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Grand Lake’s plans to burn slash fizzle fast

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News

Grand Lake’s chances to use Rocky Mountain National Park’s air curtain burner are getting thinner than the standing dead trees on the town’s property.

A solution that seemed a relatively easy way to dispose of massive amounts of slash fizzled when former dump property belonging to the Grand Lake Metropolitan Recreation District was deemed unsuitable for the project.

The recreation district board suggested an alternative site, but that also would not work because of its proximity to trails and the abundance of fire-susceptible wood materials leftover from previous district forestry projects.

Thus, the town is finding itself in a predicament.

It has access to a 30-foot by 8-foot by 8-foot $80,000 air curtain incinerator that can burn 10 tons of slash an hour, but it has no place to put it near town.

This may mean a greater expense to the town’s residents, who have been extended the same per-tree prices for removal the town was able to negotiate with contractors.

In a section of town east of the Tonahutu River, the town-hired contractor is chipping about 2,000 trees on-site and spreading them on a 132-foot right of way. Although putting thick layers of chips can be detrimental to new growth, Town Manager Shane Hale said a thin layer should not adversely affect soils.

In the section of town referred to as “Mary Drive /Woodpecker Hill,” contractors plan to chip about half of tree materials on site. There is an 80-foot right of way on three to four blocks that can absorb application of chips this spring, according to the town.

However in the main section of town, the bulk of the town’s massive tree-removal efforts, “We don’t have anywhere to put all the slash,” Hale said.

And hauling slash to Granby would be “cost prohibitive.”

At this point, the town is looking to “contract with someone on this end of the county to take the slash,” Hale said, an option that recently surfaced.

The cost of this solution would be more than if the air-curtain burner was still in the picture, but not “astronomical,” Hale said.

The town’s original thought was to locate the Park’s air curtain burner at the east inlet boat-launch parking lot, but that became impossible due to timing. The burner is available to Grand Lake only in June, just when the boat launch is teeming with lake users.

Water quality standard sought for Colorado jewel

Colorado’s largest natural body of water, Grand Lake is getting its share of attention lately as subject of state hearings involving water quality standards.

This month, the Greater Grand Lake Shoreline Association, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, Grand County, the Colorado River District and Grand Lake have contracted the services of Rob Buirgy, former director of the Big Thompson Watershed Forum to analyze water quality data available on Grand Lake, according to an update from Katherine Morris of Grand County water resources.

Buirgy will look specifically at Secci depth data to determine parameters for a water quality standard.

Secci disks are used to measure water clarity.

John Stahl of the shoreline association and researcher Pat Raney of Grand Lake are volunteering to help cross-reference data and transfer it into Excel files, according to Morris.

Hearings on the Grand Lake water quality standard with the Colorado Department of Health and Environment are taking place on April 1 and June 9-10.

The clarity of Grand Lake, measured by Dr. Robert Pennak in 1955 at a Secci disk depth of 9.2 meters, had been reduced to a recorded 1.37 meters on Aug. 14, 2007, as measured by the Grand County Water Information Network.

Agencies are proposing that a water quality standard for the lake, which has never existed, be set at 4 meters Secci disk depth “as an interim and attainable goal on which to develop and base management plans,” according to NWCOGG’s proposal for the standard. That depth would then be revisited in future rulemaking to determine “if there is a more appropriate standard.”

“It is appropriate to adopt this water quality standard,” NWCOGG states, “for the protection of Grand Lake’s clarity because of Grand Lake’s uniqueness as Colorado’s largest natural lake” as well as its historic prominence as the Colorado River headwaters, its proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park and “its social and economic importance.”

Although the town of Grand Lake is working on its part to improve the town’s storm water drainage to better protect the lake, last night the town board approved a $500 contribution to support the contracted services of Buirgy.

“This is something that is really important,” Hale told board members. “It’s symbolic, if anything, that says the town is a partner in this. It’s enough to be meaningful, but not so much it would hurt our bottom line.”

” To reach Tonya Bina, e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com or 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.


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