Costs, questionable findings put brakes on Snake River cleanup |

Costs, questionable findings put brakes on Snake River cleanup

Jane Reuter

SUMMIT COUNTY – Escalating costs and uncertainty about its effectiveness have put a water cleanup project near Arapahoe Basin “technically on hold,” according to Summit County Attorney Jeff Huntley.

Summit County government, in a deal with Arapahoe Basin owner Dundee Realty, is obligated to put in place a water quality mitigation project in the Cinnamon Gulch portion of the Peru Creek drainage.

Toxic metals apparently collect in the area and then run into the highly polluted Snake River. Mitigation plans called for diverting the Snake River around the Cinnamon Gulch area, from which the metals supposedly originate.

But preliminary findings suggest those metals fluctuate all along the Peru Creek drainage. That could make addressing metal contamination issues at Cinnamon Gulch an ineffectual effort.

“There is some significant question about whether implementing a project would really result in the outcome that was intended,” said Sue Boyd, assistant county manager. “Maybe we really need to get serious about an alternative project that might be more cost-effective in the same area.

“It’s just real clear we need to slow down and say, “Is this the best use of the funds we have available?’ It doesn’t make sense to do a project if it’s not really going to result in any kind of change in the quality of water going into the Snake River.”

The cleanup was triggered by Arapahoe Basin’s snowmaking request, which water experts believe could worsen conditions in the Snake River. Removal of water for snowmaking would reduce the dilution effect on the polluted area, it’s believed. As a result, some mitigation has been ordered.

Boyd emphasized the findings surrounding the project are preliminary.

“There’s a lot of reason to question proceeding at this point in time,” she said, “not to mention the cost estimates are phenomenal compared to what is available to do it.”

The county has a total of $150,000 designated for the project, and cost estimates are as high as $350,000, “well out of the ballpark,” Boyd said.

None of this, Boyd emphasized, means the project will die.

“It’s not that an effort to do something in the Peru Creek Basin is being abandoned,” she said. “It’s just that this particular project may not be the right one.”

Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at

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