Cattle Creek water quality study planned |

Cattle Creek water quality study planned

Cattle Creek runs through a series of commercial and light industrial properties just before crossing under Highway 82 and making its way to the Roaring Fork River.
John Stroud / Post Independent |

Garfield County commissioners agreed Monday to help fund a stream health study on Cattle Creek north of Carbondale, but only if area land owners and water rights holders are included at the table.

“I would like to a see a sit-down with all the folks involved and get their concerns and buy-in,” Commissioner John Martin said of the study being spearheaded by the Roaring Fork Conservancy, a nonprofit organization concerned with water quality issues within the Roaring Fork River watershed.

Martin said that should include not only people who live along County Road 113, which parallels Cattle Creek, but those with water rights above and below the study area.

“They need some skin in the game, because it affects their lives too,” he said.

Cattle Creek runs from its headwaters on Red Table Mountain in the White River National Forest, through the northernmost part of Missouri Heights and down along C.R. 113 before crossing under Highway 82 and reaching the Roaring Fork River midway between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

Water sampling done in 2011 and 2012 determined that the upper reaches of Cattle Creek are healthy, and have been designated by the state as “outstanding waters,” according to Conservancy representatives who spoke at the Monday commissioners meeting.

However, a measure of insects and other macro invertebrates in water samples taken on the lower section is a concern, with a rating just below the “impaired” threshold, they said.

What’s proposed is a follow-up study looking at water samples in other areas, including the middle sections of Cattle Creek, to try to pinpoint the disparity in stream health between the upper and lower reaches.

The study is to include five sample sites, including re-testing the upper and lower sites and adding three new sites in-between, said Rick Lofaro, executive director for the Conservancy.

One of the things that will be looked at is whether any surrounding land uses might be affecting the water quality and insect populations. Natural influences will also be studied.

Cattle Creek has had a history of former land-use issues that impacted the waterway, Lofaro said. Some of the contamination could be left over from previous uses as well, he acknowledged.

Sampling sites along the middle sections of the creek would require landowner cooperation for access, he said.

The study would conclude with a report including a detailed GIS map of Cattle Creek, an analysis of water quality, macro invertebrate and land uses, and recommendations to improve stream health, he said.

Commissioners agreed to put $10,000 toward the study that had already been earmarked earlier this year for the Roaring Fork Conservancy. A stakeholder meeting will be called sometime after the first of the year, Lofaro said.

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