| VailDaily.com

Eagle will share its CARES Act funding with local nonprofits providing COVID-19 relief

EAGLE — After reimbursing its direct expenses, the town of Eagle now wants to help out local organizations with their COVID-19 response efforts.

Earlier this month, local governments divvied up $4.7 million in federal dollars from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The Eagle Town Council reviewed the town’s past and projected COVID-19 expenses and then chose to disburse a portion of its $99,188 in CARES funding directly to nonprofit organizations in the community. As a result, the town now has $46,000 in immediate funding available to assist nonprofit organizations that serve Eagle residents.

“There are probably dozens of needy organizations out there,” said Eagle Mayor Scott Turnipseed. “Hopefully we can direct the money to people who are doing work for COVID relief.”

Even before they opened up funding to the community, Turnipseed noted the town had already figured out one novel way to address COVID-19 needs. Eagle purchased a pig at the Eagle County Junior Livestock Sale and then donated the meat to The Community Market. And, while the food bank program is an obvious candidate for COVID-19 relief dollars, Turnipseed said the Town Council opted to reach out to learn about other community needs.

“It was obviously a conscious decision on our part,” said Turnipseed. “At least it gives us some information about groups that are out there.”

But the there is a quickly approaching deadline for groups to ask for help.

Applications available

The deadline to request aid from the town of Eagle is The deadline for this letter is Aug. 19. To apply for a portion of the available funding, community organizations are asked to follow these steps:

  1. Write a one-page letter to the town of Eagle describing your organization, the role you play in service to residents of the community, and the specifics of the request. Please describe how the requested funds will be used to help those impacted by COVID-19. Please include the following documentation along with your letter:
    • Verification of 501c(3) status
    • 2019 financial statement, P/L or other format showing your financial position
    • A summary of your organizational structure
  2. Email the request letter to Bill Shrum, assistant to the town manager at bill.shrum@townofeagle.org.
  3. At its meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 25, the Eagle Town Council will review the requests and make funding decisions.
  4. Funding must be distributed to the non-profit recipients no later than September 1, 2020. Recipients will be contacted, and appropriate documentation must be provided to the town prior to disbursement.

“The town of Eagle greatly appreciates the community support provided by nonprofit organizations that serve the residents of Eagle and have been crucial resources during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic,” said Shrum in a written statement. “The town of Eagle is committed to the residents of Eagle, the business community, and to assisting the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

For more information about Eagle’s efforts, operations changes, and resources for navigating the impacts of COVID-19, go online to www.townofeagle.org/covid-19.

Vail Public Library receives a National Endowment for the Arts Big Read grant

Vail Public Library is a recipient of a grant of $9,150 to host the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read in Eagle County. An arts endowment initiative in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens how the community understands the world, different communities and fellow humans through the joy of sharing a good book.

Vail Public Library is one of 84 nonprofit organizations selected to receive an NEA Big Read grant to support a community reading program between October 2020 and June 2021. The NEA Big Read in Eagle County will focus on “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren. Activities will take place as part of the county’s One Book One Valley community reading initiative celebrating its 10th year in 2021.

“We have become even more aware this year of the important ways the arts help us connect with others, and how they bring meaning, joy and comfort to our lives,” said Mary Anne Carter, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts in a news release. “By bringing the NEA Big Read to Eagle County, Colorado, Vail Public Library will provide thoughtful and fun programming while also strengthening community bonds.”

The NEA Big Read offers a range of titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, aiming to inspire conversation and discovery. The main feature of the initiative is a grants program, managed by Arts Midwest, which annually supports dynamic community reading programs, each designed around a single National Endowment for the Arts Big Read selection.

“We are honored to continue our partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts on this incredible program,” said Torrie Allen, president and CEO of Arts Midwest. “For more than 14 years this national effort has invested in communities as they gather to discuss the stories and ideas that connect us to one another. We are especially inspired by the projects and organizations that are finding new, virtual ways of creating those connections with their communities and are thrilled to support them at this critical time.”

