Discharges into Fraser River raise questions
October 18, 2016
Rivers and watersheds are a central aspect of the lives of many who call the high country home.
Some folks, like fishing guides, derive almost the entirety of their livelihoods from the waterways of Grand County. Others, such as conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts, dedicate much of their time and energy to protecting Grand County's liquid resources. Because Grand County's economic viability is so closely tied to tourist dollars, and because tourists come to the high country for the natural wonders and recreation opportunities, nearly every person in Grand County is directly or indirectly connected to our waterways and the quality thereof.
AN EYE ON THE RIVER
As such the citizens of Grand County tend to keep a close eye on our local streambeds and are vociferous if they see something they believe is unnatural or warrants additional review. Last weekend a citizen living near Fraser contacted the Sky-Hi News about reports of a cloudy brownish greenish substance being discharged into the Fraser River.
The citizen believed the discharges were derived from work being conducted on a new water storage pond that will be used for snow making at the Colorado Adventure Park (CAP) just outside of Fraser. Grand County officials have been made aware of the discharges and are currently working with Clark Lipscomb, owner of the CAP, to determine of the discharges are derived from the CAP.
Grand County Community Development Director Bill Gray said he is aware of the discharges and he is currently coordinating with Lipscomb to address concerns about sediment potentially being discharged from the CAP into the Fraser. "We are seeing if we can work with Clark to insure that he is controlling the sediment," Gray said.
Gray said the County has not conducted specific testing of the discharge, which would require State involvement. Gray's initial personal assessment of the discharges was that the discoloration was a result of dirt or soil sediment. "I honestly don't know what is in the sediment."
For his part Lipscomb denied the discharges are derived from the CAP. According to Lipscomb all water from work done on the CAP property is initially discharged into ditches entirely contained within the property before being sent down Elk Creek before flowing into the Fraser River.
Lipscomb explained he has established Best Management Practices (BMPs) and Erosion Control Devices in Elk Creek to address any potential sediment released from the CAP property.
"If the Fraser has dirty water in it, it is not coming from us," he said. "Our rivers and streams are very valuable. They are very important to us, to me. The last thing we want to do is put dirty water into a stream."
The photos sent by a citizen to the Sky-Hi News were taken around 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon, Oct. 15.
According to Lipscomb he was working with his construction crews throughout last weekend and no pumping was conducted.
"This weekend we were not pumping water out of the pond," Lipscomb said. "I personally worked all weekend long with the crews."
Lipscomb said he is frustrated by what he called, "a serious allegation" that unclean water is being discharged from the CAP property and said he has personally gone to check the Fraser River at the point where Elk Creek flows into the Fraser on multiple occasions after being notified of complaints by County Officials.
"We get complaints and go out immediately," Lipscomb said. "Elk Creek is crystal clear right at the confluence of the Fraser River."
Grand County officials were initially contacted about the discharges in early Oct. and reached out to Lipscomb immediately. Correspondence between Lipscomb and County officials from last Thursday shows Assistant County Manager Ed Moyer informing Lipscomb of the complaint. A response sent by Lipscomb less than 20-minutes later states, "I am at the Fraser Visitors center bridge over Elk Creek. Crystal clear water." Additionally Lipscomb provided photos to the County that shows clear water.
"We are diligently monitoring the water pumped out of the pond construction project at the Colorado Adventure Park and have multiple clean water measures in place that appear to be working as intended," Lipscomb stated. "We will continue to be diligent in our efforts to insure no dirty water leaves the construction project area."
CAP POND PROJECT
County Development Director Gray pointed out because the snowmaking pond is under 100-acre feet of water in size no zoning permit is required from the county for the work. The pond has been under construction for several weeks with work expected to wrap up this month.
Lipscomb said recent high winds in the Fraser Valley delayed efforts to install a pond liner for the water storage pond but he was optimistic about weather Tuesday morning.
"If all goes well the pond will be lined this week," Lipscomb said.
"If all goes well we will start making snow by Halloween."
Lipscomb said the plan is to open the CAP sometime around Nov. 16, "weather permitting".