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Southwest states struck a deal on Colorado River water cuts. So how does, and doesn’t, it affect Coloradans?

Arizona, California and Nevada made waves when, after tense disagreement, they finally agreed on a plan to cut Colorado River Basin water use in response to the ongoing megadrought. 

Colorado officials would like one thing to be clear: They haven’t agreed to the plan, but they do want to see what an upcoming federal review from the Bureau of Reclamation turns up. 

“We have not agreed to anything,” said Amy Ostdiek with the state’s top water agency, the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “What we have agreed to is that Reclamation should analyze this proposal. … At that time, we can better understand it and our positions on it.”

The agreement among the three Lower Basin states is a milestone in the negotiations. But it’s also a stopgap measure to get the basin’s water users through 2026, when a set of rules that govern how water cuts are made during drought are set to expire. Those negotiations are going to be critical to finding long-term solutions that address water insecurity in the West and take climate change into account. Colorado might not be agreeing to any water cuts in this particular agreement, but that doesn’t mean they’ve dodged potential impacts, experts say.

Read more from Shannon Mullane at ColoradoSun.com.

Jared Polis visits High Country to sign bills related to housing, water, conservation and transportation into law

Gov. Jared Polis chose several remarkable Colorado backdrops Monday, June 5, during a bill signing tour in Summit County. But the former Days Inn in Silverthorne was not necessarily one of them.

Before rushing off to an overlook along Interstate 70 and down a dirt road to a recently restored stretch of the Blue River, Polis’s stop at the former hotel was more symbolic than scenic. There, he signed two housing bills into law after a legislative session that focused intently on the state’s housing crisis.

“We are standing next to the third hotel in Summit County that is now becoming workforce housing,” remarked Rep. Julie McCluskie, a Democrat from Dillon. “And, somehow, the world is flipped upside on its head that we have people, locals, who are living in hotels and tourists who are living in our homes.”

The former Days Inn is emblematic of the larger housing crisis facing Colorado mountain towns, as short-term rentals occupy a greater percentage of the housing inventory, pushing out long-term renters. A crisis that Polis, despite seeing his signature land-use bill defeated at the end of the last legislative session, said he believes House Bill 23-1287 and H.B. 23-1304 will help address.

The first bill gives more tools to local and county governments to regulate short-term rentals, which Polis said “are part of the economy but … separate and distinct from meeting the housing needs of a community.”

The short-term rental market directly impacts the residential market for long-term rentals, especially in Summit, Eagle and Routt counties, but to a lesser extent in Boulder, Colorado Springs and Denver, Polis said.

Surrounded by Summit County’s state legislators, McCluskie and Democratic Sen. Dylan Roberts of Avon, who sponsored both housing bills, Polis said new housing needs to be built but “safeguards” are necessary to keep it all from becoming short-term rentals.

McCluskie and Roberts both spoke to the need of finding a balance with short-term rentals where the tourism industry can still flourish but where the local workers who need housing can find it.

State representative Julie McCluskie spoke outside a former Days Inn turned workforce housing during Governor Jared Polis’s bill signing in Summit County on Monday, June 5, 2023.
Ryan Spencer/Summit Daily

“Short-term rentals are an important part of the tourism economy and experience, and we know that,” McCluskie said. “We are not trying to make the lives of short-term rental owners harder. We’re simply trying to make sure we keep our communities livable and we maximize workforce housing.”

The second bill is “enabling legislation” for Proposition 123, which Colorado voters enacted in 2022. Proposition 123 contains many provisions aimed at creating more affordable housing through additional funding and planning, but it had some issues around funding that required additional legislation to fix, Polis said.

“There will be hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few years that flow into housing managed by the state,” Polis said. “And that’s exciting. That alone obviously won’t fix the housing crisis, but it will help.”

Between the governor’s stops, Summit Daily asked Polis how he plans to reintroduce concepts from the defeated land-use bill that he had pushed last legislative session while working collaboratively with mountain towns that opposed parts of the bill.

“Any way we can remove barriers to housing being built, especially workforce housing, the better,” Polis said. “… What the High Country needs more than anything is more housing that people can afford. People that work and live in these communities.”

The governor said he looks forward to continuing to work with towns and counties across western Colorado “to help meet the needs of the future because the first step is recognizing what we have been doing hasn’t worked and will only get worse until we take action.”

After the photo-op at the Days Inn, Polis stopped at the scenic overlook along Interstate 70. Tractor trailers and passenger vehicles whizzed over his shoulder while the Dillon Reservoir stretched into the distance as he signed a bill related to highway safety.

H.B. 23-1267, again sponsored by McCluskie and Roberts, doubles fines for trucks speeding on steep grades. 

State Sen. Dylan Roberts and State Rep. Julie McCluskie, who both represent Summit County, stand behind Gov. Jared Polis’s during a bill signing on Monday, June 5, 2023.
Ryan Spencer/Summit Daily

“That will improve safety and make sure our commercial drivers who might not frequent our state as often or those who come regularly really pay attention to those high risk areas,” Polis said. “This will help save lives, but it will also help reduce traffic jams that inevitably accidents cause, even if nobody is injured.”