“We are thrilled to have been awarded this NEA Big Read Grant, especially during these challenging times,” said Lori A. Barnes, Vail Public Library’s director of Library Services. “Community reads inspire conversation, promote literacy and community, and bring readers and writers together through civic discourse and intellectual discussion.OBOV supports thought-provoking ideas and conversation among diverse populations within the community,”

One Book One Valley is a community reading initiative in Eagle County hosted by the partnering organizations: Vail Public Library, The Bookworm of Edwards, Colorado Mountain College and Eagle County Schools. It is a collaborative effort designed to unite and uplift hundreds of citizens by encouraging reading and promoting a sense of community by sharing a common topic for conversation. New partners this year for the NEA Big Read are the town of Vail’s Department of Environmental Sustainability, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and Walking Mountains Science Center.

Since 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,600 NEA Big Read programs, providing more than $22 million to organizations nationwide. Over the past 13 years, grantees have leveraged more than $50 million in local funding to support NEA Big Read programs. More than 5.7 million Americans have attended an NEA Big Read event, approximately 91,000 volunteers have participated at the local level, and 39,000 community organizations have partnered to make NEA Big Read activities possible. For more information about the NEA Big Read, including book and author information, podcasts and videos, visit arts.gov/neabigread.

Trails near Vail, around the forest seeing more trash

Ellen Miller spends a lot of time on the trails around Vail. She’s seen a lot more people on those trails this year — and a lot more trash.

Miller, a volunteer trailhead host for the town of Vail, said on her Friday hike up to Deluge Lake and back down past Gore Lake, she found toilet paper, plastic water bottles, a pair of socks and a number of face masks.

“It really infuriates me,” Miller said. Her guess, she said is that a number of new trail users simply don’t know how to get out and back without making a mess.

A need for education

Miller has been sufficiently annoyed to send emails to town of Vail officials, urging more education.

Councilmember Jen Mason brought up the subject at the Aug. 4 meeting of the Vail Town Council. A frequent trail user herself, Mason noted that on a recent hike she’d filled the bags she usually takes to handle her dog’s waste with trash from others.

“That’s never, ever happened before,” Mason said.

Like Miller, Mason believes there’s a new group of hikers this summer who may not be familiar with trail etiquette.

Mason said she hopes education can help encourage people to bring out what they take on a trail. She’s encouraging the town to put up trail etiquette signs to remind people to pick up after themselves.

“For now that’s what we can do,” she said.

More use, more trash

Trail trash isn’t just a Vail phenomenon.

White River National Forest Public Information Officer David Boyd said trails across the area are seeing more use, and more trash.

“There’s a big increase in people not packing out trash, and illegal and abandoned campfires,” Boyd said.

Like Miller and Mason, Boyd speculated that the trail litter may be due in part to newer forest users who may not understand that Mother Nature won’t pick up after you.

Sometimes good-hearted people will go out with a bag to pick up trail trash. But, Boyd said, he’d rather have users take their own trash.

“We’d like to think that with some education and reminders it’ll get better,” Boyd said. “But it’s tough.”

Miller said she’d like to see more use of Leave No Trace materials given to hikers and other forest users.

“If we’re going to advertise our trails, there needs to be an educational component,” Miller said.

Miller and other trailhead volunteers talk with people headed into the backcountry. Most people are happy to chat, Miler said. Still, too many people leave too much stuff behind.

The Vail Town Council last summer had some brief discussions about working with the Forest Service on the idea of imposing a reservation system on the Booth Creek Trail. That would be similar to the reservation system now in place at the Hanging Lake trail in Glenwood Canyon.

Mason said it might be time to revisit that idea for the trail to Booth Falls.

“The other trails are busy, but (those aren’t) to that point yet,” she said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com.

United Way of Eagle River Valley has $100K to give away

The United Way of Eagle River Valley is looking to give away $100,000 in COVID-19 relief this month.

According to Rebecca Kanaly, the organization’s executive director, this marks the second, and larger, round of COVID-19 grant opportunities from the local United Way. The deadline for application is Sunday, Aug. 23.

