summit daily news
summit daily news
Today’s gridlock deeply frustrates leaders in some mountain communities where, for years, watershed groups have been ready to restore ruined streams.
“In short, perfect is the enemy of the good,” said Elizabeth Russell, manager of mine-restoration efforts for the conservation group Trout Unlimited.
VILLA GROVE — Trout Unlimited’s Kerber Creek Restoration Project has received the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s 2010 Hardrock Mineral Environmental Award.
The BLM award is given to organizations that highlight environmental stewardship and acknowledges exceptional track records of meeting or exceeding federal, state or local reclamation requirements.
“This project would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of our project partners at the BLM and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, as well as from local landowners who are invested in restoring the creek from the effects of mining,” said Elizabeth Russell, Trout Unlimited’s manager for the project.
Issues with blockage in the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Leadville Tunnel erupted two years ago, leading to a major drilling project to relieve pressure from water backed up in drain tunnels.
The goal of the Lake Fork group is to avoid the same sort of controversy over cleanup efforts by bringing agencies, landowners and environmental groups together, said Melissa Wolfe, another faculty member who works with the team.
“The outreach has been a challenge, but we’ve had good participation from the agencies that are involved,” Wolfe said.
A core of landowners who helped form the working group are still active but do not attend meetings as often as in the past, said Cathy Patti, CMC contract administrator.
Federal agencies include the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Geological Survey, EPA, Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service.
State agencies include the Department of Public Health and Environment, Division of Wildlife and the Division of Reclamation and Mining Safety.
Local government, landowners and Trout Unlimited are also connected to the process.
“This is great news—we have been working on this project for years and are glad that the (EPA has provided TU with this additional protection,” said Elizabeth Russell, project manager. “The risk of a release of hazardous waste from the tailings was very minimal, but we are grateful for the agency’s faith in TU to achieve results,” Russell said.
The Kerber Creek project is located at the north end of the San Luis Valley in Colorado. Historic mining along Kerber Creek led to metals pollution and a degraded stream channel, requiring it to be places on the list of Colorado’s most impaired waterways.
Since 2008, Trout Unlimited and its partners have spent more than $1.3 million on restoration efforts along Kerber Creek. Working with the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado’s Nonpoint Source Program, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and local landowners, the goal is to treat 60 acres of mine tailings using lime, limestone and compost, and to restore the stream for fish and wildlife habitat.
Elizabeth Russell, who manages Trout Unlimited’s efforts on Kerber Creek, said the mine tailings the group encountered on private lands were hazardous enough that it wanted protection from liability. That led to a year of negotiations that resulted in the draft, she said. If finalized, the agreement would cover Trout Unlimited’s past actions.
The agreement is only the second of its kind, following on the heels of one the agency and Trout Unlimited signed to clean up the American Fork River in Utah.
By MATT HILDNER
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
Elizabeth Russell, who works on Kerber Creek and other mine cleanup projects for Trout Unlimited, said the legislation also would likely free up funding from government agencies and other organizations who might have shied away from doing so because of the liability concern.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” she said.
The bill, titled the “Good Samaritan Cleanup of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act” is in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.