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Rocky Mountain National Park Offers Public Meetings On The Grand Ditch Breach Restoration Project


Rocky Mountain National Park will conduct two public meetings on the Grand Ditch Breach Restoration Project the first week of June, 2010. The first meeting will be held in Grand Lake at the Grand Arts Center, 913 Park Avenue on Tuesday, June 1, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The second meeting will be held in Fort Collins at the Harmony Library, 4616 South Shields Street on Thursday, June 3, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

On May 30, 2003, the Grand Ditch, a trans-basin, water-diversion canal in the northwest corner of Rocky Mountain National Park breached its bank. The breach saturated an adjacent hillslope which gave way, sending a massive mud- and rock-slide down into Lulu Creek and the headwaters of the Colorado River damaging upland, stream, riparian and wetland habitat over a 1.5-mile distance and 22-acre area. The breach sent an estimated 100 cubic feet per second flow of the ditch down a steep hillside, creating a flood that sent an estimated 47,600 cubic yards of boulders, trees and sediment cascading down into Lulu Creek. Over 20,000 trees were destroyed and approximately 50 different plant species were impacted.

In 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the National Park Service, filed a civil lawsuit against the Water Storage and Supply Company (WSSC), owners of the Grand Ditch under the terms of the Park System Resource Protection Act (PSRPA), which provides for the payment of compensation by private parties for damages to park resources. The court case preparations continued for another two years. In May of 2008, an out of court settlement was reached in which the WSSC agreed to pay Rocky Mountain National Park $9 million dollars in damages.

Rocky Mountain National Park is beginning a multi-year process to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to guide the restoration of the breach-impacted area. We will be gathering input from park staff, other agencies and the public to develop a set of alternatives for restoration of the breach-impacted area. The purpose of the restoration project will be to restore the hydrological processes, ecological services and wilderness character impacted by the 2003 Grand Ditch Breach.

Alternatives to be considered will likely include a combination of the following: Allowing natural (passive) restoration to occur where appropriate; stabilizing steep, unstable slopes with an engineered solution; removing deposited sediment and redistributing it through the impacted area or elsewhere; removing dead timber from the impacted area and/or using it in the restoration process; regrading and recontouring areas to restore appropriate hydrologic processes; native plant restoration with appropriate, locally gathered plant materials; may require the use of motorized equipment such as chainsaws, heavy lift helicopters, and earthmoving equipment; may require temporary fencing to protect native plant restoration areas.

Major issues to be considered in this restoration planning process include short-and-long-term potential impacts to: wilderness character; geological resources; geological hazards; soundscapes; surface and groundwater hydrology; stream channel, floodplain and wetland morphology and function; water quality; riparian and wetland communities; species of special concern (plants and animals); wildlife habitat; aquatic habitat; visitor experience; long-term resource productivity; archeological and historical sites.

A newsletter has been prepared that details the issues identified to date. Copies of that information may be obtained from Rocky Mountain National Park’s Information Office, 1000 US Highway 36, Estes Park, Colorado 80517-8397, (970) 586-1206. Information will be available for public review online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/romo.

If you wish to comment on the newsletter or on any other issues associated with the plan, you may submit your comments by any one of several methods. You may mail comments to: Grand Ditch Breach Restoration Plan, Rocky Mountain National Park, 1000 US Highway 36, Estes Park, Colorado 80517-8397. You may also comment via the Internet at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/romo. Finally, you may hand-deliver comments to: Superintendent, Rocky Mountain National Park, 1000 US Highway 36, Estes Park, Colorado 80517-8397.

Comments submitted to the website or by mail are welcome at any time; however, they would be particularly helpful if received by June 16, 2010.

© 2014 Estes Park News, Inc

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