The $100,000 will provide grants up to $10,000 for relatively unsupported programs responding to COVID-19 crisis-related immediate and mid-term needs. Kanaly noted that $37,000 will specifically support people who either live or work in Vail. The town of Vail donated the $37,000 in funding to the United Way and a private family foundation, which has chosen to remain anonymous, matched that grant. Another $30,000 will specifically support local nonprofit organizations that have been impacted negatively by the crisis.

Beyond those earmarks, Kanaly said the grant program is open for all. Individuals, groups, or 501c3 nonprofits involved in COVID-19 response work may apply.  

 “United Way really covers the gamut,” Kanaly said.  “We are generally looking for the under-noticed effort. We want to celebrate our local heroes. Not only the first responders but also neighbors helping neighbors, all those people who are stepping up.”

Wave of need

Kanaly acknowledged that $100,000 is a tidy sum to give away. “But we definitely wish we had so much more,” she said.

To illustrate, she noted that back in March, it only took a couple of weeks for Eagle County to distribute $900,000 in rent relieve payments. “If that had continued, the county would need $1 million every month for people to make rent,” she said.

Back in March, United Way of the Eagle River Valley gave out $30,00 in COVID-19 relief grants:

  • $5,000 to Habitat for Humanity for mortgage relief
  • $5,000 to Swift Eagle Charitable Foundation for rent relief
  • $5,000 to Vail Valley Charitable fund for mortgage/rent relief
  • $5,000 to New Life Assembly of God for rent relief
  • $5,000 to United Way of Eagle River Valley (as fiscal sponsor) for meal delivery from Foodsmiths and Loaves and Fishes
  • $5,000 to Small Champions for rent and food assistance

Kanaly noted that the new round of funding isn’t restricted to rent or food relief requests. For example, a senior citizens group has requested money to purchase computer tablets for local elderly residents who are confined to their homes because they such a vulnerable population for COVID-19. The request noted that the technology would help the seniors stay connected and keep them from feeling so isolated.

“That was definitely a COVID request, but not in the traditional sense,” Kanaly said.

As the organization contemplates how to send out money, Kanaly offered thanks to everyone who donated funds to the effort — from large municipal donations to matching funds to individual gifts.

“People just really wanted the money to go to the people who are suffering right now because of the pandemic,” she said. “Some people actually donated their stimulus checks when they got them. The idea is to get to people who need the help right now.”

To learn more or to apply for a grant, visit unitedwayeagle.org/covid-response-philanthropy-fund.

Vail Town Council continues to work on Booth Heights alternatives

A car has about 30,000 parts. A deal to create an alternative to building housing at Booth Heights in Vail isn’t quite that complicated, but a lot has to happen to make everyone happy.

Town officials in January started looking for ways to not build housing at the 23.3-acre Booth Heights site just north of Interstate 70 at the East Vail interchange.

The outline of a plan includes building housing just east of the Middle Creek Village apartments. That will require finding a new home for the Children’s Garden of Learning, which currently occupies that town-owned site.

The town’s currently preferred alternative for the child care center is to add a third floor to the Vail Gymnastics Center, which is just east of Red Sandstone Elementary School. Other sites are also being examined.

Given the complexity, it’s going to take some time to get a deal in place.

Seeking workable solutions

Paul Graf, a member of the Children’s Garden of Learning Board of Directors, Tuesday asked councilmembers to extend the child care facility’s lease to September of 2022. That would ensure continuity of service while a new home is completed.

That request runs headlong into a key element of a draft agreement between the town, Vail Resorts and Triumph Development. Triumph was to buy the Booth Heights site and build workforce housing there.

That draft agreement called for housing at the Middle Creek site ready for occupancy by November of 2022.

An early version of that agreement came in for a good bit of public scrutiny in July, with several town residents calling for a more simple agreement.

Vail Town Manager Scott Robson said the parties to the Booth Heights/Middle Creek agreement continue to work on details of the proposal.

Robson said the partners “were listening” to public comment at the July meeting.

“We’ll bring a draft back to (the council and the public) when we’ve made modifications agreeable to (council) and the partners,” Robson said, adding there’s no firm timetable to make those changes.