To cap off the bill signings, Polis continued down I-70, turned onto Colorado Highway 9, made a left onto Tiger Road and continued driving until the road turned to dirt and the Blue River snaked its way through the valley.

At the site of a recent river restoration project that transformed the dredge-mined Blue River back into a natural flowing stream, Polis signed into law three environment- and water-related bills: Senate Bill 23-270, H.B. 23-1274 and S.B. 23-177 — all of which were sponsored by Roberts.

S.B. 23-270 is a bill funding water projects throughout the state, such as the recent project at the Blue River. H.B. 23-1274, meanwhile, is a bill funding species conservation projects, and S.B. 23-177 is the appropriations for the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Water Projects.

After the bill signings, Polis wandered down to the riverside, asking questions about the county’s mining history and how it has affected the waterways.

This story is from SummitDaily.com.

Man reels in uncommon fish at northwest Colorado reservoir

Scott Lewer has been fishing in Routt County for more than 40 years. The Steamboat Springs resident went out fishing at Stagecoach Reservoir on May 25 and caught a fish that is not commonly reeled in around Steamboat. 

Lewer, a former president of Yampa Valley Fly Fishers, won a morning battle against a brown trout. It was Lewer’s first brown trout of the season, and in his experience, catching these fish in Stagecoach is pretty rare. 

“You don’t catch a brown but a couple times per year,” Lewer said. “You have to fish pretty consistently, and the Yampa is kind of similar.”

Having already reeled in 14 fish, the brown trout was the last catch of the day for Lewer, who had only caught rainbow trout to that point. 

That morning, Lewer and his girlfriend rented a 15-foot Boston Whaler from Stagecoach Marina and were on their way. 

“We got on the water about 8:30 a.m. and fished until 12:30 p.m. and caught as many fish as we could count,” Lewer said. “It was a beautiful, picturesque morning. Honestly, if we did not catch a fish it would have been a success because it was glassy and gorgeous.”

According to Lewer, brown trout and rainbow trout have very different behavior once hooked. 

A brown’s instinct is to go down deep into the water and fight a line from there. Rainbows come to the surface and jump around as high as they can from the top.

Steamboat Springs angler Scott Lewer enjoying a day on Stagecoach Reservoir on May 25, 2023. He caught 15 fish that morning including one rare brown trout.
Scott Lewer/Courtesy photo

From the moment he felt the bite of his 15th catch, Lewer could tell it was not the same type of fish he had just caught 14 times over.

“They start rising when it gets a little warmer,” Lewer said. “It was about noon. I fought it for like 15 minutes and thought we might be late with the boat. Luckily, he came in, I netted him and fish still have a little game in them when you get them in the net. He flipped out of the net and into the boat and he and I had a little wrestling match.”

Lewer caught the fish using a size 20 purple mayfly. He said it was no bigger than his fingernail but certainly got the job done.

He estimated the fish to be around 25 inches long and got him back in the water right away. Lewer said the fish swam away very healthy. 

While so many gather in Stagecoach to catch rainbow trout, Lewer said it can be fun to branch out and get something new. A pike spooled him earlier that day, but bringing in a brown trout was an even better prize. 

“Fishing is not a catching thing; it is a fishing thing,” Lewer said. “If you are catching things, then you are doing really well.”

This story is from SteamboatPilot.com.

Forest Service issues reminder for elk calving closures on trails

White River National Forest officials are reminding people planning to recreate in the forest about the important seasonal trail closures in place in critical areas within the Eagle-Holy Cross and Aspen ranger districts to protect calving elk. 

The White River National Forest has worked closely with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to identify the most critical calving areas for elk, which are seasonally closed to all uses to reduce disturbance. 

“Elk return to these areas every year, because they offer the water, forage and seclusion elk need to survive, birth and nurse without being startled or disrupted,” said Jennifer Prusse, acting wildlife and fish program manager. “Repeated disturbance to elk from people and dogs during calving season in these critical areas has led to lowered calf survival rates.” 

The White River National Forest offers both year-round recreational opportunities as well as wildlife resources. However, maintaining both requires finding a balance, particularly in sensitive areas during sensitive times, such as elk calving areas. 

“Now that the snow is melting and these areas are more accessible, we are seeing an increasing number of closure violations from hikers, dog walkers and cyclists in areas closed for elk calving,” Prusse said. “Please help us protect this incredible wildlife resource by using an alternative area during these seasonal closures.” 

Specific roads and trails in critical elk calving areas are seasonally closed to all uses.

Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District

  • Knob Hill #2021: Opened on April 16
  • Whiskey Creek #2348: Closed currently – June 20 (opens on June 21)
  • Eastern Hillside #2347: Closed currently – June 20 (opens on June 21)
  • North Trail #1896: April 15 – June 20 (opens on June 21)
  • Buffehr Creek #2111: April 15 – June 20 (opens on June 21)
  • Everkrisp Trail #2122: Closed November 23 – June 20 (opens June 21)
  • Son of Middle Creek #2136: April 15 – June 20 (opens on June 21)
  • Paulie’s Plunge/Stone Creek #2349: May 15 – June 20 (opens on June 21)
  • Two Elk #2005 (from the west entrance at the second bridge to the east end at the Vail Bike Path): May 6 – June 30 (opens on July 1).

