Proposed Restoration Project to Destroy Dowd Chute? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 09-15-2006   #1
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Eagle County, Colorado
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Proposed Restoration Project to Destroy Dowd Chute?

As mentioned before, people are jockying for a few million dollars to use on river restoration in the Eagle. I posted earlier about the Eagle River Watershed Council's proposed project, but one project suggests it may remove or redo Dowd Chute. I don't know much, but here is the article. Take with a grain of salt...


Money sought to fix Eagle River

Edwards stretch seen as most in need of help

The Vail Valley Foundation wants a share of state funds to build ponds on the land that will become the Eagle River Preserve open space in Edwards.
Bret Hartman/Daily file photo

Nicole Frey
September 14, 2006

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AVON — Four nonprofit and environmental groups are seeking a share of $2.4 million to try to restore stretches of the Eagle River damaged by a mine spill.

What’s next?
Final versions of the preliminary plans are due Nov. 7. The Natural Resource Damage Fund work group — made up of 11 members of federal, state, county and town governments, along with representatives from local environmental groups — will make recommendations to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment board of trustees in late January or early February.

For more information, visit or contact Wendy Naugle, Eagle Mine Superfund project manager with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, at [email protected], (88 569-1831, ext. 3394 or (303) 692-3394.

The defunct Eagle Mine’s toxic metals leached into the river killing much of the fish in the Minturn area, polluting drinking water and turning the river orange until cleanup efforts began.

Media conglomerate Viacom, Inc., which owned the mine, was required to contribute to a National Resource Damage Fund, which has since grown to $2.4 million.
Spanning from Minturn to Gypsum, four projects hope to get a piece of the pie.

Having decided how much they want, the Eagle River Watershed Council, Colorado Mountain College, the Vail Valley Foundation and the town of Minturn recently pitched their ideas. Their wishes total more than exists in the fund, so one or some groups will likely get less than they want.

The watershed council pulled a plan for a project at Camp Hale.

Edwards Eagle River Restoration
Who: Eagle River Watershed Council

Total project cost: $4.3 million

Funding request: $2 million

Working with Colorado State University, the watershed council determined the Edwards stretch of the Eagle River, which starts at about Brett Ranch Villas and continues 1.75 miles downstream, is most in need of restoration in the Eagle River watershed, said Caroline Bradford, the director of the nonprofit organization.

Because the river is very wide and shallow in many places, rocks and sand have piled up there, reducing insect populations and making life harder for trout. The shallowness causes higher temperatures in the water, which helps breed whirling disease, a deadly disease for trout.

With funding from a variety of sources, the watershed council wants to narrow and deepen the stretch of the river, which will allow the rocks and sand to move more freely through the river and thus make life easier for trout. By adding pools and riffles, trout will also gain a better place to spawn. Plans also including restoring the native plans and wetlands in the area.

Although the area is in need of restoration, the land bordering the river is almost all privately owned.

“The money is for the river, not the public, not recreation,” Bradford said.

Eagle River Preserve
Who: Vail Valley Foundation

Total project cost: $440,000

Funding request: $100,000

Between the quarry and the Eagle River in Edwards is a 72-acre parcel called the Eagle River Preserve, formerly named Eaton Ranch. Partnering with Eagle County and the Eagle Valley Land Trust, the Vail Valley Foundation bought the land in hopes of restoring the area for “passive” open space — think empty, natural land as opposed to ball parks and picnic areas, said Ceil Folz, president of the foundation.

Where there is now a quarry, one day there may be green expanses complete with restrooms and walking and biking trails. The foundation plans to partner with the Gore Range Natural Science School to teach people about the ecology of the area.

But right now, the foundation wants some cash to create ponds. Water from the Eagle River would be diverted to ponds to create a habitat similar to what the area looked like before ranchers grazed their cows or miners dug into the earth. The water would eventually return to the river.

The project would double the amount of wetlands to six acres, and once completed, the ponds will likely attract water birds, deer, elk and other animals.


Minturn wants to return the stretch of the Eagle River from the Saloon to Dowd Junction to its original, winding condition.
Preston Utley/Daily file photo

Browse Vail Daily Photos

Eagle River Restoration Project, Phase II
Who: Minturn

Total project cost: $1.745 million

Funding request: $1.331 million

Perhaps the most controversial of the four projects, Minturn wants to continue restoring the Eagle River along a 1.6-mile stretch of river from the Saloon in Minturn to Dowd Junction.

Early development badly reshaped the river through Minturn with high banks that couldn’t hold plant roots, and this caused erosion, said Troy Thompson, of Ecological Research Consultants, a consultant for Minturn. Past development also eliminated natural places where the river would flood, which were ideal spots for wildlife and also helped maintain good water quality, Thompson said.

Like with Phase I, which took place upstream, the new project would narrow the stream and add pools, terraces and tributaries to create better fish habitat and water quality. About 5.5 acres of habitat along the banks would also be created or restored.

Working with the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado Trout Unlimited and Union Pacific Railroad, plans also include adding native plants and creating a meandering path for the river, instead of the straight channel seen today.

