Vail Daily letter: Gore Creek threats
The Vail Daily recently published a brief summary of questions/concerns raised by the Vail Homeowners Association about the future of Vail. Evidently, my response to those questions was too long to be published, so I have decided to present it in a series of shorter responses. First installment:
Concerning the environment and Gore Creek:
The town of Vail has recently proposed restrictions on homeowner landscaping and other modifications within 10 feet of Gore Creek in order to promote the restoration of natural vegetation along the stream banks. Interestingly, the town exempted itself from this proposed restriction within Vail Village where the town controls the stream banks. Also not covered, at present, are those properties whose deeds provide for ownership of the stream banks to the center of the stream.
Having worked as a volunteer with the U.S. Forest Service on a project to measure the extent of “cementation” of rocks in the Gore Creek streambed, I believe I can say with some certainty that the overwhelming threat to the health of the aquatic life in Gore Creek is highway traction sand flowing into the stream from I-70 which causes “cementation” of the rocks, thereby stifling the growth and development of insect life on which the fish depend for food. CDOT has made some belated efforts to impede the flow of sand into Black Gore Creek by creating a series of impoundments along the sides of I-70, and by vacuuming up the accumulated sand beneath the guardrails to prevent it from flowing down into the stream. The amount of sand that has accumulated along the sides of I-70 over 30 years, ready to wash down into the stream, is astounding and very difficult and costly to recover at this late stage.
There is, undoubtedly, some degree of chemical pollution in Gore Creek from three sources: One, chemicals, such as mag chloride, included with the sand; two, storm water run-off from paved areas where cars travel or are parked; and, three, non-organic fertilizers and pesticides used in landscape maintenance. The first two are a real challenge. The last could easily be banned by town, county or state mandate. It’s amazing to me that such regulations were not imposed years ago. A more rational approach, prior to imposing a ban, might be to start a campaign to educate the public and professional landscape maintenance businesses about the use of organic landscape maintenance products, provide advice as to which products are appropriate, and encourage local retailers to carry such products. This campaign needs to be “valley wide/long,” not just in the town of Vail. The entire valley, from Vail Pass to Gypsum and beyond, consists of very heavily glaciated, porous soils and rocks through which polluted water and other fluids easily migrate. Mitigation should apply to the entire watershed. There are signs along I-95 in Connecticut along the North Shore of Long Island Sound which say, “What goes in the ground, goes in the sound.” That concept is true of our valley, as well, and it is applicable to soils much farther back from the streambed than 10 feet — maybe 1,000 yards?
The town has employed Watershed Environmental Consultants Inc. to develop an action plan for the restoration of Gore Creek and they have prepared a draft report. It is extremely well done and very scientific and is available online (look for Gore Creek Action Plan). Perhaps the town of Vail should wait for the final report and carefully consider and implement its recommendations before jumping to conclusions with ineffective mandates.