Additionally, Beaver Creek’s McCoy Park and the Vail Back Bowls are closed to human entry between May 6 and June 30, opening on July 1. 

For information about other seasonal trail closures, open trails and current trail conditions in the Eagle Valley, please visit VVMTA.org/SeasonalTrailClosures/ or contact the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District at 970 827-5715.

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Aspen-Sopris Ranger District

  • Tom Blake Trail, Sequel Trail and other trails in the Elk Camp and Two Creeks vicinity are closed April 25 through June 20. These trails and the surrounding area open June 21.
  • Anaerobic Nightmare Trail is closed April 25 through June 27. This trail and the surrounding area open June 28.
  • Government Trail #1980 and Sugarbowl Trail are closed May 15 through June 27. These trails and the surrounding area open June 28.

Suggested alternative trails include the Highline/Lowline trails (open year-round); Sky Mountain Park trails (open May 16); North Rim trail (open May 16); South Rim trail (open year-round); Ditch trail (open year-round); Sam’s Knob and Alpine Springs trails; West Government trail; and Elk Camp work roads.

Visit PitkinOutside.com for additional info on all of these trails. For other trail suggestions, or more information on this seasonal closure, contact the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District at 970-963-2266.

Colorado had an epic year of snowfall. How did Eagle County compare?

There was a lot of noise over the winter about great snowfall. Eagle County’s story was a bit different.

A couple of dozen people gathered June 1 at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards to talk about the state of the Eagle River and, by extension, the Colorado River.

Assistant State Climatologist Peter Goble’s data showed that of the three main snowpack measurement stations — Vail Mountain, Copper Mountain and Fremont Pass — only the site on Vail Mountain was above the 30-year average, at 104%. Copper Mountain, the closest site to Gore Creek’s headwaters, was at 90% for the season. Fremont Pass, the closest site to the headwaters of the Eagle River, was at just 82% of average.

Fremont Pass will put only about 71% of that snow into streamflows. The rest is lost to evaporation or will melt into the soil.

Snow below 11,000 feet is already melting quickly. The Vail Mountain measurement site is melted out, more than a week earlier than normal, and the Copper Mountain site is mostly gone as well.

We’re already behind

The snowpack on Vail Mountain has melted out a bit earlier than normal.
Eagle River Water & Sanitation District/Courtesy photo

And, while the winter was a good one, Gobel noted that a dry April has put the area behind in its moisture accumulation. That April precipitation is “very important to runoff,” Goble said, adding that Gore Creek streamflows are already tapering off, as are Eagle River streamflows at Dowd Junction.

Still, a good snow year across the Colorado Rockies is sending significant water downstream for the first time in a few years.

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The river’s downstream users — Nevada, Arizona and California, along with Mexico — depend on Lake Powell and Lake Mead for their supplies. Goble said runoff into Lake Powell at the moment is at roughly 175% of normal. But, he added, it would take “years and years” of similar winters to fill those reservoirs.

That level of continued snowfall is unlikely, he said.

A developing El Nino pattern — warmer than normal water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean west of Ecuador — could help for the coming months. But what effect that pattern will have is uncertain, at best.

Streamflows on Gore Creek and on the Eagle River near Minturn are already starting to wane from seasonal norms.
Eagle River Water & Sanitation District/Courtesy photo

Goble also noted that while the earth continues to warm, that alone doesn’t necessarily mean less moisture. Still, he added, “a bet on a warmer future is a bet on a drying future.”

Eagle County depends largely on streamflows for its water supplies. The Eagle River Water & Sanitation District serves most of the valley from Edwards east to East Vail. District General Manager Siri Roman spoke about some of the ways the district is trying to ensure future supplies.

A new reservoir — eventually

Roman noted that the district’s long-term goal is to construct a new reservoir near Minturn at Bolts Lake. That project could store as much as 1,200 acre-feet of water. But, she added, it could take a decade and as much as $100 million to complete the project. District ratepayers would pay for that, as well as a number of other costly projects.

For now, Roman said the district is looking at a “scarcity response” plan. Still, she added, the district can handle all of its current domestic water needs.

4 facts

• The Colorado Legislature in its most recent session passed a bill requiring “do not flush” warnings on wet wipes.
• About 40 million people depend on the Colorado River.
• For every 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature, streamflows decline by between 3 and 9%.
• An acre-foot of water is enough to cover a football field about one foot deep.

As part of an effort to reduce the district’s consumption by roughly 400 acre-feet per year. A big part of that reduction has to come from outdoor watering. Roman noted that indoor use puts about 90% of water used back into the river. Outdoor watering returns only about 20% back to the stream.

To get those cuts, Roman said the district may need to cut watering to just one or two days per week. Water also gets more expensive as people use more.

Audience member Don Welch asked Roman if the district has the resources to serve anticipated growth since as many as 1,000 new units are either proposed or approved for Edwards.

Roman acknowledged that the district is “getting close to capacity” in some areas. But, she added, the district issues commitments to developments on a first-come, first-served basis.

“We can tell you if there’s water,” Roman said. But she added, climate change will make reserve supplies more important in coming years.

