By Kirk Deeter
The Environmental Protection Agency just issued new “guidance” that will make it easier for Good Samaritans to comply with the Clean Water Act when dealing with abandoned mine pollution in Colorado and throughout the West. This is a major breakthrough that could lead to more fishable trout water—hundreds of miles, in fact.
Here’s the deal: Most of you who have fished the high country are familiar with the experience of hiking through a mountain meadow, only to find the stream there running in shades of orange, red, or something worse. And in some places, even where the water isn’t visibly discolored, the streams are virtually sterile (in terms of trout and invertebrates) as a result of mine pollution. There are many groups, foremost Trout Unlimited, that have been eager to jump in and help fix these places. The rub was that under previous regulations, if you touched it, you owned the problem. So even the best intentions weren’t enough to shield Good Samaritan organizations like TU from the legal risks that outweighed the benefits of tackling these challenges. That’s now going to change.
“Habitat opportunity equals economic development in the outdoor context, and the more fishable water, the more money there is to be made within the fishing industry,” said Chris Hunt, national communications director for Trout Unlimited. “We’re now chomping at the bit, and empowered to make more fishable habitat a reality.” You can read Chris’ blog post on this topic by clicking here.
It’s also worth noting that Colorado Senator Mark Udall spearheaded this effort. (Sen. Udall has been gracious and accessible to Angling Trade, and we consider him to be one of the most important allies of fly anglers and other outdoorsmen in the United States Senate. https://www.anglingtrade.com/2011/08/12/angling-trade-interviews-u-s-senator-mark-udall/
From Bob Berwyn of the Summit County Citizen’s Voice (in Colorado):
Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, has been leading efforts to facilitate more protection for voluntary remediation efforts. He announced the new EPA guidance this week, saying that it required persistent communication with the agency, as well as direct appeals to the White House.
“This is a powerful statement coming from the EPA and I’m glad they decided to stand with me on this issue … True Good Samaritans can feel comfortable pursuing cleanups and partnerships with EPA knowing they won’t be responsible for pollution when they get done,” Udall said.
There are more than 7,000 abandoned mine sites in Colorado, many of them leaching toxic heavy metals into streams to the detriment of aquatic life. Udall said the new EPA guidance could ease cleanup projects at the Pennsylvania Mine site along Peru Creek, in Summit County, as well as at the Tiger Mine, along the Arkansas near Leadville, in the Animas River Basin near Silverton and along Willow Creek, near Creede.
“This new policy, which follows a multiyear effort I led, is welcome news for my constituents and Good Samaritans everywhere. Abandoned mines in Colorado and across the West threaten our waterways and the environment,” Udall said in a prepared statement.
Continue reading the full story at the Summit County Voice.