TU's Willis gets award for mine work

Restoration work under way at Kerber Creek.

by Jeff Florence

Trout Unlimited’s Mine Restoration Field Manager, Jason Willis, received the 2016 Excellence in Project Implementation award from the Water Quality Control Division – Non-Point Source Program (NPS) at the Sustaining Colorado Watersheds Conference on October 10-13.

The award recognized Willis' leadership in finishing up restoration work on the Kerber Creek project on June 30, thus closing out two phases of 319 Non-Point Source grant funds. The Kerber Creek project includes restoring just under 11 miles of stream through installation of in-stream and bank stabilization structures, as well as treatment and revegetation of over 85 acres of mine tailings along the floodplain. This puts the restored portion of Kerber Creek at 43 percent of the total 25 miles in length from headwaters to confluence with San Luis Creek.

“It’s gratifying to receive an award like this from a partner organization in front of all of my peers at the Sustaining Colorado Watersheds Conference, especially when there are so many other talented people working in this field,” said Willis. “It also means a lot to Trout Unlimited, because not only does it highlight a great project achievement, it also recognizes the ability of TU to conceptualize and carry out successful mine reclamation cleanup projects.”

TU is currently working on three other NPS-funded projects on the Illinois Gulch (Breckenridge), Evans Gulch (Leadville), and Leavenworth Creek (Georgetown) watersheds. The Environmental Protection Agency describes Non-point Source Pollution as pollution that “results from land runoff, precipitation, atmospheric deposition, drainage, seepage or hydrologic modification. NPS pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and ground waters.”

Along with the three NPS programs, there are mine reclamation efforts taking place at the Akron Mine (White Pine), Minnie Lynch Mine (Bonanza), and Santiago/Waldorf Mines (Georgetown) in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service, other agencies, and private partners such as Freeport McMoRan and Newmont Mining. All of these projects aim to improve water quality by reducing non-point source contamination through the use of applicable best management practices.

“There is a lot of work to do here in Colorado and the western U.S., so hopefully this is the first of many awards to follow in the name of improving our water quality," said Willis.

Jeff Florence is a communications specialist for Colorado Trout Unlimited.


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