Vail’s Closing Day, ‘Big Fish,’ sake and clay, Earth Day and more: Tricia’s Weekend Picks 4/21/23

Closing Day at Vail

Last Sunday was Beaver Creek’s Closing Day and this Sunday it’s Vail’s turn. Vail will close down for its 60th year after a season full of powder days and a few sunny deck days later in the season.

Currently, top-to-bottom skiing and snowboarding can be found on the front side of Vail Mountain as well as in the Sun Up and Sun Down Bowls, serviced by High Noon Express (No. 5). At press time, the forecast calls for warmer temperatures by Sunday after some new snow. Expect to see a variety of costumes and maybe some shorts and bikini tops. It’s a festive atmosphere that sometimes has more to do with socializing than it does with racking up vertical feet.

Do keep in mind that spring conditions exist, which could mean that the snow is a bit hard-packed when the lifts open at 8:30 a.m. and tends to soften up later. There’s also a point where the slopes may get a bit slushy and you’ve got to push the snow around a bit more. The higher you go in elevation, typically you’ll have less slush, so choose your terrain wisely. Downloading the gondolas in Vail Village and Lionshead may be a good idea if the snow gets heavy. Keep yourself safe – summer is just around the corner and so are all the fun activities like hiking and biking that go with the season.

After the last chairlift spins on Sunday, you won’t be able to ride up until June. Vail Resorts announced opening dates for summer as follows:

 Vail Mountain: 

  • Gondola One (No. 1) and Eagle Bahn Gondola (No. 19)
  • Friday, June 16 through Sunday, Oct. 1 
  • Gondola One (No. 1) will run duriung the GoPro Mountain Games June 10 – 11
  • After Labor Day, Sept. 4, operations will be Friday through Sunday 

Beaver Creek:

  • Centennial Express (No. 6)
  • Saturday, June 17 through Sunday, Sept. 24
  • After Labor Day, Sept. 4, operations will be on weekends only 

Musical offerings

10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits Co. is offering live music during Sippin’ Saturdays at its distillery location in Gypsum.
10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits Co./Courtesy photo

The Altitones at Agave

The Altitones will play at Agave on Friday night to celebrate the band’s 10th anniversary and also honor a friend of the band and celebrate the life of Jude Wargo. The Altitones formed 10 years ago after a couple of open mic nights at Montañas in Avon and the band hasn’t looked back. The core of the band consists of Tommy Anderson on lead vocals and guitar,  Sam Bee on bass and vocals, Mauricio Cadavid on lead guitar and vocals, Jake Lidard on keyboard and Ben Swonke on drums.

The band will keep things lively by playing a mix of Memphis blues, country shuffles and all-around good time music. The show starts at 10 p.m. Come early and get some tacos and tequila. For more information, go to AgaveAvon.com.

Daytime music at Shakedown Bar Vail

If you are coming off the hill a little early on Saturday afternoon, stop by and hear some live music at Shakedown Bar. Trees Don’t Move, a band out of Eagle comprised of high school students has been taking the valley by storm with their music and have played the Eagle Block Party (they are scheduled to play again at the Block Party this summer) will be joined by Fort Collins-based Scuffed and Vail’s Your Robot Overlords. Local punk outfit Your Robot Overlords was voted one of the top bands in this season’s Vail Daily Readers Poll.  

Music starts at 2 p.m. and goes until 5 p.m. For more information, go to ShakedownBarVail.com.

Sippin’ Saturdays

Saturdays are for sipping, at least that is what 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits Company thinks. The local vodka and whiskey distiller is bringing back live music, lawn games, a food truck, tastings and craft cocktails this Saturday.  

The craft cocktail menu was designed by Connor Zink, the tasting room manager, who makes all the infusions, fresh syrups, juices and bitters. A big crowd favorite right now is the Magic Carpet, made with butterfly pea-infused 10th vodka. Troy Harris, who grew up in the valley, will take the stage and play some tunes between 7 and 10 p.m. Learn more at 10thWhiskey.com.

‘Big Fish’ at Vail Christian High School

Vail Christian High School presents “Big Fish” this weekend.
Vail Christian High School

Since January, the students who are in the Vail Christian High School performing arts program have been working hard on this spring’s production, “Big Fish.” Come see all this work come to fruition on stage at the Grace Auditorium at Vail Christian High School this weekend.

Melinda Carlson, theater director of Vail Christian High School for the past decade, said that she and the students chose “Big Fish” because it is a story we all need.

“It is a refreshing story of the power we have to choose how we live our stories and the ways we change each other’s stories. In a day of divisiveness and hopelessness, we talk about really seeing and listening and giving to others. “Big Fish” is about a man who made a difference and saw the world in a bigger-than-life sort of way.”

“Big Fish” was a novel that was made into a movie and is now a Broadway musical. The story centers around the relationship between Edward Bloom, a traveling salesman and his adult son Will, who looks for what is behind his father’s tall tales. The story goes from present day and then goes back in time when Edward is recounting his very colorful life.

Over 50 Vail Christian High School students are involved. From acting and singing, set design to being a crew member behind the scenes.

“I would describe this journey as being “a unique story with deep character development relevant to relationships we all share,” said Ava Garrison, a senior at Vail Christian High School.

