CDPHE: Water Quality Information Bulletin

Click here to read the bulletin. There will be an informational briefing concerning Clear Creek at the December 12, 2016 meeting.

Clear Creek, Standley Lake watersheds including the Standley Lake Canal Zone via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation.
Clear Creek, Standley Lake watersheds including the Standley Lake Canal Zone via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation.

@EPA to require mines to offer cleanup assurances — @DenverPost

The Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine, formerly and historically the Cresson Mine, is an active gold mine located near the town of Victor, in the Cripple Creek mining district in the US state of Colorado. It is the largest current producer of gold in Colorado, and produced 211,000 troy ounces of gold in 2014. Photo credit Wikimedia.
The Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine, formerly and historically the Cresson Mine, is an active gold mine located near the town of Victor, in the Cripple Creek mining district in the US state of Colorado. It is the largest current producer of gold in Colorado, and produced 211,000 troy ounces of gold in 2014. Photo credit Wikimedia.

From the Associated Press (Matthew Brown) via the The Denver Post:

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday said it plans to require mining companies to show they have the financial wherewithal to clean up their pollution so taxpayers aren’t stuck footing the bill.

The proposal follows a 2015 court order for the government to enforce a long-ignored provision in the 1980 federal Superfund law.

The requirement would apply to hardrock mining, which includes mines for precious metals, copper, iron, lead and other ores. It would cover mines in 38 states, requiring their owners to set aside sufficient money to pay for future clean ups.

The EPA is considering similar requirements for chemical manufacturers, power generation companies and the petroleum refining and coal manufacturing industries.

From 2010 to 2013, the EPA spent $1.1 billion on cleanup work at abandoned hardrock mining and processing sites across the U.S. [ed. emphasis mine]

The new rule “would move the financial burden from taxpayers and ensure that industry assumes responsibility for these cleanups,” EPA Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus said.

Contaminated water from mine sites can flow into rivers and other waterways, harming aquatic life and threatening drinking water supplies. Companies in the past avoided cleanup costs in many cases by declaring bankruptcy…

The National Mining Association said the new rule was “unnecessary, redundant and poorly constructed,” because existing programs prevent mines from becoming Superfund sites.

The group accused government officials of overstating the potential risks from modern mining techniques, in a rushed attempt to put a new rule in place before President Barack Obama leaves the White House next month.

U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop of Utah and Energy Committee Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan voiced similar concerns. The Republicans said programs in place at the state level already ensure the environment is protected and predicted the EPA proposal would result in a multibillion dollar obligation for the mining industry.

In documents released with the new rule, the EPA said that since 1980, at least 52 mines and mine processing sites using modern techniques had spills or other releases of pollution.

There are about 300 hardrock mines in the U.S. Combined they produced about $26.6 billion worth of metals last year, according to mining association Senior Vice President Ashley Burke. Of those mines, the EPA said 221 would be subject to the rule.

The agency took the first step toward seeking financial assurances on cleanups from hardrock mining companies in 2010 in response to a lawsuit from environmental groups.

In 2014, frustration with the agency’s slow progress prompted the Sierra Club, Earthworks and other groups to file a second suit that resulted in last year’s court order. A subsequent order in that case requires the EPA to finalize its rule by Dec. 1, 2017.

McElmo Flume Overlook dedication Dec. 5 — Cortez Journal

Triad Western Constructors restored the foundation McElmo Flume historical site. The structure was stabilized with new concrete footers and the metal was restored. A pullout off U.S. Highway 160 east of Cortez allows travelers to view a piece of pioneer history. Photo credit the Cortez Journal.
Triad Western Constructors restored the foundation McElmo Flume historical site. The structure was stabilized with new concrete footers and the metal was restored. A pullout off U.S. Highway 160 east of Cortez allows travelers to view a piece of pioneer history. Photo credit the Cortez Journal.

From Montezuma County via The Cortez Journal:

Trail of the Ancients National Scenic Byway, Montezuma County and the Colorado Department of Transportation will host a dedication of the McElmo Flume Overlook at 11 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 5.

Transportation to the site is by shuttle bus from the Montezuma County Fairgrounds.

