VAIL — Cleaning up Gore Creek is going to take some time, but just how much time is still a very big question.
The creek has landed on the Colorado Department of Health and Environment’s list of “impaired” streams in the state, largely because of insect populations in the creek. That’s come as a blow to a town that has an official position of being a model of environmental stewardship.
There are any number of reasons the creek’s insect life has been damaged, from chemicals sprayed on lawns and gardens to stormwater runoff from roofs and parking lots. Tackling the problem will be time-consuming, will probably raise the hackles of some creekside homeowners and will mostly likely be expensive.
Just how expensive is still an open question, but the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District expects to spend at least $60 million over the coming decade to upgrade its wastewater treatment plants in Vail, Avon and Edwards.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?
The state has a 10-year deadline to improve Gore Creek and remove it from the “impaired” list, but one Vail Town Council member urged quicker action.
“Giving ourselves 10 years is inviting delay — I’d rather see three to five years if it’s feasible,” council member Margaret Rogers said.
The problem is that the town and water district staffers working on plans to improve the creek aren’t yet sure just how long improvements might take.
Kristen Bertuglia, the town’s sustainability coordinator, said some changes — such as limiting pesticide and herbicide use — might have an immediate impact. Other changes, such as replanting willows where lawns and gardens now grow, will by definition take longer.
SOME MAY RESIST CHANGES
Encouraging homeowners whose property runs into the creek might take longer still. Mayor Andy Daly said the tall brush that makes a healthy streamside environment will affect views, and some homeowners may resist the change.
“This is becoming a pretty divisive issue,” Daly said. “Public outreach has to be very defined and very out front. ... It has to be an important part of the plan, simultaneously executed with the rest of the plan.”
Expect that plan to take shape in the coming weeks, as town staffers work on what regulatory and educational steps the town might take, then present those recommendations to the council for action.
Water and sanitation district general manager Linn Brooks said if Vail’s plan is successful, it could have a positive effect for everyone in the district. If water quality could be improved enough over the next several years, the district might not have to complete now-planned improvements to the wastewater plant in Edwards. That could save between $20 million and $30 million, she said.