Junior Jack Pryor encourages everyone to come and see “Big Fish” because it is “exciting and entertaining like most musicals along with a thoughtful storyline that will bring families together and remind them to appreciate one another.”

Show times are Thursday through Saturday at 7 p.m. and a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Saturday. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students and $5 for children 5 and under. The sale of tickets benefits the performing arts program at Vail Christian High School.

Cocktails, Cooking & Clay

Cooking has been added to the Cocktails and Clay art project on Friday at Alpine Arts Center. Try your hand at making clay dishes for sushi.
Alpine Arts Center/Courtesy photo

The Alpine Arts Center has hosted many Cocktails and Canvas and Cocktails and Clay events, but this is the first time it has added cooking to the mix. Sushi is the theme on Friday at Cocktails, Cooking and Clay and aspiring artists and even someone who is just showing up for a good time will enjoy sake along with cooking instructions from The Kitchen Conservatory on how to make sushi rolls.

Enjoy an ochoko of sake (ochokos are small vessels you pour sake into when you sip it). The Kitchen Conservatory will walk you through how to make two California rolls. You’ll also be taught how to handle the clay and turn it into a sushi platter and a soy sauce dish.

After firing and glazing, your sushi ware will be available for pickup in about two weeks. If you are a visitor and still want to participate, you can do so and shipping can be arranged.

This event takes place on Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. For more information about Alpine Arts Center, go to AlpineArtsCenter.org. For more information on The Kitchen Conservatory visit TheKitchenConservatory.org.

Earth Day

Celebrate Earth Day with events happening at Walking Mountains’ Climate Action Week.
Noah Buscher/ Unsplash

Saturday is Earth Day but at Walking Mountains, every day is Earth Day. Check out some of the events and activities Walking Mountains has planned surrounding Climate Action Week, a special schedule of events that brings people together to discuss, learn, create and have fun all for the environment’s sake.

Climate Action Week spans more than just a week, it started out on April 17 and goes through April 26 Events like the PURE Energy pizza party, trivia night, the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, hikes and sustainable business training has already gone on this week. Here’s a look at the schedule for this weekend. For the full schedule, go to WalkingMountains.org.


  • Eco-Transit Fare Free Day
  • Food, Water & Climate Speaker Panel and Sustainability Fair
  • Backcountry Snowshoe Hike


  • Yoga for Climate Resilience
  • DIY: Transform Your Lawn


  • Sustainable Community Gardening with New Roots

Colorado River Watch works with local stewards to gather water quality data

The watersheds throughout Eagle County certainly make up a large part of nearby ecosystems, however, statewide nonprofit Colorado River Watch recognizes that local waters are also an important part of a much larger system. The organization has gathered stewards from around the state to take part in uniform monthly water quality testing. Among other local stewards, the Eagle River Watershed Council helps gather data from Brush Creek for the River Watch database.

Entities that currently use Colorado River Watch data to inform watershed management include the Water Quality Control Commission, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and several grassroots-level watershed groups, like the Eagle River Watershed Council.

“Much like you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken, we can’t create impactful, effective solutions to problems until we know they exist,” the Eagle River Watershed Council website reads. “Our water quality monitoring helps uncover threats and concerns so that we can develop a plan to resolve them.”

To garner that sense of responsibility among everyday people, Colorado River Watch readings are not only made accessible to policymakers and stakeholders. Anyone can register for public access to the data through the organization’s website, ColoradoRiverWatch.org.

Volunteer stewards who collect Colorado River Watch data come from approximately 120 different organizations. Data gathered within Eagle County includes the Brush Creek water quality testing conducted by the Eagle River Watershed Council. Additionally, volunteer stewards include staff at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, who conduct monthly testing at sites along the Eagle River, and the town of Vail conducts its monthly testing at sites along Gore Creek.

Eagle River Watershed Council Projects Coordinator Anna Nakae said that the Watershed Council used to take samples and test water quality on the Eagle River. However, since the historic 1989 Eagle Mine spill, Nakae said the surrounding area became an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Site. Entities that carefully monitor the Eagle River near the Superfund Site include the United States Geological Survey, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Now, Nakae said the Eagle River Watershed Council performs monthly River Watch testing at sites along Brush Creek.

Sandell (left) and Nakae (right) perform River Watch sampling at their site at Brush Creek Valley Ranch open space. Nakae said for River Watch testing, the county granted the Eagle River Watershed Council permission to access the site despite the area’s seasonal closure.
Ash Lohmann/Vail Daily

“The Watershed Council has been doing River Watch for at least 10 years, but I think we just picked up Brush Creek three years ago,” Nakae said. “We decided to switch to a stream that wasn’t getting as much love, and not as much sampling.”

Other entities that collect samples from Brush Creek include the United States Forest Service and Frost Creek Golf Course. While these samples are not part of the River Watch program, they are also being used to inform watershed management decisions.

Nakae and Eagle River Watershed Council Education and Outreach Coordinator Rose Sandell take to four different sites along Brush Creek once a month to gather water samples and data that can later be reported into the River Watch steward database. From there, Colorado Parks and Wildlife reviews and validates the data before it is input into the River Watch state-wide water health information bank.

