Panel discussion will focus on improving water quality

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By Sandy Barnes

The water flowing from Mount Evans into the Bear Creek watershed is at the lowest level since the drought in 2002, said Evergreen Metropolitan District environmental technician Tony Langowski.

Although the water quality is generally good, the lack of snowpack has greatly reduced the volume this season — a scenario that affects aquatic as well as human life.

Last summer, water levels dropped to the point where there were water-use restrictions for the district, and fishing opportunities were limited.

To address concerns about water levels and other related issues, the Bear Creek Watershed Association is hosting a panel discussion on April 4 in Evergreen.

Russ Clayshulte, Bear Creek Watershed Association manager, will be among the panel members addressing challenges and opportunities for improving water quality. A freshwater biologist with extensive experience in the field of water chemistry, Clayshulte will discuss pollution, responsible land use and ways to preserve water quality.

Paul Winkle, an aquatic biologist for the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife, will talk about the general health of fish in Bear Creek, which is stocked by the agency.

Another fish expert, Terry Walters of Evergreen Trout Unlimited, will discuss current and past efforts to restore riparian areas of Bear Creek.

After the presentations, the panelists will hold a question-and-answer session in which residents can voice concerns and receive additional information.

“As drought conditions loom once again, the presentation may help to address a recognized disconnect between the public’s awareness of human effects on water quality and healthy watersheds,” said Chris Schauder, environmental manager for the water district.

The Bear Creek watershed covers 236 square miles in three counties, including Jefferson. The headwaters begin high in the Mount Evans Wilderness and flow through Evergreen Lake and on to Bear Creek reservoir. The watershed also includes tributary drainages from Cub and Turkey creeks.