VAIL — Local environmental issues will be the talk of the town this week, from recycling bins in neighborhoods to water quality in Gore Creek.
At today’s meeting of the Vail Town Council, a discussion of community wide recycling ordinance elements is scheduled for the 2 p.m. work session, and during the regular meeting at 6 p.m., the council will take the first steps toward developing a Gore Creek water quality strategic action plan.
Both topics are part of a focus on environmental issues that will keep staff busy in 2014, said Stan Zemler, Vail’s town manager.
GORE CREEK PLAN
For the last two years or so, Gore Creek has been on Colorado’s list of impaired waters.
“The Clean Water Act sets up this list, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment assigns impaired rivers and streams to this list. We unfortunately were listed ... for aquatic insects. We don’t have enough of them (in Gore Creek),” said Kristen Bertuglia, the town of Vail’s environmental sustainability Ccoordinator. “That is a canary in the coal mine. You have a lack of bugs, and then eventually a lack of fish, and it just snowballs from there. So we’re trying to undo that as quickly as we can.”
While a town has 10 years to take action after finding itself on the list, Vail stakeholders got started right away. The regulatory action did not identify the cause of the impairment, so a targeted investigation initiated and funded by a local stakeholder group was undertaken.
It concluded last fall with the publication of the Gore Creek Water Quality Improvement Plan, which identifies three primary causes of the diminishing number of aquatic insects in the pond: degradation of the riparian corridor along the stream banks, urban runoff from impervious surfaces throughout the stream corridor and land use activities that contribute toxic chemicals to the stream.
“These three stressors are tightly interconnected,” said Seth Mason, with the Eagle River Watershed Council. “Water quality degradation on Gore Creek is a problem caused by the entire community. Therefore, it is a problem that can only be solved by the entire community.”
The town of Vail is expected to begin creating a strategic action plan to improve the health of Gore Greek today using the recommendations from the Gore Creek Water Quality Improvement Plan.
“We’ll be coming to the council with our implementation plan,” said Zemler. “That will be a big focus of what we do in 2014.”
And while it’s just a work discussion item at this point, the Vail town council today will begin heading down a path that could lead to more recycling in Vail.
“I think it will be a really positive discussion,” said Bertuglia. “This is the first look at the way we think is the best way to accomplish the goal of at least 25 percent diversion by 2019. That’s well below the state average of 34 percent, so we’re hoping we can surpass even 25 percent. ... I’d encourage everyone to show up and voice your concern or support.”
Zemler said the low numbers are a symptom of the kind of place Vail is.
“(Recycling) has been complicated by the nature of being a resort community and also complicated by having a lot of multi-unit circumstances,” Zemler said.
There are several different ways to go about instituting a mandatory recycling policy in a community.
“What we’ll be discussing with the council, basically, is what horse do you want to get on?” said Zemler. “We’re trying to get to a place where requiring all haulers to provide recycling services is a mandatory. ... Once we have it figured out, it will be easier for (Vail residents) to recycle.”