Visitors are asked to park north of the indoor arena no later than 10:45 a.m. on Dec. 5, to meet the bus. RSVP’s to James Dietrich (970)565-7402, jdietrich@co.montezuma.co.us, for planning purposes, please.

A local landmark from the last century, the flume can now be seen from viewing platform at a new highway rest stop off U.S. Highway 160 east of Cortez. The turnout includes informational panels about water and irrigation in our county.

There will be numerous speakers at the dedication. Susan Thomas, of the Trail of the Ancients Byway, will give welcoming remarks; Terry Knight of the Ute Mountain Historic Preservation Office, will conduct a blessing of the site; Les Nunn, of the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co. (retired), and Linda Towle, of the Cortez Historic Preservation board, will tell the history of local irrigation; Mike Preston, of the Dolores Water Conservancy District, will tell the modern irrigation story; and James Dietrich, federal lands coordinator for Montezuma County, will discuss the next preservation steps for the 125-year irrigation structure.

The many sponsors of the McElmo Flume Project include: Ballantine Family Fund, Colorado State Historical Fund, Colorado Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Mesa Verde Country, Montezuma County, Montezuma County Historical Society, Southwestern Water Conservation District, Southwest Basin Roundtable, Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway, and the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe.

History made right, as [San Miguel] river is restored — Telluride Daily Planet

Photo via TellurideValleyFloor.org
Photo via TellurideValleyFloor.org

From The Telluride Daily Planet (Jessica Kutz):

Thanks to the Valley Floor River Restoration Project, the San Miguel River on the west side of Telluride finally was reunited on Sunday with its natural meandering ways.

The plan for the “new” river route was based on aerial photography taken before the channelization had taken place. This helped project officials in finding the general area where the river had once been. They then were able to accurately locate the original alignment by studying the prominence of gravel layers in the area.

In the words of Gary Hickcox, former chair of the Open Space Commission and former director of the San Miguel Conservation Fund, “The river will be able to do what rivers do.” It will be able to flood when necessary, foster riparian habitat and overall “be a much healthier river system,” he said.

Once confined to the southern side of the Valley Floor, the river will now run lazily through the space and work its magic on land that had been devoid of the water source for more than 100 years. To recreate the meandering nature of the river, an additional 1,300 feet of length was introduced.

It is hoped that ecologically, the area eventually will return to something close to its original state. As David Blauch, project designer with Ecological Resource Consultants, put it, “ Five years from now, we are hoping that nobody knows this is a new channel.”

According to Hilary Cooper, program manager for Valley Floor Preservation Partners, “They set up the project to have minimal human engineering and to have the river do the engineering.”

Although there will be some human-led interventions, including planting a seed mix based on studies of plants native to the area as well as continuous monitoring, it is believed that the river — and as some said, the beavers — will take care of the rest.

If the river is able to flood naturally again, it will be able to “deposit sediment in a way that naturally encourages vegetation,” Cooper said.
Hickcox added that for nature enthusiasts, the river restoration was a good move “not only from an environmental standpoint, but also visually it will be much more attractive.”

For Cooper, and for many others invested in the project, Sunday was momentous. “It is important in so many ways ecologically, but emotionally right now it feels really good to resolve something that was a mistake. Trying to control a river and channelize it for the human population is never a good idea,” Cooper said.

So what happens next? According to town Program Manager Lance McDonald, the commission now will start planning new trails. But he added, “We will wait to see how the landscape functions prior to making any decisions.”

McDonald said remaining work should be completed before the end of this month, and the area will be open to the public sometime in November for all to enjoy.

Dolores River watershed
Dolores River watershed

Restoring the Eagle River in Camp Hale — The Mountain Town News

In 1942, a new channel for the Eagle River was built at Camp Hale to replacing the naturally meandering route. Photo/Denver Public Library Western History Department via The Mountain Town News.
In 1942, a new channel for the Eagle River was built at Camp Hale to replacing the naturally meandering route. Photo/Denver Public Library Western History Department via The Mountain Town News.

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

A vision gains support for freeing Eagle River from WWII straitjacket

Work could begin in 2018 in restoring the Eagle River at Camp Hale, the training site for the 10th Mountain Division, to something more closely resembling its pre-World War II look and functions.

