State to inspect runoff in the Highlands
BRECKENRIDGE – Doug Trieste has files upon files of documents outlining alleged erosion control violations at the Highlands neighborhood north of Breckenridge, but he doesn’t have the authority to do anything about it.
Now, the state plans to investigate what Trieste says is a “blatant disregard” for Clean Water Act guidelines designed to keep pollution out of Colorado’s waterways. Pollution, including sediment, kills aquatic life and adversely affects fish-spawning areas in lakes and streams.
Part-time Breckenridge resident Becky Klitzke brought the matter to the attention of the state when she saw muddy water going into nearby wetlands. She has asked the state to make the contractor fix the problems.
“They’re one of the biggest problems in the county,” said Trieste, the erosion control specialist for the Summit Water Quality Committee. “They’ve ignored my requests, and the town doesn’t follow through. They haven’t done anything about erosion control, but they’re going great guns putting in infrastructure.”
He said the worst problems are in Filing 11, along the new Gold Run Road, and at the entrance to the subdivision where ditches lining the road lead to a culvert that goes into the Blue River.
The Clean Water Act requires developers to install erosion control devices – ranging from rock and gravel containment systems to check dams and ditches – to prevent sediment from going into streams and lakes.
Highlands co-project manager Don Nilsson said the contractor has installed silt fences, straw-bale dikes, rock dams and detention ponds. He said he welcomes any state inspection.
“We’re not trying to hide anything,” he said.
A new stormwater regulation that went into effect in March requires developers who disturb more than one acre of land to obtain a permit regarding sediment control. Prior to that date, regulations required they obtain a permit if their entire project was an acre or larger in size.
Most of the lots in Filing 11 are an acre or larger, Nilsson said.
He admits controlling sediment has been challenging.
“We did have a couple situations this spring when we had runoff,” Nilsson said. “And we had erosion from other areas that comes through Filing 11. But we dealt with that. I think we’ve done everything we’re supposed to do. Sure, there were certain days it didn’t look very pretty, but we were dealing with a lot of erosion coming onto our property from other sources.”
Assistant town engineer Tom Daugherty said the other source of runoff Nilson was referring to was coming from another Highlands home which did not need to obtain a stormwater permit because the lot is less than an acre in size.
Trieste said that’s no excuse.
“The water goes through their disturbed land,” he said. “That’s why we emphasize a winter shut-down. You have to have everything in place so when the runoff comes, everything is ready. Hardly anything was done for it, and sure enough, when the runoff came, it was a big mess out there.”
According to Trieste, a state inspector will first see if any pollution or sediment is entering nearby waterways, then check the contractor’s stormwater management plan against what’s on the site.
Trieste sent an e-mail to Daugherty outlining the minimum acceptable requirements the Highlands must meet to be in compliance with his permit.
They include raising a sediment containment system upstream from Gold Run to accommodate future high runoffs, building similar structures in two locations in the filing, erecting silt fences in various locations and seeding to prevent erosion.
Daugherty said he’s spoken to Nilsson twice about erosion issues in Filing 11 and that Nilsson has cooperated with the town in the past, both on work in the Highlands and other projects.
He said that after the winter shutdown procedures failed to control runoff in the area, Nilsson said he thought installing better erosion control devices during the runoff would only exacerbate the problem. Daugherty said Nilsson wants to wait until the water ebbs before reinstalling the devices.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at ((970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or
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