Sunday, August 26, 2012

VWC-DEIS 4.7.1 (Wetlands) Direct & Indirect Consequences

{updated 9/2/12}

Reviewing the VWC-DEIS you'll notice a number of points worth a closer look. To facilitate that I will use this blog for my study notes, organized into single issue threads. Each will quote the USDA Forest Service - Village at Wolf Creek Access Project - Draft Environmental Impact Statement section in question.

{For clarity I have added breaks between sentences and highlights where appropriate.  Wording has not been altered.}
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Draft Environmental Impact Statement - Village at Wolf Creek Access Project 
Page 4-73 - Chapter 4. Environmental Consequences  

4.7 Wetlands and Waters of the U.S.
4.7.1 Direct and Indirect Environmental Consequences
This section identifies and discusses the direct and indirect effects of the alternatives and their development concepts on wetlands and waters of the U.S. resources.

Direct effects include a change in parcel ownership under Alternative 2; and a change in land uses on NFS lands for the entry access road corridor under Alternative 3 and the ski area access road corridor under Alternatives 2 and 3.  Indirect effects would result from construction of the development concepts under the two Action Alternatives. 

Potential indirect effects include the loss of wetlands, alterations to the hydrology of wetlands, impacts to fens, disturbances to wetland vegetation due to increased summertime recreational use, and construction impacts.

Potential impacts to wetlands and fens, and alterations to the hydrology of wetlands, are discussed below for each of the alternatives and their concept development plans.  Potential impacts from increased summertime use, construction, and snow storage are discussed together in Sections through  Regulation and mitigation of potential impacts to wetlands are discussed in Section 4.7.2; Cumulative Effects are in Section 4.7.3; and Irreversible and Irretrievable Commitments of Resources are in Section 4.7.4.

Impacts to Wetlands  

Development has the potential to impact wetlands through physical disturbances such as filling, grading, or the installation of culverts on streams.  The wetland impacts identified and quantified represent estimates based on the concept development plans  Please note, any development plan approved by Mineral County in the future would likely deviate from the development concepts presented in this document, and correspondingly, the wetland impacts would vary. 

Where single family lots overlap wetlands, it is assumed that all of the wetlands within the lot would be impacted.  However, wetland impacts are likely over-estimated here because some home sites could likely avoid impacting wetlands when the area of the wetland on the lot is limited. 

For roads, the impacts extend for the full width of the corridor.  For the Low Density Development Concepts, it is assumed that the homes would be located in uplands and there would be no wetland impacts other than those due to the access and circulation roads. 

Due to the assumptions and the preliminary level of the development plans, the impacts identified may not accurately reflect the wetland impacts, but are provided to allow general comparisons between the Action Alternatives and their development concepts.

Alterations to Wetland Hydrology  

Wetlands are sensitive to changes in their hydrology.  A wetland supported by groundwater could be affected if there are changes to the pattern of groundwater flow into and through the wetland, or a reduction in the groundwater recharge area for a wetland. 

Similarly, a wetland supported by surface water flows could potentially be affected if there are changes in the volume of stream flows or an alteration to the stream channels. 

Changes to a wetland's hydrology could potentially reduce the size of the wetland, result in changes to the species composition of the wetland and could potentially lead to a conversion to another wetland type or to an upland.

Building foundation drains and the creation of impervious surfaces have the potential to impact the groundwater system of a wetland.  For example, construction of buildings on slopes with a high groundwater table could intercept the groundwater flow patterns to downslope wetlands. 

Furthermore, impervious surfaces such as roads, parking lots and buildings could reduce groundwater recharge and potentially lower the groundwater table in wetlands.  Impervious surfaces prevent infiltration and create stormwater runoff which is directed to detention ponds and then released to streams, which convey the water away from the local area. 

Impacts to the groundwater hydrology of the site are further discussed in Section 4.2, and surface water is further discussed in Section 4.1.

Page 4-74   Chapter 4.  Environmental Consequences
Draft Environmental Impact Statement - Village at Wolf Creek Access Project
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I believe the take away message is that any digging and development in Alberta Park ~ whether on LMJV's current holding or slightly uphill and conveniently snuggled up against the highway ~ will cause irreparable harm to that biologically productive portion of the headwaters of the Rio Grande River Basin.  After all, it isn’t like there isn’t still plenty of wetlands and fens located on the desired parcel.

I know we love to think tomorrow will be better and with more opportunities than today so that any dream is achievable.  But, please look around at the 2010s world - when will the USDA-RGNF powers-that-be start acknowledging the unrealistic nature of this 1980s Dream Development in a time when economic and water issues are expected to become challenging indeed?  

Why not explore avenues for Mr. McCombs to sell that parcel back to the RGNF or a conservancy?

A few hundred temporary jobs tearing up an important wetlands is not sound economic development.

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It occurs to me thinking about the inevitable and not all too distant future, when the forest fire goes through Alberta Park - those fens and other wetland features are going to be laying low holding what little moisture there is left up there.  After the cataclysm those Fens Areas, if it’s left unmolested by humans, might well turn out to be a crucial nucleus for recovery to spring from.  

Why were you writers of the VWC-DEIS turning a blind eye to those down to earth challenges the future hold for us and our kids.  Why let yourselves be mesmerized by salesmen’s fast talk?  Please bring some serious science into the Final EIS.

When can we finally lay this pipedream to rest?  And secure the biological, ecological health of this headwaters of the Rio Grande River Basin for the future generations that depend on a healthy Rio Grande River, even more than they depend on a few hundred temporary jobs?

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Dear Friends of Alberta Park and Wolf Creek, 
we have this one moment to tell the Rio Grande Forest Service and the US Department of Agriculture's powers-that-be what a destructive boondoggle this luxury Village at 10,500± elevation would be.

But, they'll never listen to you, if you don't contact them!
Here's where to do that, but you need to do it now, September:

Commenting on This Project
The Forest Service values public input. Comments received, including respondents’ names and addresses, will become part of the public record for this proposed action. Comments submitted anonymously will be accepted and considered; however, anonymous comments will not provide the agency with the ability to provide you with project updates. The Forest Service wishes to provide you with as many opportunities as possible to learn about our activities.

Official Deadline for comments: 9/30/2012. (or is that Friday the 28th, or Monday the 1st?)


  1. I'm advised that given the Alberta Park wetlands, that Alberta Park forest fire might take a few more years and a severe drought (which scientists are warning us to expect) - longer to happen than the surrounding mountain sides which are dying, drying and curing up for a massive fire storm as you read this.


    for more details.

  2. But, mind you that is talking about the bottom wetland and not the surrounding mountain side, as we've witnessed this summer.
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