EAGLE POST 40

The newsletter of Friends of Eagles Nest Wilderness, apprising you of important activities in and around Eagles Nest, Holy Cross, and Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness Areas. 
Before we begin... we urgently need volunteers for 2 projects:
1. HELP! Lily Pad Lakes Wetland Crossing Project - Saturday September 14:  Meet at Dillon Ranger District Office (MAP) at 8:30 AM. Safety meeting, project overview, and morning snacks before carpooling to Lily Pad Lakes Trailhead at the top of Wildernest.  Bring gloves, hiking boots, head gear – tools provided.  Sign-up in advance with project leader KIM FENSKE. See below essay for more.

2. HELP! with east Vail Trailhead surveys - Booth, Gore, Pitkin, and Bighorn THs Sept 19-29. We have many 2 or 4 hour time slots. SEE BELOW essay for details. THANKS!
 
September 2019
Dear *|FNAME|*
BRWG logoGreetings! Our topic this month is

The Blue River Watershed Group
By Jennifer Hopkins
INTRODUCTION: 
Pity the poor Blue River. It may not have burned like the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, but it has been roughed up repeatedly over the last 160 years.
 
In the 19th century, John Frémont and party traveled the river's length from mouth to headwaters (1843) and described its pristine beauties, which had been maintained in that state by the resident Ute Indians for more than ten-thousand years. Read Frémont's description HERE
 
Just a few decades later things were changing, bigtime, owing to mining activities around Breckenridge. In 1866 William Byers and friends crossed the Ute Pass (about 30 miles downstream from Breckenridge), and Bayard Taylor described the view in his book Colorado: A Summer Trip. After waxing poetic over the view of the Gore Range, Taylor noted, "The usual line of cotton-wood betrayed a stream, and when we caught a glimpse of the water, its muddy tint - the sure sign of gold-washing - showed that we had found the Blue River."
 
Colorado RiversThere followed in the 20th century the dams at Green Mountain and Dillon, and an attempt by the Denver Water Board to build a canal that would have diverted water from every creek in the Gores (including those on the west side) into Lake Dillon (see an earlier eNewsletter by State Senator Kerry Donovan).
 
Into the 21st century flowed the Blue, and early on (2004) a new organization was formed - finally - to protect the watershed. The Blue River Watershed Group (BRWG) has already completed a number of educational, planning and river restoration projects. Read about this forward-looking group below in the article by BRWG Coordinator Jennifer Hopkins.
 
Next month: BRWG is currently addressing a vexing problem, namely the loss of Gold Medal fishing status along a stretch of the Blue River downstream from Silverthorne. In an attempt to identify the cause, they are studying the roles of degraded habitat, unnatural stream flow, and sparse aquatic invertebrate populations. We hope to bring you details of this work next month.



THE BLUE RIVER WATERSHED GROUP
By Jennifer Hopkins
 
Blue RIver WatershedDid you know that over 30% of Denver’s municipal water supply comes from the Blue River watershed? The majority of Colorado’s precipitation occurs on the western slope of the continental divide while the majority of Colorado’s population lives along the eastern slope, requiring the trans-mountain diversion of water. Dillon Reservoir is Denver Water’s largest water storage facility, capable of holding nearly 84 billion gallons. The water is diverted to the South Platte River Basin via the 23.3-mile Harold D. Roberts tunnel, one of the largest diversion tunnels in the world.  Green Mountain Reservoir, owned and operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, is also an important part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project (C-BT), which diverts water from the Colorado river to the northern front range via the 13.1-mile Adams tunnel. Green Mountain Reservoir provides compensatory water storage for the Western Slope to offset diversions made through C-BT.

The Blue River is approximately 65 miles in length and flows northward from Quandary Peak, at an elevation of 14,270 feet, to the confluence with the Colorado River just south of Kremmling, at an elevation of 7,400 feet. The watershed is a headwater for the Colorado River and drains an area of approximately 680 square miles, including all of Summit County, and small portions of Grand and Lake Counties. Most of the annual stream flow results from snow melt during spring and early summer, while short, intense, thunderstorms can produce significant rainfall events in July and August. Summit County is known for its scenic beauty and abundant outdoor recreation opportunities which rely on adequate snowfall, stream flows and healthy river systems. Coined “Colorado’s Playground”, the watershed is home to some of North America’s most visited ski resorts and our scenic waters and forests attract outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world.

