#AnimasRiver: @EPA to use “adaptive management” strategy for Bonita Peak Superfund site

On April 7, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear.
Eric Baker

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

The Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site, which includes 48 mining-related sites around Silverton, is one of six Superfunds nationwide to be part of the study, referred to as an “adaptive management” strategy.

“We are really excited about this for Bonita Peak,” said Christina Progess, Superfund remedial project manager.

In May 2017, then-EPA administrator Scott Pruitt formed a task force to think about ways to speed up Superfund cleanups, which in some cases can take decades to complete.

A month later, the task force recommended an “adaptive management” strategy that would improve and accelerate the process. Government agencies have used adaptive management since at least the 1970s, but the task force’s move made it formal for EPA.

Kate Garufi, an environmental engineer for EPA who is also chairwoman of the adaptive management task work force, said that some Superfund sites are large and complex, and it can take years to formulate a long-term cleanup plan.

“When you look at Superfund, it’s historically been very linear with a site investigation, evaluating alternatives, selecting a decision and implementing it, which can take a very long time,” she said.

Adaptive management, however, allows the EPA to target quicker projects year to year while a comprehensive solution is investigated, Garufi said.

“We’ll be able to take early actions and see those benefits while we continue to evaluate the entire basin,” she said.

The strategy made perfect sense for Bonita Peak, Progess said, which at 48 individual mining sites across the entire headwaters of the Animas River Basin is one of the larger and more complicated Superfund sites in the country.

As part of the adaptive management, Bonita Peak will be part of the 12-month study, which will set various goals and engage the local community.

“Because we are so early in the investigative process at Bonita Peak, adaptive management will help us set those goals and how to achieve them,” Progess said…

In June 2018, the EPA released a “quick action” plan for cleanup work at 26 mining sites over the next five years to be conducted while the agency comes up with a more long-term, comprehensive strategy to address mine pollution around Silverton.

The plan met resistance from local groups and individuals who say the plan fails to first quantify the benefits and goals that would result from the action plan, which would cost millions of dollars to clean up sites considered smaller contributors of pollution.

Thomas said the adaptive management will help refine that plan. She said a final decision, called an interim Record of Decision, could be issued within the next month or so.

On Wednesday, Thomas also addressed the concern that the partial government shutdown, which lasted 35 days, would cause the EPA to lose a summer season’s worth of work at Bonita Peak.

“Of course everyone here at EPA was dismayed about government shutdown, and it’s good to get back to work,” Thomas said. “Clearly there have been some impacts to the work we were all doing, but we’re doing our best to make sure we can take advantage of a full summer season.”

#SouthPlatte River Master Plan presentations, February 12, 2019

South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

Authorized and funded by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the South Platte Master Plan was launched two years ago to find ways to make the river more “flood resilient,” both to handle the flooding as it occurs, with minimal damage to property and structures, and to quickly recover from a flood in the aftermath.

The project area includes 130 miles of the South Platte River from the Weld-Morgan County Line to the Nebraska state line.

Project representatives will present the plan Feb. 12 at the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District’s board of directors meeting at 9 a.m., then meet with the Logan County Water Conservancy District board at 11 a.m. The plan will be presented again at 1 p.m. at the CSU Engagement Center.

Both conservancy districts are interested in seeing how they can work with the Master Plan…

The LCWCD recently decided to change its focus away from the idea of building a flood control dam across Pawnee Creek. Miller has said the “big project” simply isn’t feasible and may not be for some time. Instead, the district will shift its focus to smaller projects that will mitigate flooding in the immediate future.

The Lower South Platte district, meanwhile, is interested in finding water storage potential and funding for storage projects along the lower reaches of the river.

The meetings on Feb. 12 are public meetings but space is limited in all of the venues.

Lower Ark board meeting recap

Fountain Creek photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District

From The La Junta Tribune-Democrat (Bette McFarren):

Peter Nichols, an attorney for the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, at the agency’s meeting Wednesday, updated the board on the long-standing controversy with Colorado Springs concerning water quality in Fountain Creek…

A lawsuit filed by the Environmental Protection Agency in November 2017 alleges the City of Colorado Springs’ stormwater system degraded the creek on its way to Pueblo and, eventually, the Arkansas River. The Pueblo Board of County Commissioners and the LAVWCD were permitted to intervene in the case, on the side of the environmental agency.

On Nov. 9, Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch ruled that Colorado Springs violated its permit that regulates stormwater discharges into Fountain Creek.

Following Matsch’s decision, the parties asked the judge to put the litigation on hold for three months, to see if they could agree how to remedy the city’s violations. That request was granted.

The post-trial settlement conferences were scheduled for Dec. 6, 2018; Jan. 10 (which was cancelled because of the federal government shutdown); Feb. 7, March 7, April 11 and May 9.

