Snake River Colorado Watershed Restoration

Posted: Apr 18, 2008
Abandoned mine.
Photo courtsey of Trout Unlimited.

Snake River Watershed in the White River National Forest near Denver, Colorado.

Objective: Construction of a passive treatment system to mitigate acid mine drainage from the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine, which has left Peru Creek, a tributary of Snake River, devoid of aquatic life. Reclamation of the Snake River Watershed for overall improvement.

Partners: The Snake River Task Force, which is made up of: Trout Unlimited, Keystone Ski Resort, the Keystone Center, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, Summit County, University of Colorado, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the EPA, Tiffany & Co. Foundation, the Blue River Watershed Group, and local residents and landowners.

History: The mining boom, which started in the area around the mid to late 1800s, was fueled by silver and gold discoveries and helped to develop Colorado's interior. These days the prevalent boom in Colorado is based more around tourists, skiers, fishermen, and hunters who make the trip to soak up the beauty of the state. Unfortunately, activities from historic mining have degraded water quality in a substantial number of Colorado's rivers and streams. This not only threatens public and wildlife health, but also impacts tourism in the state.

The Snake River Task Force is one group that has been working to document and find ways to address mine impacts on water quality--specifically with regard to the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine. Unfortunately, past mine reclamation efforts have been stalled due to legislation that can lead to well-meaning groups, who want to start cleanup efforts, becoming responsible for all present and future liabilities associated with toxic discharge or waste (see background page on CERCLA and the Clean Water Act for more information).

Current Activities: Trout Unlimited (TU) has had success, in other areas of the country, combating liability issues so that mine cleanup may proceed. Once they have a liability agreement for Snake River, they hope to help undertake a number of reclamation activities, including construction of a passive treatment system, that will help mitigate the acid mine drainage. TU foresees 3 years of work to cleanup the site once on-the-ground efforts begin.

For more information see:
Trout Unlimited- - Snake River Colorado Watershed Restoration
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