The Blue River watershed is one of the most important watersheds in Colorado. The health and sustainability of mountain water is vitally important to the overall health and well being of the entire state. Recognizing the need for strategic planning for Colorado’s growing water needs, especially in light of increasing variability of water supply, such as severe droughts followed by severe flooding in the same year, the State adopted the Colorado Water Plan in 2016 (read the plan HERE). The Water Plan lays out a roadmap for water management, particularly through locally-driven and collaboratively found solutions to water issues. One objective of the Plan is to have stream management plans in place for 80% of Colorado’s important rivers and streams, including the Blue River. A stream management plan, also known as an integrated water management plan, allows communities to better understand their water resources and how to utilize those resources in the face of growth and an increasingly warmer and drier climate. The plans are intended to utilize biological, hydrological, geomorphological, and other data to assess stream flows and other conditions necessary to support the environmental, agricultural, and recreational values of the local community while respecting the rights of consumptive water users.
PlanColorado’s Water Plan emphasizes that “watershed health management involves collaboration among many interested entities” and this is perhaps nowhere more applicable than the Blue River watershed, which spans across a number of boundaries and jurisdictions, including federal, state, local and privately-owned lands. Major water uses in the watershed include: storage/reservoirs, trans-mountain diversions; agricultural irrigation; industrial mining; snowmaking; golf course irrigation; hydropower; fisheries and wildlife habitat; and municipal/domestic water providers, including approximately 3,500 wells. There are more than 1,500 legally decreed water rights throughout the basin.
The Blue River Watershed Group (BRWG) was started in 2004 as a gathering of concerned local citizens to engage on topics affecting the watershed through outreach, education and community involvement. The group received 501(c) (3) non-profit status in 2005 and is managed by a volunteer board of directors who have expertise in various fields related to water, land use and environmental stewardship. Throughout the years, BRWG has completed a number of educational, planning and river restoration projects such as:
  • co-hosting the annual State of the River event each Spring with the River Network
  • developing a watershed plan for the Snake River basin, the most disturbed river basin in Summit County, mostly due to water quality issues from abandoned mines
  • restoring, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, a crucial part of Tenmile Creek that had been heavily impacted by historic mining, timber harvesting, land use development, and railroad and highway construction
rafters on the Blue RiverAs a community driven organization, BRWG is well positioned to help steward collaborative discussion in the watershed and has partnered with Trout Unlimited to develop an Integrated Water Management Plan (IWMP) for the Blue River Basin. The long-term goal of the IWMP is to enable consumptive and non-consumptive water users and stakeholders to understand and quantify current and future water uses and integrate those uses for the maximum benefit of all and for the overall health of the watershed, all while respecting and protecting existing water rights. Phase I of the IWMP project will involve development of the plan, while Phase II will involve implementation. There are two main objectives to Phase I:
 
1. To understand the potential causes of the declining fishery between Dillon and Green Mountain reservoirs that led to the loss of Gold Medal Status for trout fishing and to determine whether (and how) the decline can be reversed or mitigated. The IWMP project team will work closely with the Blue River Enhancement Workgroup (BREW), a collection of stakeholders that has been investigating the issue for the past few years. IWMP funding will go towards integrating existing studies that BREW has conducted and implementing additional studies as needed. Some possible causes or contributing factors being looked at include water temperature, invertebrate health and phytoplankton habitat.

2: To compile, review and integrate existing studies, plans and other information regarding physical and biological aspects of the Blue River basin water resources for the purpose of formulating objectives and goals that will guide future water management decisions in Phase 2. This "inventory" of watershed data and information will identify gaps where additional studies or reports may be needed and will help identify and prioritize watershed projects for future implementation.

Stakeholder and community involvement is vital to the success of the project and an Advisory Committee has been formed that currently has representatives from over 20 stakeholders from agriculture, recreation and tourism, federal/state/local governments, water managers/providers, environmental groups, industry and land development, and individual users/property owners. We will be holding community meetings in the future to seek input and feedback on the plan from the wider public and have published a questionnaire to help gather information and data from the community. If you are interested in providing your input, please complete the questionnaire here. Learn more about the IWMP and how you can get involved HERE

