The Mountain Mail by Joe Stone
Environmental restoration is complete in two-thirds of the Kerber Creek watershed, extending from north of Bonanza to San Luis Creek near Villa Grove in the northern San Luis Valley.
Aarón Mohammadi, Kerber Creek Restoration Project coordinator with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, said the project focused on private land lower reaches of the watershed.
Project success, he said, is the result of collaboration among 40 landowners and 16 entities – including federal, state and local, and nonprofit groups including Collegiate Peaks Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Southwest Conservation Corps.
Kerber Creek is a 19-mile-long waterway contaminated by decades of mining that began in 1880 when prospectors discovered gold and silver in Bonanza Mining District in the northern San Juan Mountains.
Within a few years, tainted runoff began to affect ranchers downstream in the San Luis Valley, and as mining activity increased, so did pollution – toxic metals and sulfuric acid, a by-product of the sulfide ore tailings.