California Gulch NRDAR Arkansas River In-Stream Habitat Restoration

Background information. Settlement funds from the California Gulch Superfund site have been used to improve instream aquatic habitat and increase brown trout (Salmo trutta) populations in the Arkansas River. The upper Arkansas River Basin is a high-elevation mountain river that supports trout populations. Historically characterized by a relatively narrow channel with fast moving water, recent degradation of the upper Arkansas River due to historic land-use practices have contributed to an altered river channel and a decrease in important habitat features for trout, such as deep-water pools. This restoration project was designed to address three major issues: bank erosion, altered river channel morphology, and degraded instream trout ... Show More

Background information. Settlement funds from the California Gulch Superfund site have been used to improve instream aquatic habitat and increase brown trout (Salmo trutta) populations in the Arkansas River. The upper Arkansas River Basin is a high-elevation mountain river that supports trout populations. Historically characterized by a relatively narrow channel with fast moving water, recent degradation of the upper Arkansas River due to historic land-use practices have contributed to an altered river channel and a decrease in important habitat features for trout, such as deep-water pools. This restoration project was designed to address three major issues: bank erosion, altered river channel morphology, and degraded instream trout habitat. Led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who partnered with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, the Lake County Conservation District, and Colorado Mountain College, restoration has taken place on both public and private land along an 11-mile reach of the Arkansas River and in the Lake Fork Watershed. Project treatments included modification of the river channel morphology, reduction of channel width, excavation of instream pools, elevation of the river-bottom, construction of riparian benches to extend the width of important riparian zones, in-channel placement of boulders and other debris, and planting and reseeding riparian vegetation along the stream banks. Woody debris and boulders were added to stabilize streambanks and reduce erosion by slowing water flows at the water-bank interface. Livestock fencing was installed and grazing management plans developed to promote rotational grazing near the river corridor. This project is ongoing, but has already been deemed an enormous success. As a result of this project and other restoration efforts in the area, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission announced in 2014 that the Upper Arkansas River was added to the Statewide list of Gold Medal Trout Waters, a designation given only to the top locations in the State for trout fishing.

Background information on the Arkansas River instream habitat restoration was obtained from Laura Archuleta, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Greg Brunjak, Lake County Conservation District, and Tracy Kittell, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, written commun., 2015; and from California Gulch Superfund site Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration case documents at http://www.cerc.usgs.gov/orda_docs/CaseDetails?ID=37.

Economic impacts. The Arkansas River Instream Habitat Restoration project began in 2010 and continued into 2014, and had a total cost of more than $3,244,000 during this period (2014 dollars). Approximately 54 percent of the funds for this project was spent locally, which supported an estimated total of 25.0 job-years; $1,268,000 in labor income; $1,667,000 in value added; and $3,261,000 in economic output within the local economy surrounding the project site. Expanding to include the effects of both local and nonlocal expenditures, the Arkansas River Instream Habitat Restoration project supported an estimated total of 49.5 job-years; $3,119,000 in labor income; $4,600,000 in value added; and $9,060,000 in economic output to the national economy. Show Less

Contact(s): Catherine M Cullinane Thomas, Christopher C Huber.

Overview

Project Period: 2010-2014

Location: Colorado

Restoration Type: In-stream restoration

Lead Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Economic Impacts
National Economic Impacts (2014 dollars):

Total Project Expenditures: $3,244,000


Job-Years: 49.5 (15.3 per $1M)

Labor Income: $3,119,000 ($961K per $1M)

Value Added: $4,600,000 ($1.4M per $1M)

Economic Output: $9,060,000 ($2.8M per $1M)

Local Economic Impacts (2014 dollars):

Local Project Expenditures: $1,763,000

Percent of Project Expenditures Spent Locally: 54%

Local Job-Years: 25

Local Labor Income: $1,268,000

Local Value Added: $1,667,000

Local Economic Output: $3,261,000

Big Picture
Main Project: California Gulch NRDAR Restoration

Leadville, located in the mountains of Colorado approximately 100 miles west of Denver, was historically a rich mining district. Silver, gold, copper, zinc, manganese, and lead were all mined in the area beginning in the mid-1800s, but mining has since subsided as the main economic driver for the district. Because of environmental contamination from mining activities, the area known as the California Gulch Superfund site was placed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) National Priorities List in September 1983. The site covers approximately 18 square miles in and around Leadville, Colorado, and contains thousands of piles of mine waste and drainage sites that discharge into the California Gulch from underground abandoned ... Show More

Leadville, located in the mountains of Colorado approximately 100 miles west of Denver, was historically a rich mining district. Silver, gold, copper, zinc, manganese, and lead were all mined in the area beginning in the mid-1800s, but mining has since subsided as the main economic driver for the district. Because of environmental contamination from mining activities, the area known as the California Gulch Superfund site was placed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) National Priorities List in September 1983. The site covers approximately 18 square miles in and around Leadville, Colorado, and contains thousands of piles of mine waste and drainage sites that discharge into the California Gulch from underground abandoned mines. The EPA began emergency remediation at the site in 1986 and remediation continues to this day. In 2006, on behalf of the public, the Natural Resource Trustees (Trustees), which include U.S. Department of the Interior agencies and the State of Colorado, estimated damages to natural resources at the California Gulch Superfund site. The Trustees determined that the release of hazardous substances from the site, including heavy metals and acid, have resulted in injuries to groundwater and aquatic and terrestrial resources. Injured terrestrial resources include upland areas associated with mine waste deposits and floodplain areas with contaminated riparian zones, irrigated meadows, and fluvial deposits. Surface water in California Gulch has been observed to exceed the adverse effects thresholds for aquatic biota for zinc, cadmium, and other metals, and these high metal concentrations have resulted in nearly a complete loss of some biological communities (Stratus Consulting Inc., 2010).

A 2008 Natural Resource Damage Assessment settlement agreement requires the Resurrection Mining Company and Newmont USA Limited to pay $10.5 million in damages for injured natural resources resulting from the discharge of hazardous substances from the California Gulch Superfund site. Additionally, the 2009 ASARCO LLC bankruptcy resulted in a $10 million, plus interest, settlement to the Trustees. These settlement funds were used for many restoration projects in and around Leadville, Colorado, including the Arkansas Instream Habitat Restoration Project, the Canterbury Tunnel Project, and the Dinero Tunnel Project. A great deal of progress has been made as a result of these and other restoration projects in the area and, as of 2014, 70 percent of the site had been delisted from the EPA’s National Priority List. The U.S. Geological Survey collected data on restoration activities and expenditures to estimate the economic activity supported by these restoration projects.
Background information on the Arkansas River instream habitat restoration was obtained from Laura Archuleta, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, written commun., 2015; and from California Gulch Superfund site Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration case documents at http://www.cerc.usgs.gov/orda_docs/CaseDetails?ID=37.

References Cited

Stratus Consulting Inc., 2010, Restoration plan and environmental assessment for the Upper Arkansas River Watershed: Stratus Consulting Inc., 111 p., accessed June 1, 2015, at http://www.cerc.usgs.gov/orda_docs/DocHandler.ashx?ID=152.

 

 

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Images
Before and After Restoration of Sand Bar and Bank.jpg
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