Sneffels Creek, Lake Como, Dallas Creek...
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Happy Fall Colors!

     Students are back in school. Temperatures are dropping. Plants are preparing for winter. Water flows have decreased dramatically.

     At the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership (UWP), we are finishing up some mine remediation and water sampling projects, after a busy summer that included the Ridgway RiverFest and the San Juan Mining & Reclamation Conference. Many of the projects described in this newsletter are up in the high country where you may be headed to see the changing leaves and to get in your last few hikes, bikes and outings before winter restricts access.

     While our incredible San Juan Mountain landscape naturally contributes heavy metals to our water sources, the legacy of multiple mining operations also plays a large role in contaminating streams and making them unsuitable for aquatic life and drinking. Among UWP’s many activities, we are committed to helping remediate some of this damage and improve water quality. Please take a few moments to read about the important work being done by contractors and volunteers for UWP, as well as our partners in the watershed. 

Thank you as always for your interest and support,  Tanya Ishikawa, UWP Communications Director

Sneffels Creek diverted away from Atlas Mill mine tailings

     Five organizational partners joined the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership (UWP) this summer in a project that promises to improve water quality in Sneffels Creek, a tributary to the Uncompahgre River. Sneffels Creek is on the Clean Water Act's 303(d) List of Impaired Waters for cadmium and zinc because its water quality does not support aquatic life. Based on 2012 data collected by the Colorado Water Quality Control Division, the Sneffels Creek site above the Atlas Mill, about seven miles southwest of Ouray, met state water quality standards for cadmium and zinc, while the segment below the mill failed to meet dissolved chronic and acute zinc and chronic cadmium standards at high flows. Besides this indication that tailings might be a source of metals to the creek, erosion of the tailings by the stream's main channel as well as a braid flowing through the tailings was evident.

     UWP applied and received a grant from the state Department of Public Health and Environment Nonpoint Source Program, which is funded by the EPA. Our nonprofit also received a cash match for the grant from state’s Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, which also provided in-kind services including site assessment and project planning, review of project design and implementation. Additionally, Ouray Silver Mines, the operator of the Revenue Mine below the project, cooperated as the property owner of the area of project implementation, and made an in-kind contribution of stabilization materials. Plus, the U.S. Forest Service collaborated as a neighboring property owner.

     UWP hired Bill Coughlin of Western Stream Works to design, permit and implement the Sneffels Creek Bank Stabilization Project. His work consisted of the excavation of a new channel to prevent the creek from flowing through the tailings area, as well as the widening of the channel and floodplain on the east side to alleviate sheer stress on and erosion of the western bank where tailings are deposited. Excavation activities were managed with coffer dams to reduce downstream sediment transport.

     The project made successful use of local materials to save time, money and environmental damage by eliminating long distance transportation of heavy and fragile materials. Large boulders and loose stones were excavated from the nearby Potosi slide, transported by front-end loader and utilized in construction of vane arms on the west bank. Established willows were also harvested on-site from areas of the new channel and transplanted to disturbed areas to promote revegetation and bank stabilization. Additional native shrubs, primarily willows, will be hand planted in fall 2016, and herbaceous riparian and upland species will be seeded  in 2017.

     As the main work on the project draws to a close this fall, water quality monitoring will continue over the next few years to determine the resulting heavy metals levels in the stream. UWP will report on those findings when they become available.

See more photos and a description of the project in the presentation prepared by Bill Coughlin for the 2016 San Juan Mining & Reclamation Conference.

Water Sampling supports past and future remediation projects

     UWP contractors and volunteers completed our annual round of high-flow water sampling on July 19 and 20, to obtain data to understand the results of past remediation projects and prepare for potential future remediation projects in the watershed. Our team gathered water samples at the Michael Breen remediation project site (a project completed in 2014) and Mineral Creek, both areas off upper Engineer Pass Road (County Road 18 that leads from Ouray to Lake City), as well as Imogene Creek near Camp Bird Mine about six miles south of Ouray. Another team will visit those areas in mid-September for low-flow water sampling. The water analysis is being funded by the state's Water Quality Control Division in addition to a Nonpoint Source Program grant from the EPA through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. 

     Thank you to UWP Board Members Scott Williams and Dennis Murphy, community volunteer Patrick O’Leary; as well as Jeff Litteral, Paul Landahl, Kirstin Brown and Mark Mikos of the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety; plus Skip Feeney and Jed Davis of the  Colorado Water Quality Control Division for taking time to help on this important watershed activity. 

