Editorial: Best Eagle River it can be | VailDaily.com

Editorial: Best Eagle River it can be

Vail Daily Editorial Board
Vail CO, Colorado

The Eagle River has come a long way in 20 years.

It was just two decades ago that toxic metals were spilling into the river from the Eagle Mine. The pollution was so severe that it killed fish, made drinking water unsafe to consume and stained portions of the river orange.

Today, Eagle County’s premier waterway is a great example of just how much humans can do to reverse the damage we create to the environment. Brown trout have returned the river, and the amount of metal in the water has been greatly reduced.

Still, the river isn’t completely healed.

Local advocacy groups like the Eagle River Watershed Council and the Eagle Mine Limited are pushing for even more cleanup of the water. The watershed council is pushing for the most aggressive result ” a river as pristine as it ever was. They want the river clean enough to welcome back the sculpin, the small, ugly and highly sensitive native fish that can’t survive with the amount of zinc still in the river.

State officials want to apply a much less stringent standard to the river that would protect brown trout, but would still leave portions of the river too polluted for the sculpin.

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We think that’s a mistake. The Eagle River is one of the county’s premier ” and we’d argue one of the state’s ” attractions. It serves as a recreational outlet for tourists and residents, and as a vital component of our county’s idyllic landscape. Getting the cleanest river possible could draw more anglers if the fish population increases and grows more diverse. Kayakers and rafters probably would enjoy knowing the water they are splashing around in is devoid of toxic metals.

Lastly, we owe it to the river to undo ” as much as possible ” the harm that was done to it. The watershed council, which has long served as the river’s most vocal advocate, should continue to strive for the cleanest, healthiest river possible.

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