While monthly testing allows for a consistently available database of water quality readings, Nakae said that those readings aren’t able to determine how changing environmental factors directly influence water quality because there haven’t been complete studies done on each factor. However, with patterns, inferences can often be made about what influences water quality.

With the different testing sites along the creek, Nakae said spacial changes can be observed in water quality samples.

“Generally speaking, higher up in the watershed at the headwaters is where you’re going to have the highest water quality,” Nakae said. “Then, as you move down, you could see changes from different types of land use.”

“I think a big thing we’re seeing through the valley as development increases and population increases, you see water quality trends change with that,” Sandell said.

The four testing sites Nakae and Sandell gather samples from are spread out along Brush Creek. Nakae said that as the sites get closer to Eagle Ranch, homes, agriculture and golf courses can all have an effect on the water quality.

Additionally, Nakae said that water quality testing can also help with understanding different stressors wildlife may be enduring. For example, Nakae said elements like temperature, oxygen presence and pH levels have a big impact on a fish’s level of stress. Depending on water temperatures or dissolved oxygen levels, in the warmer months, she said Colorado Parks and Wildlife may issue a voluntary fishing closure so as to not stress fish further.

Volunteer stewards within the River Watch program statewide perform uniform tests so as to ensure accuracy and consistency among the state-wide readings. Eagle River Watershed Council executive director James Dilzell took the River Watch training and passed the skills on to Nakae and Sandell. However, in the Fall, Nakae and Sandell said they hope to take the River Watch training themselves.

Every month, River Watch volunteer stewards test for water hardness, dissolved oxygen, pH, alkalinity, and for the presence of hard metals in the water. While testing for these qualities helps give insight into the water quality, it also provides a hands-on opportunity for local youth to localize their education.

Eagle River Watershed Council Education and Outreach Coordinator Rose Sandell takes water samples to Eagle Valley High School to have students join in on testing for River Watch. Sandell said she attended Eagle Valley High School and is happy to provide a hands-on opportunity for students to get engaged with their studies.
Ash Lohmann/Vail Daily

After collecting samples along Brush Creek every month, Sandell brings the samples and testing materials to Eagle Valley High School. There, in Nicole Mink’s science classes, students learn to test for water hardness, dissolved oxygen, pH and alkalinity. For safety reasons, metal testing on the samples is conducted at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Laboratory in Fort Collins.

Eagle Valley students test the water samples almost immediately after they’re taken by Nakae and Sandell at the Brush Creek Sites. Unlike learning from a textbook, Sandell said going into the classroom with samples provides a hands-on opportunity for students to connect with the creeks in their area, while also learning crucial skills.

“When I was in high school, I never saw how chemistry was applicable. I was like, ‘I will never do this, but here I am,'” Sandell said. “I think putting it in front of them and being like, ‘This is your drinking water, ultimately, that’s what you’re testing right now,’ it gets them to care more.”

In-classroom titrations can be exciting when samples go from one color to another with the addition of another chemical, but Sandell said taking students for in-field testing is also a great way to engage young people in watershed health.

In Nicole Minks’ earth science classroom at Eagle Valley High School, Sandell sets up stations for students to work at. At each station, students learn to test for either water hardness, dissolved oxygen, pH or alkalinity. As part of their lesson, students also monitor the monthly results from River Watch testing.
Ash Lohmann/Vail Daily

“Hopefully, when it warms up, we’ll be able to go out on a walking field trip to the Gypsum Creek so that they can collect their own water samples,” Sandell said of Mink’s earth science classes.

In the past, Sandell said she has done some field testing with students from Zealous Schools.

“I did River Watch with them one month and we came out here and we knocked on macroinvertebrates– or it’s called bug kicking,” Sandell said.

Different levels of macroinvertebrate diversity can help indicate different levels of water quality, Sandell explained. While the tests students were performing weren’t necessarily the most accurate, she explained that they were a great jumping-off point to get young people thinking about local watersheds and engaging with them.

“We live in such a beautiful place and there’s a significant part of the population that doesn’t have a way to access it and get involved,” Sandell said. “It’s nice when we can bring those opportunities to them and help them feel a little bit more comfortable in this space.”

Eagle River Watershed Council Education and Outreach Coordinator Rose Sandell collects a water sample from the southernmost River Watch testing site along Brush Creek. Located near the Sylvan Lake State Park visitor center, samples collected at this site are furthest from agricultural and residential development.
Ash Lohmann/Vail Daily

Hanging Lake Trail project in its public comment phase; work would repair fire-damaged trail

The White River National Forest is seeking comments on its proposal to redesign and reconstruct sections of the Hanging Lake Trail. 

The trail and associated bridges suffered significant damage following the 2021 debris flows in Glenwood Canyon. While a temporary trail was opened in 2022, more extensive repairs are needed for long-term sustainability. 

The White River National Forest is proposing a combination of trail improvements and ecological restoration to make the 1.2-mile Hanging Lake Trail more sustainable, safe and resilient. The project would be funded through Great Outdoors Colorado, the National Forest Foundation, and the U.S. Forest Service. 

“This work would not be possible without the close support from the many partners who help us with Hanging Lake, especially Great Outdoors Colorado, the National Forest Foundation, City of Glenwood Springs, and Colorado Department of Transportation,” White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said.