Robson added that town officials have also been meeting with the Children’s Garden of Learning board. The goal of those talks is to ensure there’s no gap in service, Robson said.

Councilmember Kim Langmaid said she’s confident the partners can make the plan work.

“If we all stick with it, we’re going to come out with an end result that looks good for us … If we can work together, and trust one another, we can accomplish all our goals.

Councilmember Jen Mason noted that some people want the town to move faster on the plan, while others are urging a go-slow approach.

In addition to housing, “We’re taking the best interest of (the Children’s Garden of Learning) and listening to their concerns, she said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com.

Vail council looks into ballot measure for Gallagher relief

The Vail Town Council on Tuesday put the town on a path to ask voters to maintain current residential property tax rates.

The town is likely to ask voters to exempt the town from the continued downward trend in residential property tax rates. Those rates have been mandated by the Gallagher Amendment to the Colorado Constitution. Voters approved that measure in 1982.

The amendment sets a ratio between residential and commercial property tax rates. The amendment has set the commercial rate at 29% of assessed value. To keep the mandated ratio between commercial and residential contributions to local property tax collections, the residential tax rate has declined over the years.

The current rate is 7.15% of assessed value. To maintain the required ratio, that rate is expected to drop to 5.88% next year.

The Gallagher Amendment has hit hardest in rural areas, resulting in revenue declines for a host of special districts. In Eagle County, voters in the Eagle County Paramedic Services district, the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District and Gypsum Fire District have all approved measures to maintain rates at their current levels.

In Vail, town finance director Kathleen Halloran told the council that Gallagher tax rate declines have cost the town $1.3 million over the past three years. The next cut will cost roughly $1.4 million per year.

The Colorado legislature this year approved asking voters to repeal the Gallagher Amendment, while maintain the residential tax rate at its current level.

Councilmembers said any town ballot question has to be clear in its wording and intent.

Keeping it simple

Councilmember Travis Coggin said the current proposed language — much of which is required by state law — is confusing.

Coggin said he’s in favor of bringing certainty to town budgeting. But, he added, any tax question to town voters needs to be simple.

“I’ve read it, and I don’t understand it,” councilmember Kevin Foley said. Councilmember Jenn Bruno said the town’s message to voters needs to be clear, and should focus on maintaining town services.

“We need to be clear that this puts control in the hands of local government … and this will stabilize our own future,” councilmember Jen Mason said.

While the exact ballot language has yet to be finalized, councilmembers agreed that the town’s question should be put on this fall’s Eagle County coordinated ballot.

Mayor Dave Chapin said participating in the county’s election could bring better turnout.

Town Clerk Tammy Nagel said town and county officials will work up an agreement to get the measure on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com.

Vail branch of Mind Springs Health adds new psychiatrist

Mind Springs Health, the largest provider of mental health and addiction treatment in Western Colorado, has announced that Dr. Patrick Sassoon, has joined the organization as a psychiatrist at the Vail location.

Sassoon attended medical school at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, where he also completed his psychiatric residency.  Prior to attending medical school, Sassoon obtained a master of science degree in mental health counseling from Nova Southeastern University in Florida and a bachelor of arts degree in law from Pontificia Universidade Catolica in his home country of Brazil.

Sassoon is fluent in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, and he has a personal understanding of Latin American cultures and has enjoyed working with Spanish-speaking patients, initially as a psychotherapist and now as a medical doctor specializing in psychiatry.

“We’re very pleased and excited that Dr. Sassoon has joined our Vail office, where he’ll be working with many of our Spanish-speaking residents,” Dr. Will Elsass, Mind Springs Health’s Chief Medical Officer, said.  “Dr. Sassoon is not only tri-lingual and in tune with the needs of our Spanish-speaking community, but he has experience working with telepsychiatry, which has become an essential way to conduct psychiatric evaluations and medication management services during the pandemic.”

All of Mind Springs Health 12 offices throughout Western Colorado offer both in-person and telehealth therapy options for patients.

