Western Slope Round-Up: It’s All About Water

H2O. Sometimes there has not enough and sometimes there has been too much. The Mountain Ute had many words to describe it. The rich have found few ways to dispose of it. And water has bugged us, too.

Take a meander around the Western Slope and learn how water got in the headlines recently.Aspen Poops Out
Aspen Daily News— Some of the bjillion dollar homes in the Aspen area have their own septic system because of their remote location from the Aspen area sewer lines. The excrement extraction companies used to be able to deposit their loads at the local Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District. But no more.

The manhole that the district used to store waste in had to be closed because of nearby construction. The odor from it wasn’t well-suited for nearby hotels, businesses and employee housing either.

Now, the No. 2 waste has to be trucked down valley to the Glenwood Springs landfill, adding extra costs to those sewer line-challenged mansion owners.

What are the impacts now that Aspen has to go down valley? From the article:

“It means everybody in Aspen’s going to be paying beaucoup bucks for us to haul their sludge to Glenwood,” chuckled B and R Septic and Rooter Service owner Roger Maynard.

Customers are frustrated by the change in cost, Maynard said, and B and R may need to buy another truck and hire another employee just to keep stride with demand. “It’ll be difficult to get all the work done that we need to do up there before winter,” he said. B and R handles the majority of septic systems in the upper Roaring Fork Valley.

“It’d be nice if we could get something someplace closer,” Maynard said.

The sludge is all bound for Carbondale-based Caca Loco’s (or “crazy shit”) composting site in South Canyon, east of Glenwood Springs. There, human waste is mixed with construction wood waste and turned into high-quality compost marketed under names like “Bureaucrap” and “Buddhapoo.”

“It’s a beautiful thing. We get paid for giving people shit,” said Kathy Duke, who co-owns the business with her husband Jim.

When It Rains, It Pours Mud
One of Colorado’s natural laws is after every major forest fire, it has to rain buckets. No, it can’t rain to prevent a fire; no, it can’t rain to stop a fire; but it has to pour after the ground vegetation and trees have been scorched.

Sure enough, the Canyon Creek area east of New Castle that suffered a serious fire had a gulley-washer two weeks later. Residents were blocked from getting in or out of their homes by the mud debris. Even I-70 was closed for a while from the mud flood.

From the Glenwood Post Independent:

“Basically we had a heavy storm cell come through, bringing down mud, large rocks and timbers down the hillsides,” said Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario.

A meeting Monday night at the old Canyon Creek School house warned residents of the potential for debris flows caused by rains. At that meeting, Vallario, Dennis Davidson of the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and officials with the Bureau of Land Management gathered to inform residents of a mitigation plan to reduce damage to their homes if a situation like this occurred.

The plan involved lining much of the Canyon Creek Road with “Jersey” barriers, large concrete barriers used in highway construction, to divert water, runoff and debris flows from homes in the Canyon Creek drainage area.

Residents were lucky none of their Canyon Creek homes were destroyed; however, the surrounding hills look like a moonscape. Now, they will get to view concrete barriers for the next few years.

Western Colorado Sprinkled with Ute Indian Names
The Cortez Journal had a story that listed areas that have retained their Ute Indian pronunciation. The information was reprinted from “Colorado Place Names” by William Bright.

Ute names now in use, their pronunciations and their meanings:

Utah  – state named for the Ute people.
Chipeta – chi-PAY-ta, Ouray’s wife, means white singing bird, name used for state park, falls.
Cochetopa Pass and Creek  – from the Ute word k`FAcu for bison, west of Saguache.
Ignacio – ig-NOSS-ee-oh, town named for a Ute chief.
Ouray – YOU-ray, town, county, and a couple mountains named for the famous Ute chief. The name means “the arrow.”
Pagosa (Pahgosa) Springs – means hot water or healing water, town.
Piceance – PEE-ants (or PEE-awnts); the name for this creek and its basin in northwest Colorado may be from an Indian word for “tall grass.”
Saguache – suh-WATCH, Ute for a blue-green color, name given to a creek, a town, and county in central Colorado. Although spelled differently, the name of the Sawatch mountain range is pronounced the same.
Shavano  – SHAV-uh-no (first syllable rhymes with “have”) mountain in Sawatch range named for a Tabeguache Ute chief who signed an 1873 treaty.
Tabeguache – tab-a-watch, mountain and creek in Sawatch Mountains named for a band of the Ute Indian tribe; name meant “cedar-bark sun-slope people.”
Tomichi – toe-MEE-chee, the summit and a nearby creek near Gunnison got their name from the Ute for “dome-shaped rock.”
Unaweep – YOU-nuh-weep, name for a divide and canyon in the Uncompahgre Plateau; the word comes from the Ute for “fire canyon” or “canyon with two mouths.”
Uncompahgre – un-cum-PA-gree, from Ute for “red lake” or “hot water springs,” name given to a river, a mountain, and a national forest in western Colorado.

Going Outside? Spray, Spray, Spray
Grand Junction Daily Sentinel: The West Nile virus is a threat throughout the state and the Grand Junction area is no exception. Mesa County’s Health Department confirmed that positive tests came from mosquitoes collected at various locations in the county. However, no cases of the West Nile have been reported yet locally although the summer isn’t over yet. Indicators show that the hot temperatures have been conducive to increased mosquito breeding.

Here are some ways to prevent spreading the West Nile by eradicating mosquito breeding locations:

Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, buckets, ceramic pots or other unwanted water-holding containers on your property. 

Pay special attention to discarded tires. Tires are important mosquito breeding sites.

Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors. Containers with drainage holes located only on the sides collect enough water to act as mosquito breeding sites.

Clean clogged roof gutters every year. Millions of mosquitoes can breed in roof gutters each season.

Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use.

Turn over wheelbarrows and don’t let water stagnate in birdbaths.

Empty and refill outdoor water troughs or buckets every few days.

Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish. Water gardens can become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate.

Clean and chlorinate swimming pools when not in use. Mosquitoes may even breed in the water that collects on pool covers.

Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property, especially near manure storage areas. Mosquitoes may breed in any puddle that lasts for more than four days.

Yampa River Down to a Trickle
The Yampa is flowing so low and slow through Steamboat that your toilet flows faster than the creek.  City officials and state wildlife experts have asked anglers and tubing tourists to stop using the stream for recreation.

From the Steamboat Pilot:

On Friday afternoon, the Yampa River was flowing at 95 cubic feet per second, which puts the Yampa at one-fifth of its typical volume for this time of year. The lower volume of water means reduced habitat availability that puts the health of fish species in jeopardy, particularly when combined with high water temperatures and low dissolved oxygen levels.

Steamboat Springs area DOW fisheries biologist Bill Atkinson said high water temperatures are the most critical stressor for trout. According to Atkinson, upper lethal limits for trout range from water temperatures of 74 to 79 degrees, and with the Yampa’s temperatures now exceeding 71 degrees in the afternoon, trout and whitefish are congregating in the few pools of cool water.

Peter Van De Carr had to suspend the large commercial tubing outfit he runs through his shop, Backdoor Sports, on Thursday after the Yampa dipped below 85 cfs – the “magic number” level that outfitters cannot operate under according to the city’s Yampa River Management Plan.

The DOW will rescind the voluntary closure as soon as possible – when and if conditions improve.

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Leslie Robinson

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