Proposed work includes reengineering six of the trail’s seven bridges to better accommodate high water and debris flows. Two of the bridges would also be slightly relocated to crossing locations that provide better stream clearance.

A boardwalk is proposed at Spouting Rock to reduce erosion and other impacts by guiding visitors on a pathway looping around the falls.   

Minor re-grading and rock work, flood debris removal, and native seeding and planting would be done by hand along the trail to stabilize stream banks and reduce erosion. 

At the trailhead, debris would be removed and the stream channel reconstructed to protect the adjacent paved recreation path, restrooms and trailhead facilities. An accessible plaza with seating and shade would be constructed. 

The Civilian Conservation Corps-built structure along the trail would be stabilized in consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office to ensure the longevity of this historic resource.

Work is expected to begin in September 2023 and continue through fall 2024. Trail closures could be necessary as work progresses.     

Additional details about the proposal and information about how to comment are available at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=63318. Comments will be most helpful if received by Feb. 25.

Reservations are required to visit Hanging Lake and are available through www.visitglenwood.com.  Reservations for May 1 through June 30 will be available beginning Feb. 15.  Reservations for July 1 through Sept. 4 will be available beginning March 15.  

Joe Nichols to play unplugged show Saturday

See Joe Nichols’ full interview with Tricia Swenson on “Vail Valley Live” here

A lot of odd jobs and sticking to his country roots are a few things that got Joe Nichols where he is today. The award-winning and Grammy-nominated country music star got his start over 20 years ago and is still going strong. Nichols takes the stage at the Vilar Performing Arts Center on Saturday night for an unplugged show, so expect to hear a lot of stories.

“Or bad jokes,” Nichols said.

Nichols sat down with Tricia Swenson for an interview on “Vail Valley Live” earlier this week to talk about his new album, where he sees himself in the next 20 years and any New Year’s resolutions.

Nichols grew up in Arkansas and listened to county music at a young age and liked the sounds of Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and George Strait. That style of music left and imprint on Nichols.

“I was a disc jockey in Springdale, Arkansas at Beaver 105 – Today’s New Hot Country. I got fired because I played a lot of the old stuff and I wasn’t too great at following the program log with today’s hot new country, so that was my first kind of push back against ‘the man’ of current country music.” Nichols recalls.

Joe Nichols has been on tour for most of 2022 after the release of the album “Good Day for Living” with his band. Nichols will be playing an acoustic show at the Vilar Performing Arts Center this Saturday.
Vilar Performing Arts Center/Courtesy photo

He moved to Nashville to try to break into the music business in 1997 and, like everyone else who’s waiting to make it, Nichols had a lot of odd jobs. He worked as a UPS driver for a few months during the holidays and said that was a “really good job” and he also said he was a cable guy “for a minute” and moved furniture, worked construction and concrete and said that working with concrete was “brutal.” He also was a steak salesman for one day.

“That was an adventure in itself. I am a terrible salesman because I can’t lie that well, or at least my poker face is not that great. So, with being a steak salesman, it’s all about the pitch and I’m more of ‘hey, if you like steak, I’ve got steak, otherwise I’m not going to sell you anything.”

That honesty and authenticity has helped Nichols stay true to his roots and is what makes him so endearing to country music fans – traditional and contemporary. Nichols was signed to Giant records in 1999 and he spent a couple of years there developing his sound and writing. Then Giant got absorbed by Warner Brothers and soon they wanted Nichols to become more of a pop country artist and conform to the times, but Nichols stuck to his traditional country sounds and asked if he could bow out of the contract.

“They did a very cool thing, and you don’t have many labels that do this for people, but they let me out of my deal, free, with music, and they let me go seek a label that was more interested in the kind of music I did. And, finding that label, which was Universal South, I realized that having the nerve to say ‘no’ in the face of ‘hey, we’ll make you a star, but it just has to be our kind of star,’ I was like, ‘no thanks, I want to do it my way,’ and that’s when I believed in myself enough where I was on to something that people would like,” Nichols said.  

And people do like Nichols’ music. He has six number one hits and eight Top 10 singles including “Sunny and 75,” “Gimme That Girl,” and “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off.” He is also an award-winning artist, receiving the Academy of Country Music’s “Top New Male Vocalist” award, the CMT “Breakthrough Video of the Year” award as well as the prestigious “Horizon Award” from the Country Music Association and has been nominated for a Grammy three times.

“As I look back on 20 years, it will be 21 years in March, it seems like it was yesterday and, my goodness, the amount of luck, fortune or blessing or whatever you want to call it, I have been the benefactor of a lot of blessings and a lot of stuff I didn’t deserve and a lot of hard working people around me that fought for me and did some amazing things,” Nichols said.

Country music artist Joe Nichols plays at the Vilar Performing Arts Center on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Vilar Performing Arts Center/Courtesy photo

Nichols has been busy touring the country with his band after the release of his latest album “Good Day for Living” in February. He also found time before that to play a bit role in a movie called “Murder at Yellowstone City” that was released in 2021.