Photos of the valley by William Henry Jackson, the famous landscape photographer of the 19th century, show a meandering river through the valley, called Eagle Park, clogged with willows and wetlands. A steam train chugged through the valley and later, at a railroad siding called Pando, ice was harvested.

All this changed in 1942. The U.S. Army first considered a site near Yellowstone National Park and other options before settling on the valley, elevation 9,200 feet, for training of elite troops capable of engaging enemy soldiers in mountainous terrain. Access to a transcontinental railroad was key. Within a few months, streets had been created, barracks erected, and the river confined to a straight-as-an-arrow ditch.

Photo via The Mountain Town News.
Photo via The Mountain Town News.

Now, 74 years later, it’s still in that same ditch.

After the 10th Mountain soldiers were dispatched in 1944 to Texas for toughening up, the Army began dismantling Camp Hale. Barracks and other buildings were leveled, including the auditorium where visiting dignitaries such as prize- winning fighter Joe Louis and actress Jane Wyman, the first Mrs. Ronald Reagan, appeared. The camp was used once more from 1959 to 1965, this time by the Central Intelligence Agency for training of Tibetan guerrillas, before the military reservation was returned to the U.S. Forest Service.

But even now, cleanup from the war efforts continues. In 1997, an unexploded mortar shell was discovered on Mt. Whitney, in the nearby Homestake Valley. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers later tried to recover all old weapons of war from the landscape,
returning again this summer for a final sweep using metal detectors. There’s some lingering asbestos. And there’s the ditch called the Eagle River.

Many stakeholders in Camp Hale

Talk about restoring the river has occurred several times since the 1970s, says Marcus F. Selig, of the National Forest Foundation, a non-profit partner of the U.S. Forest Service, but never made significant progress. The new effort began in 2013, when 40 groups with a direct interest in the valley were gathered to work toward a coherent vision for a restored landscape.

While adjoining streets and buildings were quickly removed, the Eagle River today flows in a ditch created at Camp Hale in 1942. Photo credit Allen Best The Mountain Town News.
While adjoining streets and buildings were quickly removed, the Eagle River today flows in a ditch created at Camp Hale in 1942. Photo credit Allen Best The Mountain Town News.

The Aspen-based 10th Mountain Division Hut Association has several huts in the area. Meeker residents Sam and Cheri Robinson have grazed thousands of sheep every summer in the mountains above Camp Hale. The dwindling number of 10th Mountain vets and now their descendants want the legacy of their war training remembered.

Stakeholders agreed that what exists now is “not a healthy aquatic ecosystem,” says Selig, the vice president of programs for the National Forest Foundation.

What has emerged is a plan that would create five to seven miles of a meandering, ox-bowed Eagle River in the valley bottom as it winds around to the east, from the Climax Mine. The work would also create 200 acres of wetlands. The dirt moving would create a 300-foot-wide flood plain or riparian area.

A related but somewhat separate effort involves creating an even stronger historical presence. A pullout along Highway 24 has exhibits, but the 10th Mountain has enough of a compelling story to justify a book. In fact, about 10 of them have been written, along with films and other remembrances.

In Italy, the 10th Mountain engaged in fierce fighting in the Apennine Mountains of Italy. Among the veterans were Fritz Benedict, the architect who was an integral part of the post-World War II revitalization of Aspen, and Pete Seibert, who also spent several years in Aspen during its early incarnation as a ski town before eventually creating Vail. The two are just the tip of the ski history iceberg involving Camp Hale.

Then there are side-stories. Camp Hale was also used to hold prisoners of war, in particular those of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Corps. For mystifying reasons, the Army also stationed German sympathizers deemed too risky to become front-line soldiers next to the POW camp.

One of them included a brilliant Harvard- trained philologist, Dale Maple, who engineered an escape with two POWs. As told in a New Yorker story, they made it as a far as Mexico before being apprehended.

What it will take

What will it take to get the Eagle River out of its straitjacket? Money, obviously. The cost has been estimated at $10 to $20 million. The plan also needs Forest Service approval. The proposal is currently being reviewed under the National Environmental Policy Act process.