The Vail office is located at 395 East Lionshead Circle. For more information, call 970-476-0930, or go to mindspringshealth.org.

Vail Commons deed-restricted home is for sale

Lottery applications for the resale of a home at Vail Commons are due to the town of Vail by 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 18. Upload applications to https://vail.sharefile.com/r-radbb0bae3ae414f9 or schedule an appointment to drop off Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. at 75 South Frontage Rd. West, West building.

The 927 square foot, two-bedroom, two-bath home is located at 2090 Zermatt Lane, Unit A, in West Vail.

The lottery is open to any qualifying individual interested in purchasing the deed-restricted home for $211,820. To accommodate public health protocols, The Valley Home Store will conduct private showings at the property from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12 and 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13. Please schedule a 15-minute time slot during either of the two dates offered. Showings are limited to decision-makers only; please leave kids and friends at home. Sign up at https://calendly.com/valley-home-store/vail-commons-private-showing.

All attendees shall:

  • Be eligible buyers as defined by Town of Vail deed restriction.
  • Be pre-qualified for the purchase amount prior to scheduling a showing
  • Wear their own mask.
  • Refrain from touching surfaces.
  • Follow social distancing and public health guidelines.

Applicants must meet the following basic eligibility requirements to qualify:

  • Completed and signed Resale Lottery Application Form.
  • A pre-qualification letter from a mortgage lender demonstrating financial ability to purchase the employee housing unit, if selected.
  • Verification of successful completion of a town of Vail-approved homebuyer education class or signed acknowledgment of intent to do so within six months of the resale lottery drawing date.

A virtual lottery drawing will take place at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 25. The applicant’s presence is not required. Up to five tickets will be issued to applicants based on the following:

  • Meet minimum lottery participation criteria: one lottery ticket.
  • Vail resident: one lottery ticket.
  • Vail resident for equal to or greater than five years: one lottery ticket.
  • Employed in Vail: one lottery ticket.
  • Employed in Vail for equal to or greater than five years: one lottery ticket.

Maximum total: five lottery tickets.

Vail Commons homes have a resale price appreciation cap of 3% per annum plus any approved capital improvements. See the Employee Housing Guidelines, July 3, 2018, Vail Commons Master Deed-Restriction and Resolution No 21, Series of 2002 for additional information.

Additional information including applications and the deed restriction are located on the town’s website at https://www.vailgov.com/departments/housing/current-listings.

For more information, call Vail Housing Coordinator Lynne Campbell, 970-479-2150 or email lcampbell@vailgov.com.

Vail-area district ranger gives tips for safe campsite selection

VAIL — As numerous people whose lives were touched by high school teacher Meredith Latchaw mourn the death of the Aurora resident this week, many campers are saying it could have happened to them.

Latchaw was killed in a freak accident on July 31 when a tree fell on her campsite near Red Sandstone Road, 12 miles north of the town of Vail.

Camping about 100 feet from the Latchaw family was Alan Gionet and his daughters; Gionet said in selecting his campsite he hadn’t thought twice about trees that could fall on him.

Few people do.

While many select their camp sites seeking the protective cover trees provide, one of the oldest rules of camping is to make sure there is not a dead branch or broken limb above.

In the White River National Forest, however, where lodgepole pines were heavily affected by the mountain pine beetle from 2006 to 2012, dead branches and broken limbs are often attached to dead trees which are rapidly decaying.

In addition to the classic suggestion to look up for dead branches, Eagle/Holy Cross District Ranger Leanne Veldhuis gives these tips to campers selecting sites in the White River National Forest:

  • Check the weather before you leave. It doesn’t have to cancel your trip, says Veldhuis, but it will make you more ready if and when dangerous conditions do pop up.
  • When you get to your site, especially if you’re dispersed camping, look around for any dead or leaning trees. “They don’t even have to be right next to camp,” Veldhuis says. “You need to try to get a sense of — if a tree could fall — what would the range be?”
  • As you continue your scan, look for damaged tree trunks on living trees. Living trees with damaged trunks can also fall from strong wind, Veldhuis says.
  • Don’t limit your scan to pine and spruce trees. “With aspen, sometimes you’ve got deer and elk and wildlife that like to brush up against trees,” Veldhuis says. “That can be an entry point then for disease and other reasons that weaken the tree.”
  • Remember that a hazard tree can look like a healthy tree. “If there’s a tree that’s left standing after most of the trees around it are dead or falling over, that tree could still be a risk,” Veldhuis says. “What happened to its surrounding trees could be impacting that tree. Look for conks sticking out — those are rounded, they call it a fruiting body — that could mean there’s something going on with the tree.”