     UWP is also involved in a water sampling analysis project in the Lake Como area, the headwaters of the Uncompahgre Watershed. This assessment is focused on identifying sources of elevated zinc levels found in that area of the Upper Uncompahgre River, located above 11,500 feet and including private and BLM-managed federal lands. 

     Sampling conducted by the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety in 2014 and 2015 found zinc concentrations in the surface water that exceed standards for aquatic life. The primary purpose of the follow-up surface water investigation is to sample several mine sites in close proximity of the lake to identify the primary sources of the zinc loading. This information will be used to determine the need, extent and priority for cleanups in this portion of the watershed. 

     The sampling events, scheduled for late September 2016 and mid-July 2017, will be conducted by the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and EPA Region 8, in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and UWP. To read the sampling plan, go to the document on UWP's website.

     Special thanks to UWP Mine Remediation Project Manager for assisting with these sampling projects as well contributing to this article.

Dallas Creek Water Company
Water Source Protection Plan released

     This important document, released in August, outlines risks and possible impacts to the water sources that supply residents and commercial users on Log Hill Mesa, and provides best practices for controlling those risks. To learn more about the plan and how it is being implemented by this local water utility, read about an interview with Dallas Creek Water Company Administrator Joanne Fairchild.

The Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, and we rely on donations and memberships to help cover our operating expenses. Please consider becoming a member or making a donation. Donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law, and some donations may qualify for tax credits.


New Board Member

Please join us in welcoming
Michael Johnson

to the UWP board. 
You can read about Michael and why he joined the board on the UWP Board & Mission webpage. And when you see him around the
community, please thank him for volunteering to preserve and improve our watershed resources.

Thank you to the 40-plus volunteers who helped make the 2016 Ridgway RiverFest a great success in June:

Sara Ballantyne

Sharon Brown

Doug Cannalte

Dudley Case

Bill Chipley

Deedee Decker

Pamela Foyster

Dick Gingery

Chris Haaland

Celene Hawkins

Monke Hazen

Sandy Hennessy

Brian Hoefling

Mairi Humphreys

John Kissingford

Pam Kraft

Charlene Laughlin

Jeff Litteral

Rosie Mason

Geoff Mason

Jay Montgomery

Kathy Montgomery

Dennis Murphy

Aletha Nova

Barbara Parish

Agnieszka Przeszlowska

Anthony Ramsey

Gary Roberts

Andrea Sokolowski

Gayle Veum

Voyager Youth Program Board

Brad Wallis

Geoff Williams

Scott Williams

Dale Yocum

If you have not filled out a survey about the RiverFest yet, please click on this link and give us some feedback so we can make our 10th annual festival in 2017 the best yet!

2016 San Juan Mining & Reclamation Conference Gathers Biggest Crowd yet

UWP helped organize and staff the 2016 San Juan Mining & Reclamation Conference in Durango on Aug. 3-5. We filled the ballroom of the DoubleTree Hilton with a standing-room-only crowd of professionals, nonprofit and government rep-resentatives and concern citizens, who all gathered to learn about projects, issues and innovations related to environmental impacts of mining in the San Juan Mountains. 

In survey responses from conference-goers, the most useful takeaways from the gathering were information about the mining industry’s suc-cesses and struggles, professional networking, and improved under-standing of mining impacts to watersheds. Some of the highlights noted by survey respondents were the pre-sentations on current remediation projects around the state and the tour of the Red Mountain mining district with rich discussions about several legacy mine sites. 

Many thanks to the con-ference host organization, Mountain Studies Institute, and our other organizing partners: Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, Willow Creek Reclamation Committee, Animas River Stakeholders, and Animas River Community Forum.
Plus, special thanks to conference sponsors: Colorado Department of Public Health & Environ-ment, Harrison Western, Newmont, Ouray Silver Mines, Amec Foster Wheeler, Colorado Mining Association, Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Hecla Mining Company, Mountain Pine Manufacturing Woodstraw, SRK Consulting, SWCA Environmental Consultants, Triton Environmental, Western Small Miners Association, Mining & Environmental Services LLC, Tri-State Generation, Trout Unlimited, and Trust for Land Restoration. 

Information about the conference speakers and topics can be found at

Pete Butler talks about mine drainage (above) and Kirstin Brown (below) shares a smile and some data with the group during the mining district tour during the 2016 San Juan Mining & Reclamation Conference.
Upcoming UWP Events
– Margarita Night
– Our Watershed
  Plan- What's next?
– Winter Mining
  District Tour
– Fly Fishing Film
– Rollans Park Cleanup
– San Juan Mining
  & Rec. Conference
– Ridgway RiverFest
* Look for dates & deets in future emails
Copyright © 2016 Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership, All rights reserved.

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