By Jason Willis
The Kerber Creek watershed comprises just over 64,000 acres in the northern San Luis Valley of Colorado. The headwaters drain through the historic Bonanza Mining District, which is littered with left over draining adits and mine waste/tailing piles from decades of mining. Several flood events in the 1900s breached dams in the upper watershed and deposited large quantities of fine-grained, heavy metal laden mine tailings along the floodplain of Kerber Creek.
Trout Unlimited, along with the Bonanza Stakeholders Group and several federal, state, and local agencies have been working together to clean up Kerber Creek since 2007. These efforts have largely focused on private land in the lower watershed. In 2012, TU was able to partner with the Wagner family, one of the largest landowners in the watershed, to begin treating over 36 acres of mine tailings. In the past four years, 25 of the 36 acres of mine tailings have been treated, and several miles of stream have been improved on the Wagner property through a combination of grant funds and partner contributions from Colorado Water Conservation Board, National Resource Conservation Service, Bureau of Land Management, Trout Unlimited, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and in-kind contributions from the Wagner family.
Needless to say, we have seen drastic improvements in vegetation coverage, water quality, and ecological health not only on the Wagner property, but the surrounding areas. Work is slated to continue on the Kerber Creek project for the next couple years in the upper watershed at mine sites targeting specific loading sources. Check out this short video about the project:
Kerber Creek restoration–Wagner Ranch
To read more about TU’s work at Kerber Creek, click here;
To read more about TU’s work on Abandoned Mines across the country, click here.
Jason Willis is a TU mine restoration project manager based in Salida.