Money meant to ‘get back something’ that was lost |

Money meant to ‘get back something’ that was lost

Nicole Frey
Bret HartmanThe Eagle River near a water treatment plant in Edwards is unable to transport sediment well because it is so wide and shallow, which hurts fish populations, said the Eagle River Watershed Council.

MINTURN – About three years ago, Minturn descended on a section of the Eagle River. Narrowing the stretch, they worked to create more fast moving areas and shallower pools where fish and insects could live and thrive where life before was hard. Moving to the banks, they carved terraces and installed grasses and shrubs to create an inviting environment for the animals that depend on the water. The project was made possible by Natural Resource Damage Fund money, and Minturn is hoping for more of it. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is offering $2.3 million to nonprofit and government organizations that want to improve the Eagle River. And although applications aren’t yet available, groups are already thinking about how they’d like to spend the dough.

Plans for money underwayWith one project under its belt already, Minturn is ready to apply for damage funds again, which would likely to continue the 2002 project downstream, said Troy Thompson, a water resource engineer with Ecological Resource Consultants who worked on the earlier project. “The first project was very successful and very visible, so hopefully that shows a good track record, but who knows what will happen during the next round of applications,” Thompson said. The Eagle River Watershed Council, which worked with the Eagle Valley Land Trust to preserve wetlands in 2002, will seek funds but hasn’t decided which of several projects it would like to propose. A study done by Colorado State University showed three areas – Camp Hale, a section of river in Edwards and a pond in Gypsum – that would receive the most “ecological bang for the buck,” said Caroline Bradford, director of the watershed council.”It’s exciting to have this much money to spend on national resources,” Bradford said. With more than $2.3 million left in the fund, Wendy Naugle, an engineer and groundwater hydrologist for the state health department, said she also expects the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado Water Conservation Board and the U.S. Geological Survey to submit proposals for the money.

“We won’t know until we have that registration deadline,” she said. “But we want to give away all the money.”Where did the money come from?Former Eagle Mine at Belden owner, Gulf Point Western, was forced to pay $1.7 million to the state because, in 1988, the mine was dubbed an environmental disaster that polluted the Eagle River. The money, intended to be used after the mine’s cleanup, is meant to “restore, replace, rehabilitate, enhance or acquire” aspects of the Eagle River, Naugle said.”We don’t want to use the money for anything the mine is responsible for,” Naugle said. “It’s for the above and beyond – to get back something that you lost.”The criteria that will be used to determine which groups get money should be ready by early December. The funds will be given out May 2007.

“People must understand this is a multi-year process,” said Minturn town manager Ann Capela. “This isn’t going to happen tomorrow or the day after. (Nonprofit) groups come and go, and this is a process that’s going to need a group’s commitment for quite a while.”The 2002 round of damage fund money allocations went from start to finish in about six months, but the damage fund committee said lengthening the process will allow enough time for nonprofits to receive more feedback and make changes to their projects. “We wanted to wait and see how those two projects went, and we are now ready to restart the process,” Naugle said. Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or Vail, Colorado

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