Three Lakes Annual meeting highlights Grand Lake clarity issues |

Three Lakes Annual meeting highlights Grand Lake clarity issues

Andrew Wise
Special to the Sky-Hi News

The Three Lakes Watershed Association held its annual meeting Saturday morning, June 25, at the Grand Lake Fire Station. The central topic of discussion was one that, as Association President Scally O’Donnell reminded attendees, people in this county have been arguing about since 1954: the clarity of Grand Lake.

Clarity issues are directly connected to the Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado Big Thompson project, which pumps of water from Shadow Mountain Reservoir through Grand Lake and into the Alva B. Adams tunnel for use on the east side of the state.

Signe Snortland, Eastern Colorado Area Manager for the Bureau of Reclamation, presented on the more recent saga related to clarity, starting in 2008 with the request for a clarity standard from the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission, and up to this January when a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Grand County and the Bureau of Reclamation established a clarity standard goal of 3.8 meters with the stipulation that it not become less than 2.5 meters.

Snortland said the Bureau is working to reach that standard with an approach they have dubbed “low and slow”, which will involve a slow but continuous draw from the tunnel in order to reduce the sediment and vegetation plumes that cause clarity problems.

Mike Cassio, Three Lakes Watershed member who was directly involved in the stakeholder committee meetings that led to the signing of the 3.8 meter standard, spoke to the importance of getting entities at the same table to generate a compromise.

“Everybody was about to lawyer up. That would have done nothing, and we wouldn’t have been able to do anything,” Cassio said.

Three monitoring locations managed by Northern Water and the Grand County Water Information Network will track the effectiveness of the system. The Bureau will be spending $500,000 on studies this year with the hope of generating a reasonable solution in five years, Snortland said. There is also an “engineer lock in” proposed that would put experts from the east and west side of the state in a room for several days working on establishing potential solutions for the clarity issue.

“We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully it goes well,” Snortland said.

In addition to the studies, the Bureau is in the process of obtaining grants for mixing systems and oxygenation systems that might improve clarity, as well as computer modeling that would allow regulators to look the effects of different operations on water quality and clarity.

Other speakers at the meeting included Town Manager Jim White, who discussed ongoing town projects including the East Inlet Boat Ramp and the Grand Lake Town Center. Fire Chief, Mike Long, gave an update on Grand Lake Fire crews working the Beaver Creek fire and its implications for the Grand Lake area, which he said has a similar fuel model to the areas around Grand Lake.

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