The IWMP project has over $250,000 in funding from three Colorado Water Conservation Board grants: a Stream Management Plan fund grant, a Colorado Water Plan fund grant and a Water Supply Reserve fund grant; as well as donations from Blue Valley Ranch, Summit County, The Town of Silverthorne, and the Summit County Water Quality Committee. In addition, BRWG received a $100,000 WaterSMART Cooperative Watershed Management grant from the US Bureau of Reclamation. This funding will enable BRWG to grow as an organization and to take the lead on ensuring the IWMP has a long-term home for coordination, action and community involvement. There are a number of issues in the watershed that impact the quantity and quality of water, from water pollution due to historical mining activities to invasive species such as brook trout and quagga mussels. The IWMP will provide Blue River basin water users and stakeholders with a set of community-vetted goals, objectives, priorities, multi-use projects, and innovative management techniques to help guide decision-making in the future and create a tighter network of individuals and organizations working for a sustainable and healthy Blue River Watershed.

 


ABOUT JENNIFER HOPKINS
Jennifer HopkinsJennifer Hopkins is the part-time Coordinator for the Blue River Watershed Group and was hired as the result of the WaterSMART grant. She has worked with the Blue River Watershed Group since 2016, writing grants and helping to organize events and she has extensive experience in governmental and non-profit grant management, operations, and logistics. Jennifer developed a keen interest in water management issues while on assignments in Haiti and Africa as an Emergency Logistician for the International Rescue Committee, an international non-profit that supports refugees and post-conflict development. Jennifer has a degree in International Relations and Management from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and an MSc in Politics of the World Economy from the London School of Economics. 
 
The woods surrounding our backcountry lakes are suffering from the increased amount of human waste and toilet paper left by visitors. Our VWRs will be handing out WAG BAGS that have been generously donated by RESTOP, the leader in personal sanitation and hygiene in the backcountry, as well as many other venues. THANKS RESTOP!
By wag bagthe way WAG is an acronym for Waste Alleviation and Gelling. A powder absorbs the moisture (and the smell). The bag fits conveniently inside another bag and is good for 2-3 uses.
A-Basin logoA huge thanks to ARAPAHOE BASIN SKI AREAFor more than two decades, A-Basin staff have donated generously to their Employee Environmental Fund, of which FENW has been a steady beneficiary. Last year, more than 150 employees donated, led by A-Basin Director Alan Henceroth. Our enduring THANKS!
 
Business Sponsor SPOTLIGHT on  one of our major business sponsors. Developed by an oncologist for post-radiation skin therapy, Elite products provide soothing anti-aging benefits that are of special use in our intense, high altitude sunshine. Supplier to   Support ELITE - support FENW.
VOLUNTEER
EAST VAIIL TRAILHEAD: The Town of Vail and US Forest Service are again looking for volunteers to help administer surveys at the four trailheads in East Vail in September. These surveys will support a planning effort aimed at better understanding visitor use on these busy trails with goals of alleviating some of the issues the trails face.
 
The dates of the surveys are as follows:
Booth & Gore –Sept 19-22 
Pitkin & Bighorn –Sept 20-29
 
There are 2-4 hour time slots, during which people would hand out and collect surveys and answer any questions that arise. We would give you all of the training you need. This survey is very important to the planning process and will help us with determining next steps. Please contact Mike Beach or Amanda Zinn to sign up! Also, it's a lot of fun!
VOLUNTEER
SAT SEPT 14 Lily Pad Lakes Wetland Crossing Project. Meet at Dillon Ranger District Office (MAP) at 8:30 AM. Safety meeting, project overview, and morning snacks before carpooling to Lily Pad Lakes Trailhead at the top of Wildernest.  Bring gloves, hiking boots, head gear – tools provided.  Sign-up in advance with project leader:  Kim Fenske 
 
Make a donation to FENW....
 
 
... make a difference!

Check out other recent monthly eNewsletters
Hard copy newsletterThe Summer 2019 hard copy newsletter was mailed in mid-May. It contains two dozen fun and informative articles, all of them about FENW - past, present, and future. If you didn't receive a copy, then we don't have your mailing address - please send it to us at info@fenw.org
 
 
Follow us
         
Join us! Next  Planning Meeting
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 12, 5:30 PM,
USFS offices in Minturn & Silverthorne (video link)
Details at www.fenw.org/

CITY MARKET COMMUNITY REWARDS PROGRAM 
Please register your City Market Value Card, linking it to FENW, which will send rebates to FENW without compromising your earned fuel points. Please note that each card holder may only sign up for one tax exempt organization. THANKS!
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