Mountain Town News: Allowing rivers to be lazy and even kinky | SummitDaily.com

Mountain Town News: Allowing rivers to be lazy and even kinky

Allen Best
mountaintownnews.net

TELLURIDE, Colo. — Originating nearby in the high San Juan Mountains, the San Miguel River flows fast and straight through Telluride before tumbling toward the Colorado River.

But that straight shot through Telluride is by no means natural. Local residents are now talking about recreating a river of lazy meanders through a parcel of land called the Valley Floor. The 570-acre gateway meadow was purchased by the town in 2008 at a cost of $53 million in order to preclude future development. In past development, however, the river had been channelized on an arrow-straight path.

Putting creeks into channels isn’t all that uncommon in either the cities or mountain valleys of Colorado. The baby Eagle River, for example, originally meandered among wetlands in a valley between Leadville and today’s Vail.

In 1942, engineers arrived with instructions to create a camp for the 10th Mountain Division. Wetlands were filled, the river was yoked into a three-mile-long ditch, with city streets laid parallel to it. Soon Camp Hale was home to up to 14,000 people, Colorado’s second largest city for a brief time.

The city was quickly vacated and buildings disassembled after the soldiers were shipped to Italy. The ditch, however, remains.

In Telluride, the Daily Planet reports that a $1.7 million plan presented to elected officials seeks to reverse the “crime against nature” when the San Miguel River was channelized. No decision has been made to move forward.

Troy Thompson, of Ecological Resource Consultants, says that the river was probably put into the trough when an adjacent railroad was installed. The railroad no longer exists. The result was a steeper and steady gradient for the river.

By creating a more curvy flow path, similar to what probably existed originally, the river will have steeper portions, called rills, followed by deeper pools. Fish can hide out in the pools, and the reconfiguration will be more conducive to insects and other macroinvertebrates.

Too, said Thompson, the current river causes more rapid runoff during spring. A more winding route allows the river to overflow its banks into the floodplain during spring runoff, with ecological consequences.

The plan, if adopted, would restore 5,000 linear feet of aquatic and riparian habitat. This is part of a $5 million land-management plan for the Valley Floor, an expanse of bushes and, come spring time, dandelions and hyperactive prairie dogs.

Restoration of wetlands and other aquatic functions is also planned at Camp Hale, as the 10th Mountain’s training site was named. The Forest Service recently announced a plan that would see a large portion of the original wetlands restored and the water diverted from the ditch and into a new but once-again sinuous river.

The ditch, however, would remain, as a testament to the short-lived occupancy of the valley by the 10th Mountain troopers and others.

AN EXCEPTIONALLY WARM WINTER ACROSS THE WEST

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — More than drought, the story in the West this winter was of warmth. Winter this year felt like spring, notes the Crested Butte News, and the records kept at the nearby hamlet of Gothic testify to the unusual warmth.

billy barr, who doesn’t capitalize his name, has been tracking weather and snowfall at Gothic since 1974. During summer, it’s a haven for scientists who come from all over to conduct studies amid the wildflowers at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. During winter, barr has the place pretty much to himself.

This winter, he tells the News, he measured 38 record high temperatures, compared to 4 or 5 temperature records set most seasons.

But barr also recorded a temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit on Feb. 6, a full month earlier than the previous earliest date. He recorded rainfall on March 19 at Gothic, elevation 9,500 feet, and that is 25 days earlier than previously recorded.

‘This winter is so exceptional, but lack of snow is less concerning because that has to do with where the weather patterns go. We don’t get it, New England does. That doesn’t cause me as much concern as the heat. To me this heat has been outrageous,” barr said.

All of barr’s record highs on his books have happened since 2000.

Elsewhere across the Rocky Mountains, newspapers last week reported raised eyebrows about snowpacks that were eviscerated by warm temperatures in March.

“March precipitation roared in like a lion and left like a thirsty little lamb,” reported The New Mexican of Santa Fe. Temperatures around Albuquerque were three degrees above the three-decade average. And now, water flowing into New Mexico’s major reservoirs is expected to be half or less of the 30-year average through July, the newspaper reported, citing federal agencies.

In Idaho, it was much the same. In Ketchum and Sun Valley, the Idaho Mountain Express reported it was the warmest winter ever recorded in the Wood River Valley. Peak snow accumulations usually are measured on April 6 in the higher valleys of central Idaho. This year, those snow depths were between 34 and 68 percent of average.

In southwest Colorado, the snowpack of early April was 49 percent of the 30-year median. In lower elevations, such as Lone Cone, west of Telluride, snowpack was just 11 percent of average.

Colorado continues to talk about a statewide water plan. Nearly all of the state’s water is allocated, primarily to farms, but with about 8 percent going to towns and cities. The population, now at 5.3 million, may grow to 9 to 10 million at mid-century. Still uncertain is the effect of rising temperatures on water supplies.

“Things are extremely serious right now,” Steve Child, a Pitkin County commissioner, said at a recent meeting covered by the Aspen Daily News. “Given all the climate change issues added on top of the doubling of the population of the state … we’re bordering on a crisis situation right now. Most people don’t realize where we are and how serious it is.”

