure that is critical for continued protection of the water resources of the Arkansas River, benefitting both the river itself, as well as the people who rely on it for a wide range of activities and uses.”

At present, the treatment plant has surpassed its expected service life of roughly 30 years. Over the next several years, Reclamation will construct a new treatment plant that incorporates knowledge gained over the past three decades, focuses on safety and improves the plant’s visual impact.

“The new plant will provide a longer service life and continue Reclamation’s commitment to community safety and producing clean water for the Arkansas River,” said Plant Supervisor, Jenelle Stefanic. “There will also be more maneuverability within the floor plan and additional safety features such as fall protection and noise reduction technology.”

Prior to mining, snowmelt and rain seep into natural cracks and fractures, eventually emerging as a freshwater spring (usually). Graphic credit: Jonathan Thompson

R.I.P. Gordon Lightfoot: “There the morning rain don’t fall and the sun always shines”

Click the link to read the New York Times obituary. Here’s an excerpt:

His rich baritone and gift for melodies made him one of the most popular artists of the 1970s with songs like “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and “If You Could Read My Mind.”

Gordon Lightfoot, the Canadian folk singer whose rich, plaintive baritone and gift for melodic songwriting made him one of the most popular recording artists of the 1970s, died on Monday night in Toronto. He was 84…

Mr. Lightfoot, a fast-rising star in Canada in the early 1960s, broke through to international success when his friends and fellow Canadians Ian and Sylvia Tyson recorded two of his songs, “Early Morning Rain” and “For Lovin’ Me.” When Peter, Paul and Mary came out with their own versions, and Marty Robbins reached the top of the country charts with Mr. Lightfoot’s “Ribbon of Darkness,” Mr. Lightfoot’s reputation soared. Overnight, he joined the ranks of songwriters like Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton, all of whom influenced his style…When folk music ebbed in popularity, overwhelmed by the British invasion, Mr. Lightfoot began writing ballads aimed at a broader audience. He scored one hit after another, beginning in 1970 with the heartfelt “If You Could Read My Mind,” inspired by the breakup of his first marriage. In quick succession he recorded the hits “Sundown,” “Carefree Highway,” “Rainy Day People” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” which he wrote after reading a Newsweek article about the sinking of an iron-ore carrier in Lake Superior in 1975, with the loss of all 29 crew members…

For Canadians, Mr. Lightfoot was a national hero, a homegrown star who stayed home even after achieving spectacular success in the United States and who catered to his Canadian fans with cross-country tours. His ballads on Canadian themes, like “Canadian Railroad Trilogy,” pulsated with a love for the nation’s rivers and forests, which he explored on ambitious canoe trips far into the hinterlands. His personal style, reticent and self-effacing — he avoided interviews and flinched when confronted with praise — also went down well. “Sometimes I wonder why I’m being called an icon, because I really don’t think of myself that way,” Mr. Lightfoot told The Globe and Mail in 2008. “I’m a professional musician, and I work with very professional people. It’s how we get through life.”


Gordon Meredith Lightfoot Jr. was born on Nov. 17, 1938, in Orillia, Ontario, where his father managed a dry-cleaning plant. As a boy, he sang in a church choir, performed on local radio shows and shined in singing competitions. “Man, I did the whole bit: oratorio work, Kiwanis contests, operettas, barbershop quartets,” he told Time magazine in 1968…Mr. Lightfoot, accompanying himself on an acoustic 12-string guitar, in a voice that often trembled with emotion, gave spare, direct accounts of his material. He sang of loneliness, troubled relationships, the itch to roam and the majesty of the Canadian landscape. He was, as the Canadian writer Jack Batten put it, “journalist, poet, historian, humorist, short-story teller and folksy recollector of bygone days.”