Flood, fire preparations could save U.S. billions of dollars — @CUBoulderNews #ActOnClimate

Air search for flood victims September 2013 via Pediment Publishing

Here’s the release from the University of Colorado (Daniel Strain):

Communities that act now to protect themselves from future hazards like earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and wildfires can save themselves as much as $11 for every $1 that they initially invest, according to recent research.

The findings are part of an update to “Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves.” This landmark report was first published in 2005 by the National Institute of Building Sciences and was led by CU Boulder’s Keith Porter, who also spearheaded the most recent findings.

The report examines how homeowners, developers and municipalities might save lives and money in the long term by implementing a variety of mitigation efforts before a disaster strikes. That might mean raising houses above floodplains or strengthening office buildings against earthquakes.

There’s a lot to be gained from that kind of forward thinking, said Porter, a research professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering.

“Natural hazard mitigation saves,” Porter said. “Mitigation can be a costly decision, but this study should help people to make a more informed choice about how to save their property and their wellbeing.”

His research shows that communities in the United States stand to save billions of dollars by making sure that new structures meet, or exceed, the International Building Code—a set of widely-adopted recommendations for designing safe buildings. Such measures could also prevent an estimated 600 deaths and one million injuries at the same time.

Porter and his colleagues released their findings this week at the Building Innovation 2019 conference in Washington, D.C.

Staying safe
The report comes after a record-breaking wildfire season in California. This year, one blaze alone—the Camp Fire—killed more than 80 people and consumed roughly 14,000 homes in the northern part of the state.

It also matters for Colorado, where large numbers of residents are vulnerable to wildfires and flooding. Wildfires burned hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Colorado in 2018—one of the worst fire years on record for the state. Historic flash floods in September 2013 destroyed or damaged thousands of homes across the Front Range.

More stringent codes can limit some of the biggest losses from such events, Porter said. Most states and communities in the U.S. have requirements for how buildings weather natural hazards. But research suggest that they may not go far enough, and many older buildings still fall short of these codes.

Porter pointed to the case of existing codes that require homes to sit a foot above the 100-year flood level…

“That doesn’t make your house floodproof. There’s still a significant chance that a flood would be higher than that,” Porter said. “It’s actually cost-effective in many places to build up to 5 feet above the base flood elevation.”

Saving money
To put numbers on the benefits from such mitigation efforts, Porter and his colleagues turned to a wide range of data to write their 2005 report. That includes records from past disasters and computer simulations that test how buildings might respond to future floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires.

What they found in the most recent update was staggering: While the benefits vary from place to place, communities in the U.S. on average may save $11 in the decades ahead for every $1 they spend now to meet current building codes. Going beyond those codes, too, can bring an extra $4 for every $1 spent.

Those gains come in a variety of forms. When buildings are built to better withstand earthquakes, for example, more stores stay open after a big tremor and fewer people go to the hospital for injuries.

The new round of numbers, together with a related report published last year, were also the first to look at the benefits that come from safeguarding buildings against wildfires. According to the team’s calculations, communities living at the edges of forests can save $4 for every $1 they spend to plan ahead for flames. Common recommendations include creating “defensible” spaces free of brush and other flammable material around homes.

“As we saw from the California wildfires last year, that’s crucial,” Porter said. “If you don’t build for fire resistance, you run a much higher risk of having your home burn down.”

He acknowledges that those sorts of measures can be costly in the short term. But Porter hopes that his group’s findings will motivate governments and other entities to do more to help home and business owners plan for the inevitable.

“You can spend money up front to better prepare for a disaster, and that should save you in the long run,” Porter said.

Winter Water Quality Tips — @GreeleyGov

Platte River photo credit US Bureau of Reclamation.

From the City of Greeley:

Winter in Colorado marks an exciting time of year. It means skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowshoeing, and ice fishing. But winter can also mean dangerous driving conditions.

What we do to help mitigate dangerous road conditions can take a toll on our natural resources if we are not careful. What we put on our roads and driveways today may end up in our lakes, rivers, and streams tomorrow. Salt, sand, and deicers make their way into storm sewer systems and travel into local water bodies. Concentrated doses of chloride-based deicers are potentially lethal to aquatic plants and invertebrates. The introduction of sand to waterways can increase turbidity and degrade both the aesthetics and quality of the water.

Consider these best practices during the winter to help reduce pollution in our local bodies of water.