“I think I’m in the trailer for two or three seconds and I think I’m in the movie for about 20 seconds,” Nichols said. “I found out it is all about the editing. I had the director say to me, ‘I’m so sorry, we had to cut this down and I know you worked really hard on this’ and I told him, ‘no worries, as long as the movie is good and the way you want it, you don’t have to make me a star, I’ve got a side gig.’”

Like most country musicians trying to make it in Nashville, Joe Nichols had a string of odd jobs before making it big.
Vilar Performing Arts Center/Courtesy photo

When asked if he skis or snowboards, Nichols said he tried snowboarding in his 20s but it messed up his back, so he skis when he can.

“My girls, who are 8 and 10 years old, they like to ski if we make a trip to the mountains. We like to ski, but mama, not so much,” Nichols said.

Nichols’ wife and kids live in Tyler, Texas, where his wife is from. With him being on the road a lot, they wanted their daughters to be close to relatives. Family is a big priority for Nichols and spending more time with them is one of his New Year’s resolutions.

“One of my goals for next year is to get all of the work done before December so I can take the month of December off. With the kids being at their age, I want to be there the full Christmas season,” Nichols said.

Watch the entire interview to find out a few more things about Joe Nichols, like what he’d be doing if he didn’t make it in the music industry, the shows he is binge watching and how he left his wallet in the dressing room after a concert at Red Rocks.

Tickets for the 7 p.m. show are $48 and this concert is eligible for the Ticket 4-Pack where you can buy tickets in a group of four at a discount. The 4-Pack is $144 total so gather some friends and save a few bucks. This show is also part of the Pick 3/5/8 winter ticket pages where the more shows you buy, the more you save, so look at the website to see the line up through the rest of the season. Free parking is available at the Villa Montane and Ford Hall parking garages in Beaver Creek Village with a valid Vilar Performing Arts Center ticket for that same night’s show. For more information, go to VilarPAC.org.

Meet Your Musician: Andy Cyphert

Editor’s Note: The Vail Daily is showcasing area musicians in a series called “Meet Your Musician” so you can learn a bit more about the voices behind the tunes. If you’re a local musician and would like to be a part of this series, please email Tricia Swenson (tswenson@vaildaily.com) and Sean Naylor (snaylor@vaildaily.com).

Andy Cyphert has been playing in the Vail Valley for eight years.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

Q: What is your stage/band name?

A: Andy Cyphert as a solo artist as a full band “Cyphert.”

Q: How would you describe your style of music?

A: My original music is melodic/alternative rock. The cover songs I play are classic rock, modern rock/pop and country.

Q: What instrument(s) do you and your band members play?

A: I play guitar and sing. Full band consists of bass guitar, drums and additional guitar/vocals.

In addition to playing cover tunes, Cyphert has his original works as well.
Andy Cyphert/Courtesy photo

Q: How long have you been performing in the valley?

A: Almost eight years! I’ve been here since November 2014

Q: Where in the valley have you performed?

A: Currently performing at The Red Lion and Southside Benderz in Avon. Other venues have included:

  • Ritz Carlton, Bachelor Gulch
  • Ritz Carlton Club Vail
  • Four Seasons Remedy Bar
  • Grand Hyatt Vail (Vail Cascade/Hotel Talisa)
  • 10th Mountain Whiskey
  • La Tour
  • Vail Marriott
  • Tavern on Vail Square

Q: What’s your dream venue (in the valley or otherwise)?

A: Outdoor: Red Rocks. Indoor: Ryman Auditorium. I would love to perform at the Vilar Performing Arts Center one day as well!

Cyphert is a regular act at The Red Lion in Vail Village.
Andy Cyphert/Courtesy photo

Q: What other styles of music do you (and members of your group) listen to?

A: I mostly listen to The Beatles, Brian Wilson, Fleet Foxes, Bob Moses, Tame Impala, Beck, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Mac Ayers, Chris Cornell/Soundgarden, Foo Fighters and John Mayer.

Q: How does the Vail Valley music scene compare to other places you’ve played?

A: It’s a smaller, tighter group of musicians in the valley, but there’s a lot of talent in Vail. Vail is fortunate to have such great talent in a condensed area. I see a lot more cover artists than original artists and that makes sense considering we play in a tourist environment. It’s wise to cater to the cover song requests when you are interacting with tourists. There are generally more solo acts than full band acts in the valley as well. In a town like Nashville, I mostly see full band acts. I think it’s safe to say the clientele is slightly different in Vail than in other areas!

Cyphert’s dream venues include Red Rocks, Ryman Auditorium and the Vilar Performing Arts Center.
Andy Cyphert/Courtesy photo

Q: What can the crowd expect from one of your performances?

A: In addition to original compositions, the crowd can expect a wide range of cover songs spanning from classic rock, The Beatles, Clapton, CCR to modern artists such as John Mayer/Jack Johnson, pop music such as Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, Coldplay as well as classic/modern country. I take requests and like to interact with the crowd, meet people, ask where they’re from, etc.

Q: Where can readers see a list of your upcoming shows?

A: Facebook: @andycyphert Instagram: @andycyphert, AndyCyphert.com

Q: Anything else we should have asked, anything else you’d like to share?

A: It’s a real joy to play music as a full time profession, and I am grateful to do it in such a beautiful environment like Vail!