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Letters to the editor

editor@vaildaily.com

Your front page banner says, “Vail Daily … Bringing Communities Together.” A wonderful idea. But, do you?I have been a so-called “second-home” owner in Vail since the mid-’60s. The Daily prints much about “second-home” owners and about “NIMBYs.” Much of that is negative and degrading.It seems to me that “second-home” owners are a wonderful blessing for the valley. They are a great source of public funding and many are involved in significant local activities. You’ve stated that about 70 percent of the valley homes belong to second-home owners. They, too, pay property taxes, yet use very little in the sense of public services. Very few if any have kids in the local schools. And the system does not let them vote!As regards NIMBYs (Not in My Back Yard), thank goodness we have many folks who care about what is in their back yard! Imagine if we did not!My wish bias is that you would:n Realize that second-home owners are a wonderful asset to this community (and quit knocking ’em).n Recognize that people do and should care about what’s in their back yard (and quit belittling ’em).n And perhaps promote the thought that second-home owners should vote on issues such as taxation.Caleb B. HurttThe Eagle RiverSeveral weeks ago a letter was published in the Daily concerning the Eagle River. The heading over the letter was “Save the Eagle River.” The tone and content seemed to indicate that the writer was not a longtime Eagle County resident. I believe that he identified himself as a fishing guide and the content was his concern about the lack of water and the general condition of the stream caused by farmers and golf courses.I remember the river from the age of about 6, at a time when I began to follow my father on some of his evening fishing excursions. The clear, rushing, sometimes smooth water was beautiful then and wouldn’t have changed much by now with another 100 cfs of stream flow.Since that time, about 75 years ago, I’ve probably fished the Eagle River a thousand times, more or less. That includes every inch of the stream from Cross Creek to Dotsero. During all that time and all of those miles I have never seen wastewater from a farmer’s fields or from a golf course run into the river. Both of those entities have always needed all of the water they could get, and excess watering is of no good to anyone.The condition of the river today, and for the last 10 years or so, is pristine. Occasionally some piece of junk discarded by some uncaring person floats by. Active, clean-living people band together annually to clean the river.Visitors should be delighted to see riverbanks and streambeds clean, not covered with discarded cans, cartons, plastic bags, tires, toys and what have you.In the old days conditions along the Eagle River weren’t a lot different than today. They just took a different form. Land was scarce, housing was tight, the water in the river was contested by ranchers, towns, cities, railroads and miners.Due to a lack of land and otherwise sorry living conditions, there wasn’t any space for some of the people of Minturn to place their outhouses. This problem was solved during low flows of the river by putting a frame support some distance from the water’s edge and anchoring it there using some stones from the riverbed. Then a wooden walkway supported by rope or cable was built from the shore to the frame in the river. Finally, a wooden outhouse was carried to the frame and secured there by nails, bolts, wire or whatever was handy.During the natural course of events, residents of the town who had well grounded outhouses and sewer lines running to the river complained. Fishermen approaching the town from downstream didn’tlike what they saw and had different thoughts about eating their catch.People driving through on Highway 24 thought the sight was hilarious until they really thought some more.I don’t remember any official protests or demonstrations. Gradually the shacks along the riverbank disappeared as the “over the river” potties joined them in the junk piles.During February of 1955 or 56, a hard winter, the Denver & Rio Grande RR found a tank car that had been loaded with 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel being transported elsewhere. The car was leaking and couldn’t be parked in the Minturn railyards. The offending car was left on the siding almost directly across the river from the national forest building.At that point all of the contents leaked into the Eagle River. Seventy-two hours later, every living bit of aquatic life in the river west of Dowd Junction was dead. I personally chopped the ice and snow away from rainbow trout 20 inches in length and weighing over 5 pounds. That was a scene not easily forgotten.Not to worry, though. That spring, the run-off rushed the length of the stream at somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 cfs, scouring the streambed of every impurity and the trout came back, slowly.The New Jersey Zinc Co. was famous for its underground mill located at a place on the upper Eagle River named Beldon. Most of the big engines used to power the ore grinding machinery were diesel-powered. This required a large volume of fuel to be stored in a big tank at all times. The unexpected occurred and all of the diesel fuel escaped from a leaking tank into the river. The river died again only to be scrubbed out by the waters of the melting snow so that life could begin once more.Was that to be the end of it? No! About 1970 a tractor trailer rig transporting diesel fuel overturned on Highway 6 just south of the current Eagle-Vail commercial development and spilled fuel that ran into the river. The Highway Patrol reported favorably: only a thousand gallons found the river, only the length of river between the spill and Edwards was severely affected.And now this beautiful stream has had more than 30 years of rest. Flyfishermen report good catches. The DOW says the fish population downriver from the Beldon Mill is increasing every year. People are treating the river like the gem that it is. Mother Nature is having her way and no amount of busy hands or wet feet or bags of recovered trash can help.The drought is here and the only thing human beings can do to ease the effects is to save as much water as possible. What number your water right is or how much you are supposed to have doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference when there isn’t any water.We have built a water hungry community along the banks of the Eagle River from south of Minturn through Gypsum, almost 40 miles. As the river dies, the community that sponsors and dispenses huge amounts of recreation will go right along with it.To say that the river is taken for granted is an understatement. It’s always been there, hasn’t it? As far as any living person knows it has. There are some interesting facts about this little river that the general population hasn’t learned.First: The river and all of its tributaries are wholly contained within the county.Second: None of the Eagle River flows through the Vail Valley. It flows through the Eagle River Valley.Third: Gore Creek originates in the Gore Range and flows through the Gore Valley and joins the Eagle River at Dowd Junction.Fourth: Facts about the flow – the river measuring station at Gypsum was established in 1947 and the Eagle River flow has been measured at that station every day since. As of June 27, 2002, the average daily flow was 576 CFS. Sept. 2, 2002, was the gauge’s lowest ever reading at 63 CFS. The lowest ever prior reading was 78 CFS on Dec. 10, 1994. On June 27, 2002, the average reading was about 3,000 cfs, while the daily recording was 267 cfs. On May 25, 1984, the gauge read 6,580 cfs following the most severe winter in recent years.I have recorded the high water mark on my property in east Avon for 32 years. The highest mark was on June 17, 1984. All of that water runs off to the melon fields of Arizona, the fountains and pools of Las Vegas, and the showers of Los Angeles. We thought the water would always be there so we didn’t build any facility for storage.As for saving the Eagle River, I don’t have any suggestions. Snow makes the river run and we don’t have any.Frank DollAvon


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