“It’s not happening anytime soon,” says Selig, of dirt-moving. “It’s a multi-year project. In the best-case scenario we would start work in 2018.”

One possibility is that wetlands created at Eagle Park could be used to offset wetlands destroyed elsewhere, such as by creation of a reservoir. One such reservoir is among the options on nearby Homestake Creek being studied by two Front Range cities and their Western Slope partners. Such in- lieu payments would provide money.

Another possibility is if Camp Hale gets federal designation as a national historic landscape. The idea was proffered by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet on Memorial Day. No such designation classification now exists. It would literally take an act of Congress. But there is some speculation that a designation could also produce money for river restoration along with historical preservation.

Plans for Camp Hale call for a loosening of the Eagle River into a setting resembling what existed prior to 1942. Graphic via The Mountain Town News.
Plans for Camp Hale call for a loosening of the Eagle River into a setting resembling what existed prior to 1942. Graphic via The Mountain Town News.

“That would be wonderful,” says Aaron Mayville, district ranger for the Eagle-Holy Cross District of the Forest Service, of the idea of federal funding. However, he also reports he has seen nothing in writing.

Mayville reports that the Army Corps of Engineers this year, in addition to trying to find old bullets and perhaps mortars with a metal detector, has been working to clean up asbestos. “They used asbestos building materials at just about every building out there,” he says. He says the final work on asbestos removal will occur this fall.

Whatever happens in the future, says Mayville, the plans must honor the reality that there have been both multiple historic and current users. “It’s a very complex piece of ground,” he says.

Selig says the National Forest Foundation’s plan recognizes these different histories and the multiplicity of current stakeholders. “We are not doing full ecological restoration. We not putting it back to exactly what it was. We are not leaving all history untouched,” he says. It is a “vision built on compromise.”

This story was originally published in the Aspen (Colo.) Daily News on Sept. 25.

#ColoradoRiver: Inside the Glen Canyon Dam during a high-flow experiment #COriver — #Arizona Daily Sun

The generator building of Glen Canyon hydro power plant in Arizona via Wikimedia.
The generator building of Glen Canyon hydro power plant in Arizona via Wikimedia.

From The Arizona Daily Sun (Taylor Hartman):

In an attempt to restore some natural flow to the Colorado River, high flow experiments are conducted from Glen Canyon Dam. Taking tips from Mother Nature, these experiments mimic natural floods that occurred before the construction of the dam. On Monday, November 7, one such experiment began, freeing a large quantity of water from Lake Powell reservoir over the span of five days.

During the controlled flood, the view from the steel bridge changes: the awakened Colorado River thrashes in the canyon below. Water flows through the hydroelectric generators and erupts from four river outlet tubes, with its roar reverberating off the canyon walls and mist sparkling under the warm November sun. Dazzling white due to immense pressure, 36,000 cubic feet of water bursts from the dam every second. This peak flow is four to six times greater than usual discharge, and lasted for 92 hours.

While the bridge offers an incredible view of the dam, canyon, river and reservoir, tours bring visitors inside the dam daily. From within the cold walls of the dam, the sound of rushing water is accompanied by the rhythm of generators turning at 150 rounds per minute. During the experiment, these generators still produce hydroelectric power, but less than usual. The Bureau of Reclamation says that all power demands will still be met.

The ground floor of the dam tour is at river level, and the 710-foot dam is even more impressive when viewed from the bottom. At this level, the sound of water overpowers all other noise, and wild emerald waves crash against concrete and sandstone. As floodwaters leave the dam and travel through Grand Canyon, sediment is picked up from tributary rivers and suspended in the tumultuous flow. The experiment is timed to follow an influx of sand from the Paria River, enabling the flood to redistribute it throughout the river corridor.

Downstream, the river corridor is cleansed: low vegetation is ripped from riverbanks, beaches are submerged, and sand is suspended and deposited. The flood affects campers and rafters through Grand Canyon. People recreating near or on the Colorado River were encouraged to be on alert, camp on high, stable beaches, and practice leave-no-trace ethics. On the other side of the dam, water level at Lake Powell has dropped more than three feet.

