Steamboat Resort working to control post-construction sediment runoff
Stormwater engineer Rebecca Lindeman of Jardon Engineering & Inspections stood in front of a mountainous task underway on Thursday at the base of Steamboat Resort, with Mother Nature playing a large role in how the reseeding of about six acres progresses this spring.
Following extensive earth-moving work due to ski area construction projects last summer in the base area and the new beginner area Greenhorn Ranch, teams with Englewood-based Saunders Construction are hoping intermittent rains will help germinate acres of grass seed.
Last spring, Steamboat Springs residents documented cloudiness in parts of Burgess Creek and Walton Creek when sediment from disturbed dirt ran into Burgess Creek at the ski area.
However, this year Burgess Creek from the ski area is running clear, thanks in part to 15-foot by 15-foot fabric bags that are filtering runoff that is being channeled into the large black devices. Each one of the filter bags — expected to be in use through early June — can hold 400 to 450 cubic feet of sediment.
“The sediment bags and how they are being managed seem to be working in reducing the amount of sediment in runoff from the base area,” noted Scott Slamal, stormwater specialist and engineering inspector for the city of Steamboat Springs. Steamboat Resort’s base area is within the city’s boundary.
Lindeman, a civil engineer for 25 years, said the combination of construction, earth-moving work, snowmelt and rain creates a challenging restoration project. However, she added that the U.S. Forest Service designated grass seed seems to be germinating and establishing well this spring.
Last summer construction crews only reseeded limited spaces such as uphill of Steamboat Gondola loading station. Lindeman said that to close out a state stormwater permit, a project must demonstrate 70% regrowth from what existed before the disturbance.
“It’s a huge undertaking for the resort and the community,” Lindeman said. “It’s great that they are being great stewards of the environment along the way. It’s been a very collaborative approach, which is great.”
The water filtering at the base area began soon after the resort closed in late April. Resort crews moved snow off drainage grates near the base that were then covered with orange filter bags. The overall revegetation project utilizes tubes of straw wattles and rock-filled bags, or “rock stocks,” for check dams, the engineer said.
Roll berms are dug horizontally across the lower ski slope so water can be directed to a vertical rock-lined channel. That water running down the channel is pumped by a loud pump trailer and eventually sent through pipes into the filter bag. Clean water oozes out of the sturdy filter bag and then into Burgess Creek.
Lindeman said when the tightly woven, water-permeable fabric filtering bags are full of sediment, they are cut open and the sediment is reused for general dirt fill.
Construction teams have utilized various bio-stabilization measures of natural forest products in the Greenhorn Ranch basin, which is within U.S. Forest Service boundaries. Some of the trees that were cut down for new ski runs were reused for stabilization purposes at the edges of the Greenhorn Ranch Express lift pit to stabilize the dirt slope and protect the grass seed. Other trees were chipped and the resulting mulch was used in slope stabilization bags and spread on top of grass seed to retain moisture and deter birds from eating the seed.
“We are trying to reuse most of the forest products that are disturbed during the construction project such as trees, rocks and boulders,” Lindeman said.
Greenhorn Ranch was reseeded last fall and is being monitored this spring and summer, with progress also largely dependent on intermittent rains.
Steamboat Resort Director of Social Responsibility Sarah Jones said that because the resort already had a helicopter in use for logging in the Mahogany Ridge expansion area and for installing new lift tower bases, the pilot also dropped wood mulch on revegetation areas in Greenhorn Ranch. Lindeman added that the helicopter GPS system helped the pilot know where to drop for each pass.
Currently, the valve that allows water from upper Burgess Creek to run into the rock-lined area — a favorite summer play area at the resort base — is closed. That creek diversion path is currently dry, as work will start soon by Duckles Construction of Steamboat to re-establish the original design of the project, which was completed in 2012. Lindeman said the “beach” at Burgess Creek is expected to open later this summer.
Jones said Jardon Engineering provides third-party oversight and coordination for the resort and its contractors to make sure they “are minimizing (their) environmental impacts through stormwater controls.”
“Our stormwater team are improving the sustainability of our stormwater controls with the use of reusables and biodegradable products,” Jones added.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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