CALIFORNIA DROUGHT WON’T JACK UP FOOD

LOS ANGELES — In Denver this past week, organic spinach at a local health-food store was several times what it had been. The reason? A sales clerk blamed it on the drought in California.

California does provide much of the produce and fruit consumed in Colorado and many other states of the West. But the Los Angeles Times reports that some fruits and vegetables are actually cheaper than they were a year ago. The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts modest increases of 2 to 3 percent.

Farm experts say many produce products are grown in the coastal areas. They have not been affected by drought the same as the Central Valley.

The biggest price increases for fruits and vegetables so far are those for garlic (up 100 percent), radishes (up 57 percent), carrots (up 48 percent), grapefruit (up 45 percent) and green onions (up 42 percent), says the Times.

Some items have remained fairly steady in price, and a few have declined. In addition to kale, best buys include Brussel sprouts (down 14 percent), limes (down 10 percent), strawberries (down 8 percent), asparagus (down 7 percent) and celery (down 5 percent).

SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL IN THE FLATHEAD VALLEY

WHITEFISH, Mont. — It went boom in the Flathead Valley Saturday morning, the result of a magnitude 3.6 quake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Whitefish Pilot reports that another earthquake, somewhat larger and centered near Whitefish, rattled homes across the valley in mid-November.

ASPEN BAR REQUIRED TO PAY CITY REVENUES

ASPEN — In February, a brawl broke out in Whiskey Rush, a bar in Aspen. Two patrons were cut by beer bottles and broken glasses.

Instead of calling 911 immediately, bar managers cleaned up the glass and assisted the injured patrons. For that delay, reports the Aspen Daily News, the bar now has agreed to pay Aspen’s city government 20 percent of its gross sales during the week in which the fight occurred, or between $1,300 and $1,500.

An attorney for the bar told the newspaper that the staff responded promptly. “They rendered aid and cleaned up the glass to make sure no one else was injured. But no one stopped and said, “We better call 911,” said Chris Bryan, the attorney.

The municipal code, however, requires “immediate reporting” to police.

“I think the concern in this case were the injuries to people, and that we don’t want to have bars in town that, in any way, shape or form, allow the type of behavior that results in people getting hit with glass objects,” explained Debbie Quinn, the assistant city attorney.

For more mountain town news, visit mountaintownnews.net.

PUTTING MUFFLERS ON CONSTRUCTION NOISE

ASPEN — It’s definitely a real estate boom in Aspen once again. Elected officials recently approved rules that require noise coming from construction sites not exceed 65 decibels, unless special permission from city officials is secured.

Previous limits capped noise levels at 80 decibels except in downtown areas, where it was 75. The Aspen Daily News reports that some local contractors question whether the 65-decibel threshold is realistic or enforceable.

The rules go into detail about how noise from loud pieces of construction equipment can be mitigated. For example, sound barriers can be erected, or the quietest models of equipment can be used.

One construction manager told the Daily News that dropping excavation materials into dump trucks or driving soil stabilizers into the ground cannot be kept below the noise cap.

GETTING HIGH WITHOUT GETTING OUT OF CONTROL

DILLON, Colo. — Who is responsible for the death of Luke Goodman while on a ski vacation at Keystone in March?

Was it the cannabis store that sold him the THC-infused edibles that Goodman, a 22-year-old, gobbled down. Or was it his companions, who left him, babbling and incoherent, and went out to use a hot tub. While they were gone, he shot himself.

The family, as The Denver Post notes, blames the marijuana. But there’s a broader issue. “The manner in which edibles affect a person raises the question whether more should be done to educate buyers before they leave the shop,” the newspaper explains.

There were two prior deaths in Colorado linked to ingestion of marijuana edibles. Soon after legalization, a 19-year-old college student from Wyoming became agitated after eating an infused cookie with more than six times the state’s recommended dose. He leaped to his death from a hotel balcony in Denver in March 2014. The Denver coroner listed “marijuana intoxication” as a significant condition contributing to the student’s death.

In another case, a man shot and killed his wife. His consumption of marijuana was implicated in the death, but later testing found only trace amounts of THC in his blood.

Colorado has taken steps to ensure customers understand what they’re getting into when they buy edibles. THC-infused chocolate bars, for example, are clearly divided into sections, with a maximum 10 grams of THC per section. Industry groups have also adopted a “start low, go slow” campaign to encourage moderation in consumption. Effects of edibles are much slower to become apparent than when smoking or inhaling, they warn.

New rules are due Jan. 1, and the Post says they might help curb accidental ingestion. However, it remains unclear if they will stop individuals from eating too much, too fast.

Which gets back to who bears responsibility. Ean Seeb, a store co-owner in Denver and chair of the National Cannabis Industry Association, says the owner of the cannabis dispensary that sold the Oklahoma man the edibles should not be blamed.

“At no point do I feel the retailer who sold the cannabis responsible for his death,” he told the Post.

But also at issue is whether the edibles sold to customers contain the amounts of THC that are identified on packaging. Lab tests commissioned by the Denver Post a year ago showed some products had substantially more THC than identified and others less. New testing conducted recently showed wide margins again, but this time strictly on the low side.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.