Grand Lake will get no state assist — for now — to revive its once-crystalline water

A state fee that units water high quality requirements in Colorado is declining for now to wade right into a debate over murky water in Grand Lake.

The Colorado Water High quality Management Fee will as a substitute proceed to observe issues in regards to the in style vacationer vacation spot as federal and state authorities pursue options, the fee mentioned at its frequently scheduled assembly Monday.

The lake is taken into account a first-rate jewel in Colorado’s scenic landscapes. Situated on the western fringe of Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park, it has been a vacationer haven because the late 1800s.

However readability deteriorated when the federal authorities started building on the Colorado-Massive Thompson Venture, or C-BT, within the late Thirties.

The system gathers water from streams and rivers in Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park and Grand County, and shops it in Lake Granby and Shadow Mountain Reservoir.

From there it’s finally pumped up into Grand Lake and delivered below the Continental Divide by way of the Alva B. Adams Tunnel to Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir on the Entrance Vary to serve greater than 1 million residents and a whole lot of farms.

The pumping creates turbidity that clouds the lake throughout the resort space’s prime vacationer season in the summertime. Earlier than the C-BT was constructed, the lake was clear to a depth of 9.2 meters, or roughly 30 toes. Now it’s far much less.

Floating boundaries for the Alva B. Adams Tunnel on Grand Lake, Sept. 19, 2022, in Grand County. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Solar)

Years of research and work group periods have failed to provide an answer.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation plans to re-examine a number of choices to repair the issue, together with harvesting weeds and introducing aeration at Shadow Mountain, mentioned Jeff Reiker, who manages the company’s Japanese Colorado Space workplace. Reclamation owns the C-BT sytem, which is operated by Northern Water.

“We don’t have any main structural alternate options which have been recognized as viable,” Rieker mentioned. Some concepts thought of beforehand concerned issues corresponding to constructing a tunnel that might transport  murky water from Shadow Mountain via Grand Lake, stopping the murkier water from mixing with Grand Lake’s.

“Nevertheless, we’re persevering with our efforts to see if any structural alternate options should be reconsidered. We wish to deal with what will be finished with our current funding and authorities.”

The scenario is difficult as a result of it entails federal and state businesses, and any effort to revamp the huge system would value a whole lot of tens of millions of {dollars}.

Early on locals had hoped the lake could be protected against injury attributable to the enormous water system. A 1937 federal regulation, U.S. Senate Doc 80, was permitted partly to guard Grand Lake’s leisure and scenic values, and a 15-year-old state customary was designed to enhance water readability, setting a objective for readability of three.8 meters, or about 12.5 toes.

Through the pumping course of, algae and sediment from Shadow Mountain are carried into Grand Lake, clouding its previously clear waters and inflicting algae blooms and weed development, and harming recreation.

In 2008, the state water high quality fee moved to set a readability customary, nevertheless it has since been changed with a readability objective and the goal of attaining “the very best degree of readability attainable.”

Clear waters close to East Inlet inside Grand Lake, the place a contemporary mountain stream flows into the physique of water, Sept. 19, 2022, in Grand County. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Solar)

Northern Water doing higher, however nonetheless can’t meet readability customary

Northern Water and others have applied totally different administration strategies, together with altering pumping patterns, to seek out methods to enhance water high quality. In some years, Northern has been capable of enhance readability, however to not historic ranges.

 The utility is getting higher at managing readability, assembly the three.8 meter customary 50% of the time in recent times, up from 27% traditionally, mentioned Esther Vincent, Northern Water’s supervisor of environmental companies.

“We now have made notable progress,” she mentioned.

Grand Lake advocates didn’t object to the fee’s choice, however urged it to bolster efforts to enhance water high quality.

Regardless of the progress, main enhancements stay elusive, mentioned Jeff Metzger, a volunteer advocate who has been making an attempt to unravel the issue for roughly 30 years.

“There are quite a few paperwork associated to efforts to enhance Grand Lake readability,” he mentioned. “And we have now seen some enhancements. However none of those agreements have moved the needle.”

Through the subsequent a number of months, Reclamation and Northern Water will proceed main efforts to discover a repair and the fee might revisit the problem once more after 2024.

On the similar time, advocates hope to contain Colorado legislators of their efforts to revive the lake and plan to introduce a decision subsequent 12 months asking lawmakers to endorse their efforts.

This Recent Water Information story was produced as a part of a collaboration between the Colorado Solar and Water Training Colorado.