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Colorado: Senators Udall and Bennet ask President Obama to use Antiquities Act to designate Browns Canyon as a national monument

Gridlock in Congress prompts request for designation

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There’s a new push to create a national monument along the Arkansas River.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Citing gridlock in Congress, Colorado’s U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet have asked President Obama to consider designating Browns Canyon, in Chaffee County, as a national monument under the Antiquities Act.

The request comes as Congress has all but ignored a huge backlog of public lands bills primarily based on ideological opposition to land protection measures by House Republican committee chairs.

According to Udall and Bennet’s Nov. 25 letter to President Obama, community leaders in the Browns Canyon area suggested the Antiquities Act path, recognizing the significant economic benefits of the designation for regional tourism-based businesses. Continue reading

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Environment: Bulkhead a big step in Peru Creek cleanup

All-out remediation effort targets acid mine drainage near Keystone Ski Area

Remediation work in progress at the Pennsylvania Mine site in Summit County, Colorado. Photo via Snake River Watershed Task Force.

Remediation work in progress at the Pennsylvania Mine site in Summit County, Colorado. Photo via Snake River Watershed Task Force.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — For decades, the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine has been oozing heavy metals — zinc, manganese, cadmium, lead and and arsenic — into the waters of Peru Creek, a small tributary of the Snake River near Keystone, Colorado. The site has been the focus of intensive study during the past 15 years with the goal of improving water quality downstream.

Last week, engineers and environmental experts took a big step toward trying to staunch that flow by blocking one of the mine tunnels. If all goes well, the new bulkhead could reduce the direct discharge from the mine by about two-thirds, said Jeff Graves, a remediation expert with the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety.

Graves explained that the new plug should force the water back into its natural underground pathways, trickling and percolating down through layers of rock and earth, and not as prone to the oxidation that’s key in the formation of acid mine drainage. Essentially, the work will restore the groundwater flow to more natural, pre-mining conditions, he said. Continue reading

Colorado River flows about average for 2014 water year

Storage still near all-time lows

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A 2014 water year map shows the continuing drought conditions in California, as well as dry patches from Texas, extending north into Oklahoma.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Near-average inflow to Lake Powell the past 12 months helped maintain storage at a similar level to last year in the key Colorado River reservoir. According to the Bureau of Reclamation. Continue reading

Microclimates may buffer some streams from global warming

Low flows in high country streams this summer. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Microclimates may partially buffer some streams, at least temporarily, from warming air temperatures. bberwyn photo

‘The one constant is that a healthy watershed will be more resilient to climate change than one that isn’t healthy …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming is all but sure to raise stream temperatures in many areas, but it turns out that changes in air temperatures don’t offer a reliable proxy for projecting those changes.

Eapecially in the mountains streams of the West, topography and riparian conditions are huge factors in regulating stream temperatures.

The correlation between air temperature and stream temperature is surprisingly tenuous, according to stream ecologists at Oregon State University, who examined historic stream temperature data over a period of one to four decades from 25 sites in the western United States. Continue reading

Unhealthy mercury levels found in 25 percent of U.S. streams

These rainbows may not break any records, but they were caught in Dillon Reservoir, where it can sometimes be notoriously tricky to land fish.

Is there mercury in your trout?

National assessment by USGS pinpoints regional mercury hotspots

Staff Report

FRISCO — Widespread mercury contamination is one of the many signs of continued global environmental degradation. Currently, there are fish consumption advisories for mercury in all 50 states in the U.S. Methylmercury concentrations in fish exceed the human health criterion in about one in four U.S. streams.

A new USGS report takes a comprehensive look at mercury contamination in streams across the United States, finding the highest concentrations in the Southeast and in the West, where some streams were degraded by historic mining activities.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that accumulates in fish to levels of concern for human health and the health of fish-eating wildlife. Much of the mercury originates from combustion of coal and can travel long distances in the atmosphere before being deposited. This can result in mercury-contaminated fish in areas with no obvious source of mercury pollution. Continue reading

Environment: Pharmaceutical pollutants elude water treatment, make their way into groundwater

This Meadow Creek, a wild, free-flowing stream that starts in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area and ends up flowing right past our house before its confluence with Dillon Reservoir, where it's wild no more.

How pure is your groundwater?

Iowa stream sampling shows common drugs turning up in well water

Staff Report

FRISCO — Research in a small stream near Des Moines, Iowa shows how pharmaceuticals and other hard-to-remove pollutants from treated municipal wastewater can travel into shallow groundwater following their release to streams.

“Water level measurements obtained during this study clearly show that stream levels drive daily trends in groundwater levels,” said Paul Bradley, lead author of the new U.S. Geological Survey study. Continue reading

Environment: Judge upholds EPA’s review of proposed Pebble Mine, near Bristol Bay, Alaska

Salmon fisheries at risk with open-pit mine proposal

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The EPA will be allowed to do a thorough evaluation of the impacts of a proposed copper mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, a federal judge has ruled.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A federal judge Friday ruled that the EPA can proceed with an environmental review of a proposed copper mine in Alaska’ pristine Bristol Bay.

U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland rejected arguments that the EPA exceeded its authority by starting the review process in the absence of a specific permit application, and that the review violates the Alaska Statehood Act.

At issue is the proposed Pebble Mine, which would, according to environmental groups, become the largest copper mine in the world, potentially tainting huge areas of productive salmon habitat with dredged material and other pollutants. Continue reading

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