This flood is the latest release in a series of high flow experiments since 1996. Controlled floods have the potential to enlarge sandbars and beaches downstream of Glen Canyon Dam, which could provide ecological and recreational benefits. These benefits include: improving the habitat of native fish such as the endangered humpback chub, reducing erosion of archaeological sites, restoring vegetation, and increasing the size of beaches.

As the flood ramps down, the river returns to its usual controlled flow condition. The promising white blast from the outlet tubes subsides, and the buzzing of the generators recaptures the soundscape at Glen Canyon Dam. Scientists will continue to monitor Colorado River conditions in order to understand how this flow affects downstream ecosystem and resources, and to plan future floods. The Bureau of Reclamation says that the occurrence and intensity of future high flow experiments will depend on weather, sediment influx from tributaries, and other resource conditions.

November 2012 High Flow Experiment via Protect the Flows
November 2012 High Flow Experiment via Protect the Flows

#ColoradoRiver: High-Flow Experiment Underway at Glen Canyon Dam Simulates Natural Flooding through Grand Canyon — @USBR

November 2012 High Flow Experiment via Protect the Flows
November 2012 High Flow Experiment via Protect the Flows

From the US Bureau of Reclamation (Marlon Duke):

Releases from dam help restore ecological health without affecting water commitments

The U.S. Department of the Interior today initiated another high-flow release of water from Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona under an innovative science-based experimental plan. The fourth such release, the goal is to enhance the environment in Grand Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area while continuing to meet water and power delivery needs and allowing continued scientific experimentation and monitoring on the Colorado River.

“Healthy watersheds are critical to the economy and environment, and our science-based approach demonstrates that protecting water supplies alongside other resources tied to the river are not only compatible but instrinsically linked,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “This latest release will provide critical fish and wildlife habitat, reduce erosion of archaeological sites and enhance recreational opportunities while meeting our obligations to water users in the region.”

The 96-hour-release will pick up enough sand from tributary channels to fill a building as big as a football field and as tall as the Washington Monument, all the way to the brim. These hundreds of thousands of tons of sediment will be re-deposited along downstream reaches as sandbars and beaches along the Colorado River, mimicking natural river flow.

The high-volume experimental releases are designed to restore sand features and associated backwater habitats to provide key fish and wildlife habitat, potentially reduce erosion of archaeological sites, restore and enhance riparian vegetation, increase beaches and enhance wilderness values along the Colorado River in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon National Park. The annual volume of water to be sent toward Lake Mead this year will not change as a result of the experiment – water releases in other months will be adjusted accordingly.

The decision to conduct this experiment followed substantial consultation with Colorado River Basin states, American Indian Tribes and involved federal agencies, including five Interior agencies – Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In planning the release, officials considered the amount of sediment available in the river; the condition of cultural and archaeological resources near the river; biological resources such as endangered species, the Lees Ferry recreational fishery and riparian vegetation; and seasonal demands for water and hydroelectric power deliveries. During and after the release, the USGS Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center will gather a variety of scientific data, including how beaches and sandbars change, differences in sediment concentration and composition, and water quality.

Recognizing the importance of annual water deliveries and dependable hydroelectric power generation, the Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992 (Public Law 102-575) directed the Secretary of the Interior to manage Glen Canyon Dam in such a way as to “protect, mitigate adverse impacts to, and improve the values for which Grand Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area were established.”

Former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar triggered the first release under the experimental long-term protocol in November 2012. The protocol calls for conducting more frequent high-flow experimental releases and timing them to occur following sediment inputs to the Colorado River downstream from Glen Canyon Dam.

Department of the Interior officials remind recreational users to use extreme caution during the high flows when on or along the Colorado River through Glen, Marble and Grand Canyons. Flow-level information will be posted at multiple locations in both Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon National Park.

Additional information about this high flow experiment—including flow information, campsite maps and shoreline modeling—is available at the following websites:

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation – http://www.usbr.gov/uc/rm/gcdHFE/index.html
National Park Service – https://www.nps.gov/grca/learn/nature/hfe.htm

Before and after photos of results of the high flow experiment in 2008 via USGS
Before and after photos of results of the high flow experiment in 2008 via USGS