Half-hearted cleanup | VailDaily.com

Half-hearted cleanup

Matt Zalaznick

It’s time for the powers-that-be to get more serious about cleaning up the creek on Vail Pass than digging a few ditches. Black Gore Creek, which flows into Vail Village’s scenically prized Gore Creek, is being choked by the sand that the Colorado Department of Transportation pours all over I-70 to keep it from freezing and to keep the economic lifeline of big-rigs, skiers and snowboarders flowing through the mountains. The brunt of the cleanup, therefore, falls into the Department of Transportation’s lap, and they’ve so far built a bizarre-looking but effective building to store sand at the top of the pass along with a series of ditches to capture some of the oozing pollutants. But this piecemeal puttering hasn’t stopped the slow destruction of the creek, which means the contamination will flow down the hill into Vail Village someday, gum up those sterling rapids and ruin untold numbers of picture postcards.What’s a mountain town without a clear, mountain stream flowing through it? The Transportation Department’s half-hearted effort has angered even the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the mountains over which I-70 was paved. Irritating the traditionally dour Forest Service is no small accomplishment. The careful federal agency is hardly the ACLU or PETA – it tends to never to make a stink, about anything. But they’ve written a letter to the transportation agency encouraging it to stop dragging its feet and think a little more about the big picture. So far, the transportation agency is only trying to stop any more sand from spilling into the creek, at a cost of $20 million. But it doesn’t have any ideas for dredging up the tons of sand already piled up on the creek’s banks or the sandbars clogging the creek itself. Yes it takes money. But the state has money. It spent $6 million on a new I-70 interchage in Eagle-Vail. The so-called half-diamond is convenient, particularly for employees of this newspaper (it’s right outside our back door), but the ramps are hardly necessary. That money could have gone into the cleanup pool. The Vail Daily’s employees could bear driving to an extra mile or so to Dowd Junction or the Wal-Mart interchange to get on I-70 in order to save the lives of Vail Pass’s fish and bugs. And is an interchange closer to the Eagle airport, which will be wildly expensive, really necessary? Couldn’t the roads in Eagle and Gypsum just be improved and couldn’t folks there just deal with a little extra traffic in exchange for keeping a critical creek alive? Vail, Colorado