Upper Colorado River will not be ‘Wild and Scenic,’ but conservationists still satisfied with new plan

EAGLE COUNTY — The Catamount gauge on the Colorado River is a result of a big collaboration, and for now, it has gone a long way in quelling the concern of conservationists in the Upper Colorado River Wild and Scenic Stakeholder Group.

Couple that with a few good-faith efforts from Front Range diverters to get more water into the river, and most everyone seems to be convinced that collaboration has been a lot better than the courtroom in this case.

The stakeholder group was formed in 2008, and its mission was overt — convince the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service not to write a report stating that the Upper Colorado River is suitable for a Wild and Scenic Designation from the federal government.

The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations. The legislation that created the system was of more than 300 conservation measures signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1965 to 1968, which formed what the National Park Service calls “the legal basis of the modern environmental movement.”

But while it takes an act of Congress to welcome a new river into the Wild and Scenic Rivers System, a report from the Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Forest Service saying a river is suitable for wild and scenic designation can trigger a change in management for the river.

“The suitability study is the most important step,” said Upper Colorado River Wild and Scenic Stakeholder Group spokesperson Rob Buirgy. “Because if the agency designates that portion of river as potentially suitable for wild and scenic designation … They manage it under a new set of protective measures.”

Objections no surprise

For big-city water rights holders on the Front Range, dependent on water from the other side of the Continental Divide, the words “free-flowing condition” and “new set of protective measures” are a bit nerve-racking when it comes to the Upper Colorado River.

“Once you’ve given federal wild and scenic designation to a piece of water, it makes it very difficult for water providers to create any new water projects,” said Jack Bombardier, who lives on the Colorado River in Eagle County and participated in the collaborative. “That’s why Denver Water, Colorado Springs Water, Northern Water, Aurora Water, all really objected, 10 years ago, when the idea was floated to make the Colorado wild and scenic.”

Water rights holders’ objections to wild and scenic designation for the Upper Colorado River did not come as a surprise to many, Bombardier said.

“Personally, if I could get wild and scenic status, I’d be delighted with that,” Bombardier said. “But it’s probably not going to happen. Denver Water would fight that to the last, along with every other water provider, to protect water that they legally own.”

To Bombardier, an angler and guide whose livelihood depends on the Colorado River having a healthy fishery, the choice was obvious.

“Denver water … is not obligated to release anything,” Bombardier said. They could say … ‘we’ll see you in court.’ OK, maybe if you took it to court, then appeals court, maybe five years from now you win a victory and they say ‘OK, now we’re going to give you more water.’ Meanwhile, over those five years, you’ve got fish dying.”

‘We’d have beers’

Ken Neubecker has been following local water issues in Eagle County for decades as an original organizer of the Eagle River Watershed Council and the Colorado Project Director for American Rivers.

Neubecker said when the wild and scenic talks first began, trust did not flow back and forth on either side of the divide like water.

“There was still some speculations, even up until a couple of years ago, that Front Range folks were trying to subvert the process, or do something to derail it,” he said.

But the group got to know each other pretty well over the years.

“We’d have meetings, we’d have beers afterward, we’d have annual outings where you sit around a campfire, and you get to know people on a personal level, they’re not just a letterhead name,” Bombardier said.

The group decided conditions would need to be monitored, and metrics would need to be assigned to determine if the river was in good standing with the conservationist subset of the stakeholder group.

