A major reclamation project lead by the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety will begin in May at the Millsap Tailings, located outside of Victor, Colorado. The Cheyenne Mountain TU chapter, as well as national TU’s Colorado Mine Restoration Coordinator, Elizabeth Russell, helped in the effort to raise money for the $750,000 project. The chapter hopes the effort will improve trout habitat in Four Mile Creek. This is a showcase project that brings together a diverse group of state, federal and local agencies, land owners, water rights holders, and non profit organizations to address one of the most prolific problems in the West.
The Millsap Tailings ponds were created in the 1940s to hold slurried material from a nearby gold processing plant. The original dams that were constructed to hold the tailings were breached several decades ago and the tailings are continually eroding downstream during storm events, in some cases reaching over 10 miles from their original location. The site contains 60 to 80 foot highwalls and covers 65 acres. A jar of water collected below the tailings in Millsap Creek during a storm usually contains 20-30 percent sediment load. This siltation has caused wild trout habitat to become significantly degraded in Four Mile Creek downstream, and has eliminated the possibility of Millsap Creek being a fishery. During heavy rain events, this sediment also reaches the Arkansas River. The goal of this project is to stop the massive erosion, reestablish native vegetation on the restored acres, and ultimately improve and protect the downstream wild trout habitat. Once finished, the reclaimed land will also be able to support grazing and provide for wildlife habitat.