Eagle River bug populations showing stress | VailDaily.com

Eagle River bug populations showing stress

Other communities now working on stream-quality improvement plans

By the numbersHere’s a look at what was found during a 2017 survey of Gore Creek:
  • 13 Mayfly taxa (populations).
  • 19 Stonefly taxa.
  • 16 Caddisfly taxa.
  • 100 identified macroivertabrate taxa.

VAIL — While there’s some good news for aquatic life on Gore Creek, there are warning signs for much of the Eagle River.

Talking with the Vail Town Council on Tuesday, biologist David Rees of Timberline Aquatics discussed findings of recent Gore Creek studies showing a slight improvement in aquatic life in that stream.

The creek in 2013 was put on a state list of “impaired waterways,” which led to extensive planning for Vail’s current “Restore the Gore” campaign. Among the reasons for the listing was a decline in the populations of bugs and other macroinvertebrates — creatures that can range from crawfish to flatworms.

During his presentation, Rees noted that in 2017 counts, Vail had fewer failing bug-count scores in 2017 than it had in several years.

“There’s been a conscious effort to get people to understand what you shouldn’t dump in the stream,” Rees said, noting that even draining a hot tub full of chlorinated water into a stream can damage aquatic life.

While there’s been improvement along Gore Creek, Rees said aquatic life has shown some declines west of Dowd Junction.

Rees said the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District in 2017 surveyed more sites than it had since 2009. Bug populations aren’t yet consistently low enough to give the river an “impaired” rating. But, Rees said, a number of bug counts are in the “gray zone” between healthy and impaired. A few other sites are now low enough to be in the impaired classification.

“Some conditions are getting slightly worse,” Rees said.

The water district, local governments, and the Eagle River Watershed Council are already at work on plans similar to the one in Vail.

In a Monday interview, watershed council director Holly Loff said the council is working with the towns of Avon and Eagle on river-protection plans.

Some of those plans will include stormwater drainage since most storm sewers drain directly into local streams.

Vail has already spent a good bit of money working on drainage treatment, but given the sheer number of drains into the stream, it will take years to put detours between storm grates and the stream. It may not be economically possible to upgrade every drain in Vail.

In Avon, Loff said the watershed council and the town are currently working on details of a project that could create a better filter where Nottingham Lake drains into the river.

In Eagle, the town has recently signed on to develop a water quality action plan.

Pete Wadden, the town’s water quality education coordinator, said Vail’s plan could serve as a model for other communities in the valley.

No matter what communities do, though, Rees said, there will always be work to do, from education to policy.

“Can you really go for two years before someone makes a mistake?” Rees said. “The trick is how long you can maintain quality.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.