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Stone Creek Restoration Project – Partner Highlight

EagleVail Metro District completed a restoration project on Stone Creek this fall – the first in a four-phase, ten-year plan.

Eagle River Watershed Council is proud to share stories of successful stream projects and water planning initiatives in our valley. We would like to take a moment to highlight one such restoration project that took place this past fall in EagleVail. The EagleVail Metro District along with its contributing partners successfully completed phase one of the Stone Creek Restoration Project.

Nestled in between the 18-hole golf course and residential community, Stone Creek had been manipulated over the community’s 45-year history and some of those manipulations had impacts on the stream’s health. Brent Barnum, superintendent of golf courses & parks, and Steven Barber, EagleVail Metro District’s manager, took on the task of restoring this beautiful mountain stream. After securing funding from partners and grants for the project, they worked with Scott Schreiber from Wright Water Engineers to assess priorities and create a project plan. The 10-year multi-phase approach will be the guideline for future stream related projects. Phase one priorities included: creating a cohesive flowing waterway with natural features (such as riffles to improve streamflow); improving fish passage; and removing man-made structure. Additionally, the brown trout that reside in this stream will flourish with the creation of new pools for spawning as well as removal of the obstructions preventing them from reaching these areas before. Phase two (slated for 2021) will focus on alluvial ponds (near holes 6 & 11) which have widened, causing temperature-related ecosystem issues. 

Kudos to the EagleVail team for their efforts. For more information about the project – feel free to contact Brent Barnum at bbarnum@eaglevail.org.


Local river lover wins a Rocky Mountain Raft for peak flow prediction

John Christensen Wins Raft

Eagle River Watershed Council’s inaugural Peak Flow Prediction contest provided the opportunity to win a Rocky Mountain Raft for anyone who could correctly guess the date of the Eagle River’s peak.

With all of the late snow, cooler early summer temperatures and rain, runoff in the Eagle was prolonged and the peak was later this year than typical, peaking on July 1 at 11 a.m. with a flow of 7,480 cubic feet per second.

The contest had just short of 150 guesses submitted. The contestants had varying knowledge and experience — some drawing on years of data available online, others on gut extinct. However, the majority guessed that flows would peak around the first two weeks of June with flows between 4000 and 6000 cfs at the Gypsum gauge.

In a typical year, one of those guesses might have been the winner, but this year was anything but typical. The winner was the contestant that made the latest guess of June 29 — Jon Christensen of Eagle.

Another contestant guessed June 29 so the tie-breakers of time and flow had to be used to determine Timm Paxson of Vail as the runner-up. Paxson will enjoy a three-day canoe trip for two with Centennial Canoe Outfitters. The third-place winner, Jill Kelsall of Avon, walks away with a $500 dining certificate from Vail Resorts.

Like many of the winners, Kelsall made three guesses and also walked away the winner of fifth place, which was three dry bags from Sea to Summit. Joe Robinson of Edwards took home an Orvis backpack for the fourth-place guess and Gary Brooks grabbed the sixth place prize of two REI day packs.
In a release, Watershed Council executive director Holly Loff said, “This contest was a lot of fun, people really got into it. And it raised over $2,000 for our outreach programs and stream restoration projects. Thanks to everyone that participated.”

The Watershed Council plans to run the contest again next April. Contest information will be announced in their newsletter, The Current, in the spring. Registration for the newsletter is free online at erwc.org.

The Watershed Council has a mission to advocate for the health and conservation of the Upper Colorado and Eagle River basins through research, education, and projects. Contact the Watershed Council at (970) 827-5406 or visit www.erwc.org.

This article ran in the Vail Daily on July 17, 2019.

Community rallies to get tires out of Eagle River

We have come a long way in how we care for our rivers. Before the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, it was common to dump chemicals, trash, and waste into our rivers.

In fact, as recently as the 1940s and 50s, Minturn’s outhouses famously emptied directly into the Eagle River. The Eagle River also suffered from the tailings and contaminated water dumped directly into the river from operations at the Eagle Mine long before the mine overflowed and turned the river orange in the 80s, leading to the creation of the current Superfund site.

Humans both revere our rivers and try to bend them to our will. A good local example is at Camp Hale, where we straightened the curves of the river with tons of fill to fit its military operations, only to try to restore the ecosystem back to health with the original twists and turns today. One of the historic ways used to try to stabilize riverbanks was — believe it or not— with tires.

Today, we recognize better success with native riparian plants and their long and sturdy root structure, large boulders, and increased community education on the importance of these sensitive and critical areas where the land meets the river.

As a result of these old riverbank stabilizing practices, as well as the ignorant dumping of tires into the river, there is an undeniable tire pollution problem in the Eagle River. These tires collect near the confluence with Lake Creek in Edwards as the river abruptly slows in this area.

In fact, the 77-mile-long Eagle River drops 2,400 feet over its first 39 miles, but only descends 600 feet over the next 38 miles. The river faces a slight uphill near Lake Creek and is essentially an online pond where the tires were recovered. The decrease in slope and speed allows for anything being carried by the fast current upstream, such as tires, to drop down to the bottom of the riverbed.

The historically low flows last year revealed a shocking amount of tires lining the bed of the Eagle River right below the confluence with Lake Creek in Edwards. Thanks to the initiative of then-6-year-old Suri Raol, an effort to remove these tires from the river was set into motion.

After several years of communicating with authorities and working on best removal practices, Suri and her parents, Vik and Susan Raol, and their neighbors, Greg and Stephanie Keough, collected over 200 tires from the river bed. Their hard work culminated on April 13 when 30 local volunteers came out to remove the tires from the bar they had been stashed on and transported them to a staging location to be recycled by the Tires4Ward program through Bridgestone Tires.

Along with the tires removed from the river, another set of tires that was diligently collected by Eagle County staff during a recent Lake Creek Village community cleanup effort brought the total number of tires to be recycled to approximately 350.

What effect do degrading tires have on our aquatic ecosystems? The breakdown of rubber in our rivers changes the biochemistry of the water, negatively affecting our aquatic life. When the sun hits the tires, they release chemicals such as PCBs, PETs, DEHPs, antimicrobials, and bioretardants, which are then consumed by the food chain.

How can you help? First, recycle your tires properly. You can find details on how to do this with the help of one of our partners, Walking Mountains Science Center, here. If you see someone dumping tires illegally into the river, you can call (970) 328-8758.

Finally, we encourage you to get involved. The Watershed Council hosts the annual Community Pride Highway Cleanup in the spring and the Eagle River Cleanup in the fall, which are great ways to get out with your friends and family and clean tires and other trash out of our roadways and rivers! Find more information on our volunteer programs at http://www.erwc.org

Kate Isaacson is the Projects & Events Coordinator for Eagle River Watershed Council. The Watershed Council has a mission to advocate for the health and conservation of the Upper Colorado and Eagle River basins through research, education, and projects. Contact the Watershed Council at (970) 827-5406 or visit www.erwc.org.

This article ran in the Vail Daily on June 13, 2019.