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Dry Wetlands

Amanda Roberson

SUMMIT COVE – The Soda Creek Wetlands aren’t looking so wet these days. In some places, they are bone dry. And though one Summit Cove resident believes Keystone is to blame for the low water level, the local water commissioner says the culprit is Mother Nature.

Nora Poehls, a 20-year resident of Summit Cove, became increasingly concerned this spring as Soda Creek’s water level continued to dwindle. Beavers, muskrats, and ducks have all disappeared, she said.

Poehls believes Keystone is using all its water to irrigate the golf course and has asked Keystone officials to release more water into Soda Creek.

But Boyd Mitchell, Keystone’s director of ski area planning, said the creek level is out of Keystone’s control.

“We’re very concerned about the drought conditions, and we’re accustomed to flowing streams,” Mitchell said, “but unless you’ve got some connection with Mother Nature, there’s nothing that can be done. There’s no water to be had. When there is, there will be a stream.”

Soda Creek receives its water from snowmelt runoff, and this winter’s low snowfall left the creek extremely dry, said water commissioner Scott Hummer, who represents the Blue River Basin.

“There’s nothing for Keystone to give,” Hummer said. “Even if Keystone were to release more water, it would be sucked up by the ground in transit and would never reach Reynolds Reservoir,” Hummer said. (Reynolds Reservoir is the basin into which Soda Creek flows).

Hummer said Keystone has no legal obligation to keep Soda Creek at a certain level, and that the resort is “barely getting by with the water they have” as it is. Keystone Gulch, the resort’s source for irrigating the golf course, is at one-tenth its normal capacity.

Hummer said Soda Creek’s situation isn’t unique.

“This is happening with wetlands all over. It needs to be understood that this is a drought. Entire ranches have been dry for the past six weeks.”

Though she’s heard all these explanations, Poehls said she still believes Keystone could help the wetlands. She continues to plead with the resort to release more water.

“If Keystone was barely getting by, how could the golf course be so green?” she asked.

Poehls, as well as a group of students, recently put up signs on the fence above the creek reading “Save the ducks” and “Keystone, save the wetlands.”

Summit Middle School student Trevor Rafferty said two neighbors, both of whom are Keystone employees, took the signs down.

Rafferty is especially concerned about an interpretive trail he helped build in the Soda Creek Wetlands.

“The ducks are all in the one place that still has a little bit of water, and they have a lot less food,” said Rafferty.

The trail, which includes a pedestrian bridge and interpretive signs, was a collaborative effort between Summit Cove Elementary and Summit County Open Space and Trails Department. The students completed the project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in May.

“That’s the saddest thing-these kids just worked so hard on the trail system,” said Poehls. “Keystone should be a good neighbor and spare enough water to at least keep the wetlands alive.”


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