Buirgy said the Colorado Water Conservation Board supported the stakeholder group using the state’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Fund for scientific studies, recreational surveys, and stakeholder group coordination and facilitation. The stakeholder group also recommended that the board appropriate three in-stream flow water rights to preserve the natural environment on the river from the confluence with the Blue River to the area just above the confluence with the Eagle River. The Colorado Water Conservation Board appropriated and the water court decreed those water rights in 2013.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is expected to help install biological metric tracking tools along the river in the coming months, and a few years ago a new USGS temperature and flow monitoring gauge was installed at the Catamount Boat Launch, near Bombardier’s house, which will measure temperature and serve as a resource guide.

While resource guides do not mandate management action based on their readings, good-faith management efforts have been undertaken based on the Catamount gauge’s readings during the collaborative process. Bombardier says the readings have been crucial for that stretch of the river, which is prone to warm temperatures.

“Just trying to monitor flows there was always difficult, because the nearest gauge upstream was up at Kremmling, but there’s a lot of surface water that enters the river between there and Dotsero,” Bombardier said.

Bombardier used to measure temperatures using his own thermometer, but it wasn’t as scientific and credible as an official USGS gauge.

In 2012, during a period of low water, he sounded the alarm that temperatures were getting too hot for fish, and that’s when he got to know some of the members of the collaborative known as the Upper Colorado River Wild and Scenic Stakeholder Group.

The email list

The collaborative is made up of 26 entities made up of six different interest groups — East Slope water users; Western Slope water users and land owners; float boating; conservation, environment and fishing; state governments; local governments.

Bombardier joined the collaborative as a member of the conservation, environment and fishing interest group.

In 2018, like in 2012, temperatures on the Colorado River near Catamount approached a level where fish could start dying if flows didn’t improve. In 2018, however, unlike 2012, Bombardier was card-carrying member of the collaborative, referencing a USGS gauge in an email list of water diverters who knew him personally. He received quite a response.

Bombardier recounted the story to the Vail Daily:

“I sent out an email to the whole group, 150 people on that list,” he said. “I said ‘Hey folks, the river is getting warm, I know we’re trying to get some reservoirs filled up, but we could really use some water down here right now … that was at 7 p.m.. At 8 p.m. I got an email from (Peter Fleming, General Counsel for the Colorado River Water Conservation District,) saying ‘Jack, I saw your email, just so you know, we’re going start releasing 70cfs tomorrow from Wolford Mountain, hope it helps.’ I thought that’s pretty good, I sent out an email an hour ago and now we’re going to get 70cfs, that’s not going to fix the problem, but it helps.

“Next morning I get an email from (Kathleen Melander, Senior Water Resources Engineer at Northern Water), ‘Jack, got your email, we’re going to stop the Windy Gap pump early and send you guys an extra 150 cfs from Lake Granby.’ I thought awesome, now we’re up to 200 cfs, that’s substantial.

“Then I get another email from (Kevin Urie, Environmental Planner, Denver Water), ‘Jack, saw your email, we’re going to send you an extra 150 from Williams Fork until the weekend, then we’re going to bump it up to 300 after Monday.”

‘Best shot we’ve got’

Neubecker said after spending more than a decade working toward Wild and Scenic designation on the Upper Colorado River, he feels the collaborative group’s plan represents the best effort conservationists could have expended toward maintaining the Upper Colorado River’s “outstandingly remarkable values,” or ORVs.

“It got all of the people who would have been opposed to actual designation to sit down at the table and work out a plan that — if everybody plays along — will have the best shot we’ve got at protecting those ORVs,” Neubecker said.

The agreement was formerly accepted by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service in July. Participating groups include: American Rivers, American Whitewater, Aurora Water, Blue Valley Ranch, Colorado River Outfitters Association, Colorado River Water Conservation District, Colorado Springs Utilities, Colorado Whitewater, Confluence Casting, Conservation Colorado, Denver Water, Eagle County, Eagle Park Reservoir Company, Eagle River Watershed Council, Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, Grand County, Middle Park Water Conservancy District, Municipal Subdistrict of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, Summit County, Upper Colorado Commercial Boaters Association, Upper Colorado River Private Boaters Association, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, Vail Associates, Inc., and Yust Ranch.