New settling pond will help improve water quality in Grand County stream
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — With its flows reduced by upstream tributary diversions, and its river-bottom cobbles choked by highway traction sand, the Fraser River has long been a symbol of the imbalance between resource protection and other uses of water in Colorado.
But the Grand County stream will soon get partial relief, as various agencies from both sides of the Continental Divide teamed up to construct a settling pond near the entrance to the Mary Jane ski area in a project tha symbolizes an emerging spirit of tran-smountain cooperation.
Better maintenance and capture of highway sand can help reduce impacts to tiny aquatic organisms that form the base of the food chain in the river, helping to sustain healthy fisheries. The larvae of the aquatic insects need a coarse bed of rocks at the bottom of the stream to thrive. When the sand fills in all the gaps between the rocks, the bugs have nowhere to go.
The settling pond will also protect municipal and resort water infrastructure and equipment.
“This project and the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement show that by working together we can save the Fraser River,” said Grand County Commissioner James Newberry.
“This is a great example of collaboration, ingenuity, and the value of the Cooperative Agreement we recently negotiated with Grand County and other West Slope entities,” said Dave Little, director of planning for Denver Water.
Work started in August and should be done by mid-November. Crews have been constructing a settling pond in Denver Water’s existing diversion facility, building an access road and establishing a new wetland area downstream of the project.
The purpose of the settling pond is to trap and remove sediment that enters the Fraser River below Berthoud Pass. This project builds on previous efforts funded by a Colorado Nonpoint Source Program grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which involved an initial construction phase years ago and helped pay for this new design.
“CDOT is very excited to see this project take form,” said CDOT Region 1 Director Tony Devito. “The end result of removing traction sand from this drainage basin is so critical for the environment and end users of this watershed. This could not have happened without those involved collaborating toward the common goal.”
The project is funded through multiple partners. Led by president Kirk Klancke beginning in 2002, the East Grand Water Quality Board acquired a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board in 2008 for $187,900 to construct the settling pond.
Grand County is administering the grant and contributing $45,000 plus one-third of the cost of all change orders. In addition, CDOT is contributing $175,000 toward project engineering and construction. As part of the enhancements recently agreed to in the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement Denver Water has contributed $90,000 toward construction, is managing the project, and is allowing the construction of the settlement pond within its Fraser River diversion facility.
“This will be a great enhancement for our water treatment system,” said Mike Wageck from Winter Park Water and Sanitation District. “The excess sediment clogs Winter Park’s drinking water intake pipes and Winter Park Resort’s diversion pumps.”
The settling pond design, created by JVA, Inc., captures sediment and includes a diversion structure to channel water away from the basin when it is necessary remove the sediment. The design also includes access improvements from U.S. Highway 40 to accommodate long-term maintenance and sediment removal without impacting wetlands or Denver Water’s infrastructure. The new access route will allow CDOT to easily remove the sediment from the pond and load it into trucks to be hauled to a Grand County gravel pit for reuse. The sediment was tested to make sure it contained no potentially unsafe materials.