But the straight channel is a hit with boaters who raft and kayak the area, said Crystal Young, a water engineer.

“You don’t have support from the whitewater community,” she said.
Minturn Town Manger Ann Capela said she hadn’t heard of any opposition.

“What’s good for the boating community isn’t necessarily good for habitat,” Thompson said, adding there will be access points for boaters to enter and exit the river.

Gypsum Ponds State Wildlife Area Restoration Project
Who: Colorado Mountain College Natural Resource Management

Total project cost: $200,000

Funding request: $150,000

When a gravel operation pulled out of Gypsum in the 1970s, the Gypsum Ponds were created as a place for the public play by the Eagle River, but not everything is working like it’s supposed to.

Residual impacts from the gravel pit and people playing in the area have led to extensive erosion along the stream and pond banks, stressed wildlife habitat and created a less than ideal stream path, said Kato Dee, the project manager for the Timberline Campus of Colorado Mountain College.

Working with the Colorado Department of Wildlife, which owns part of the land, and other partners, a team of Colorado Mountain College interns plans to re-vegetate the banks to lessen erosion; install boardwalks to keep people off the land; build jetties to slow the fast-moving stretch, which is worsening erosion; and inventory the noxious weeds in the area. Informational signs will be added to create an “educational experience” for visitors.

Dee said he has yet to get cooperation from the private property owners within the project’s boundaries.

Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 748-2927 or [email protected].

Vail, Colorado

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Old 09-16-2006   #2
Edwards, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
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I'm not sure that second project refers to Dowd Chute or not. I belive that they are talking about the stretch that contains S-Curves. My guess would be that they would end the project somewhere upstream of where Gore Creek comes into the Eagle River. What they did further upstream actaully made it better to boat becuase it narrowed the river.

I am not sure how much reclamation can be done in the actual Chute itself becuase of the RR tracks on river right and the super steep embankment on river left but if they are planning on changing the Chute itself (below the confulence of Gore Creek) then I bet there are going to be some fired up raft companies becuase that is a big early season money maker for them.

I will try and talk to Crystal next time I see her out working on the Avon play park and see what she has to say but if anyone has any more info on this, please post it here.

What would be nice is to get some more features in Minturn like the ones that they are putting in the river in Avon but maybe without the additional concrete, just move some of the rocks around to create some new features.

I am stoked about the first project!! Now we don't have to paddle all the way down to the Edwards Poop Factory after running the Edwards Mile!
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Old 09-16-2006   #3
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That's a very interesting article. The project sounds like a great opportunity to restore riparian areas along the Eagle River Coridor. However, it makes me a little nervous that parts of the river may be dredged, exposing heavy metal laden sediment and allowing it to go downstream. How would municipal water supplies be affected (water quality)? What time of year would this project be conducted? Also, if the project entails establishing meanders, J-hooks etc. along Dowd Shoot, would there be enough room for the higway and the river. What did the river look prior to the establishment of I-70? Interesting stuff! I'm not taking a position weather or not the project should be conducted, but I'm just curious to know more about the plans.
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Old 10-08-2006   #4
Edwards, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 101
Just got a phone call from the people who are planning on heading up this restoration and they are way open to boater input.

They are setting up a meeting with some Vail local boaters (me included) to discuss plans. Their plan is to make the river narrower and deeper.

He said that river health was their first concern but while they were moving boulders around why not help out the boating community.

I will post updates here as I get them but this could be the start of a great thing. First the Avon park (which looks interesting, I'll try and post pics) and now possibly some more features above the Chute.

Pray for snow!!!
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Old 10-10-2006   #5
Edwards, Colorado
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 258

I spent yesterday afternoon in a meeting about the project with the project builder, some Minturn Town officials, another boater (Matts) & some local fisherman. Dowd Chute is not being threatened at all. The other spot that everyone has been concerned with (S-turns) is only scheduled to have some stabilization of the banks and some re-vegetation. I have a map of the plans at the shop if anyone wants to come by and check out what they are planning to do where. They are very open to boater & fisherman input and will have some more meetings once they know how much $$$ they have. We brought it up & it was agreed to at this meeting that they would go back into the budget and allocate some money to an outside consultant who has some experience building whitewater features to take a look at the plan and try to identify some spots where they can "enhance recreation" since they will be in the river moving rocks around.

Hope this info helps.
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Old 10-10-2006   #6
Join Date: Jul 2005
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Thanks. I was concerned about damaging the rapids at Dowd's and the S-Turns but I couldn't find anything in the article that made me sure that those places' whitewater would actually be hurt. I'm all for improving the riverbed and streamside ecosystems, especially if it is not detrimental to anything else.

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Old 10-11-2006   #7
Edwards, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 101
Thanks for the update Sean...I guess I didn't get the invite but it sounds like we are in good hands with you and Solomon no board.

It's good to hear that they are open to "enhance recreation". Time to give BV/Salida a run for it's money as far as play spots go.

I think I'm gonna head down and check out the new BV spots on Sunday since I'll be down that way anyway. I'll try to post a report when I get back.
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