  • Shovel your driveway early during a snowfall and maintain it throughout. This will reduce the need for salt, sand, and other deicing agents by preventing ice from build-up on your driveway.
  • Use deicers according to manufacturer’s recommendations and use salt and sand sparingly, and only as needed.
  • Sweep up excess sand, salt, and deicers.
  • Consider environmentally friendly alternatives like calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), or cracked corn for traction.
  • For more information on Stormwater, visit Greeleygov.com/Stormwater

    #ColoradoSprings scores $4.6 million from FEMA for two high priority stormwater projects

    Douglas Creek, Colorado Springs. Photo credit: Pam Zubeck/Colorado Springs Independent

    Here’s the release from the City of Colorado Springs:

    Thanks to grant funding totaling $4.6 million awarded through FEMA to the State of Colorado, work will soon begin on two separate mitigation projects in Colorado Springs to restore a severely degraded drainage channel along Douglas Creek and Pine Creek.

    The first grant, for $2,612,325, will fund a bank stabilization project along a 1,100-foot stretch of Douglas Creek, just south of Garden of the Gods Road that is threatening I-25, Sinton Road, major utilities and surrounding business property. This area eroded during 2013 and 2015 flood events, continues to erode today and was identified as a finding in the 2013 EPA audit of the City’s MS4 permit.

    When complete, this stretch of Douglas Creek will be designed to withstand a 100-year flood event. It will function as a natural stream corridor, build resilience in future events by restoring floodplain function, and will help downstream communities by reducing sediment in the Fountain Creek watershed.

    The second grant, for $2,005,125, will fund restoration and stabilization along a 1,750 foot section of Pine Creek that has experienced signification erosion and bank failure since the 2013 flood. This project will use natural channel construction to reconnect with the natural floodplain and will utilize an upstream detention pond to be constructed separately by the City. The stabilization of this area will protect adjacent properties and significantly reduce a heavy sediment load currently impacting downstream areas.

    FEMA’s grant represents 75 percent of the total cost for the project; total cost is approximately $3,483,100 for Douglas Creek and approximately $2,673,500 for Pine Creek. The 25 percent match will come from the City.

    The 25 percent local grant match funding was made possible through a provision in the City’s Inter-Governmental Agreement with Pueblo that earmarks funds that can be leveraged toward grants for much larger projects.

    Federal funding is provided through FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program, which is designed to assist states, U.S. territories, federally-recognized tribes, and local communities in implementing a sustained pre-disaster natural hazard mitigation program. The goal is to reduce overall risk to the population and structures from future hazard events, while also reducing reliance on federal funding in future disasters.

    From KRDO (Scott Harrison):

    City officials announced last week that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide a $4.6 million grant from a pre-disaster mitigation program, designed to reduce risk and spending from future disasters.

    FEMA is paying 75 percent of the cost of two projects to stabilize creek banks and stop erosion caused by flooding in 2013 and 2015.

    The city will use $2.6 million of the grant on a section of Douglas Creek, below Sinton Road and south of the interchange at Interstate 25 and Garden of the Gods Road.

    Erosion at that location is affecting two adjacent commercial properties, has already damaged some utility lines and could eventually undermine Sinton Road.

    The city will use the remaining grant on a similar project in Pine Creek, near the intersection of Briargate Parkway and Chapel Hills Drive.

    Homes line both sides of the creek but are closer on the north side, where some work has been done to improve drainage and reduce erosion.

    The Pine Creek project will include an upstream retention pond to prevent flash flooding and erosion by holding runoff during heavy storm events and gradually releasing it later.

    The actual cost of both projects is $6.1 million but the city is paying 25 percent to qualify for the 75 percent match from FEMA.

    Fountain Creek lawsuit negotiations update

    The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Robert Boczkiewicz):

    Negotiations are underway between Pueblo County, a water conservancy district and environmental protection agencies on one side, and Colorado Springs on the other side, to resolve disputes of many years regarding that city’s defiling of Fountain Creek.

    The Pueblo Chieftain has obtained court documents stating that the parties in a two-year-old lawsuit are trying to reach an agreement to settle it, instead of pursuing it further in the U.S. District Court for Colorado.

    Both sides have met three times in recent weeks “to discuss potential resolution of the (lawsuit) without further litigation,” states a court document filed last week at the court in Denver. It was filed by Pueblo County commissioners, the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Public Health and Environment.

    Those four entities sued Colorado Springs in 2016, claiming the city violated clean water laws by discharging excessive stormwater and pollutants into the creek, which flows through Pueblo County into the Arkansas River at Pueblo.

    After a trial, the judge overseeing the case decided on Nov. 9 in favor of the four entities that sued. Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch ruled Colorado Springs violated its permit that regulates stormwater discharges into Fountain Creek.

    The four entities in the court fight with Colorado Springs state in the new court document that the discussions so far “were productive.” They and the city asked the judge to put litigation on hold for three months, to see if they can agree how to remedy the city’s violations.

    Matsch on Thursday granted the request.