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Summit County firefighters head to Front Range

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Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue crews fighting a small wildfire near Keystone, Colorado in March, 2012.

Moderate fire danger in the high country enable local departments to lend a hand with Black Forest Fire

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — With only a moderate potential for wildfires in Summit County, local firefighters have been sent to the Front Range to help fight the destructive Black Forest Fire. The assignment could last as long as two weeks, according to a press release from Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue.

The fire northeast of Colorado Springs has already destroyed about 80 to 100 homes and forced the evacuation of several thousand residents, and more homes are still at risk.

In Summit County, fire experts say wildfires are unlikely right now following a wet spring. The potential for fires is expected to creep up the next few weeks and could reach a critical level by late June, according to LDFR deputy chief Jeff Berino. Continue reading

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Old Dillon Reservoir completion delayed again

Crews working to replace mile-long pipeline after testing reveals wrong type of pipe was used in construction last summer

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The Old Dillon Reservoir in mid-construction, summer, 2012. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Local water officials say there’s still enough runoff coming down from the mountains to fill the newly enlarged Old Dillon Reservoir by Aug. 1 — even after an unexpected setback delayed the start of fill.

As engineers started to pressure-test the diversion pipeline late last summer, they discovered that the contractor used the wrong kind of pipe for the job, preventing completion of the project.

“Some of the gaskets would not seal,” said Dillon utilities superintendent Trevor Giles, explaining that crews are currently in the process of replacing the 24-inch-diameter pipe, which runs about 5,000 from the lower Salt Lick Gulch area in Wildernest, beneath I-70  and into the reservoir. Continue reading

Colorado: Conservation groups reach deal with Vail Resorts on Breck Peak 6 expansion and withdraw threat of lawsuit

Vail Resorts ups contribution to lynx conservation fund

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Development of the Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area will probably begin sometime in the next few weeks and should be ready for skiing this coming season.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — There will be no lawsuit challenging the Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area, as conservation groups say they’ve reached an agreement with Vail Resorts that will help ensure long-term conservation of threatened lynx in the area.

“Our main concern was lynx conservation,” said Rocky Mountain Wild attorney Matt Sandler, who was involved in the recent talks with Vail Resorts. As part of the agreement, Vail Resorts will up its contribution to a conservation fund that will be used for habitat improvements in the region, benefiting lynx and other species. Continue reading

Summit County: Dillon Reservoir Ice-off!

The last bits of remnant ice on Dillon Reservoir near the Dillon Amphitheater on May 21.

The last bits of remnant ice on Dillon Reservoir near the Dillon Amphitheater on May 21. Bob Berwyn photo.

Late winter delays melt-off a bit past the average date

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — It took a little longer than normal, but Denver Water’s water managers said Dillon Reservoir finally became fully ice-free on Friday, May 24, exactly the same date as two years ago, in 2011, after one of the snowiest winters on record. Prior to that, you have to go all the way back to 1995 to find a later date (May 30).

Dillon-based reservoir-keepers have been tracking the dates the reservoir freezes over and thaws out completely since 1965 as part of their regular duties. The so-called ice-off date generally falls in the middle of May. In fact, the ice has only lasted into June once — after the monster winter of 1983, when it didn’t thaw until June 7.

The earliest ever full-thaw date was last year, when all the ice was gone by April 18 following all-time record March warmth. 2012 was one of only two years on record when the ice melted in April. The other April melt-off was in 2002, following another severe drought winter.

The earliest Dillon Reservoir has frozen over completely was Dec. 1, 1990, nearly three weeks ahead of the average date, which generally falls right around Christmas. This winter’s freeze-over date was Dec. 26, following two years 2010 and 2011) with unusually late ice-on dates. In both those years, the reservoir froze solid on Jan. 1.

The latest the reservoir has ever frozen over was Jan. 30, 1980, during another infamous warm and dry winter.

Currently, the water level in Dillon Reservoir is rising at the rate of several inches per day, with the Blue and Snake rivers, Tenmile Creek and the smaller tributaries all hovering around peak seasonal flows. As of May 21, the reservoir elevation was 8,989.11 feet, holding about 180,000 acre feet (capacity is 257,304 acre feet). That’s still about 27 feet below full (9,017 feet).

Full list of ice-on & ice-off dates (courtesy Denver Water)

Outdoors: Forest Service adds ‘new’ trails in Summit County

Some of the "new" trails on national forest lands in Summit County lead to hidden coves along the shore of Dillon Reservoir.

Some of the “new” trails on national forest lands in Summit County lead to hidden coves along the shore of Dillon Reservoir.

Travel management plan update results in some user-created trails becoming an official part of the trail network

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — If you’ve never heard of the Hippo Trail or the Bodhi Trail, don’t feel too bad. Both are newly named trail segments in Summit County that have just recently been formally added to the national forest trail system managed by the U.S. Forest Service’s Dillon Ranger District.

Many of the user-created have been popular with locals for years, but now they’re officially on the map, said Ken Waugh, recreation staff officer for the district.

“Many of these have never been maintained and have not been on District maps,” Waugh said, adding that the Forest Service is making an outreach effort to let hikers and cyclists know about the new trails.

As part of that effort, the Dillon District is preparing Recreation Opportunity Guides for these new trails. The one-page sheets  have a map on one side and information about the trails on the other. When they’re done, they’ll be posted online at this White River National Forest website. Some of the guides are already posted at www.dillonrangerdistrict.com. The guides include directions to the trailhead, mileage, range in elevation, difficulty, and trail highlights. They’re also avaiable at the USFS visitor center in Silverthorne. Continue reading

Summit County’s recpath near capacity on weekends

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A new report explores the capacity of Summit County’s popular recpaths.

Report says additional events on busy days could affect safety and enjoyment

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A study by a Durango-based consultant suggests that Summit County’s 55-mile recpath system is nearing capacity on busy summer weekends, especially when casual users share the path with special event participants.

The report also looks at camping, boating and parking at the recreation sites around the reservoir. Read the report here.

The Dillon Dam section of the path alone saw more than 65,000 users in 201o, with more than half of all usage on Saturdays and Sundays, and 70 percent of the usage in June, July and August. In 2010, there were 20 special events on the recpath between mid-July and late August.

“We’re doing all right for now,” said Brad Eckert, with the county’s open space and trails department. The report suggests that more special events could affect the level of service on the recpath. Eckert said data from counters along the path suggest that overall use has been holding steady the past few years, without a clear trend more increased numbers each year. Continue reading

Wildfires: Summit County taking grant applications for fuel-reduction projects

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Much of the fuels reduction work around Summit Cove has been completed, but requires ongoing maintenance.

County aims to link defensible spaces across neighborhoods

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —The Summit County Wildfire Council is once again preparing to award grants for residents who want to remove hazardous fuels and reduce wildfire risks around their homes and neighborhoods.

Grant applications will be taken through April 26. The application forms are available online at http://www.co.summit.co.us/extension. Call Dan Schroder at 970-668-4140 for more information.

Wildfire Council grant applicants must also develop a weed management plan with the help of Summit County experts to prevent the spread of invasive plants in treated areas.

Sine 2006, the grant program has awarded about $1.3 million, leveraging additional funds to total $3.3 million for fuels reduction and wildfire mitigation. Locally, about 10,000 acres have been treated. Details on treatment areas are available in an online map book created by the wildfire council. Continue reading

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