"Issues of Concern" Featured Articles




DIA Action Item: Quiet Communities Act of 1997

The Quiet Communities Act needs your help! A simple phone call or quick letter will do. The QCA is designed to renew the EPA's authority over noise pollution, an authority that was removed from their jurisdiction when the recent Congress refused to fund the activities of the earlier Noise Act that benefitted all of us by setting appropriate standards for noise emissions. The Quiet Communities Act was conceived to help with those communities that were adversly affected by shifts in airport noise, such as occured when Denver International opened in February of 1995.

The FAA is currently under no contraints where planes fly nor what kind of noise they generate. However, the airlines had full access to flight-path planning procedures. This resulted in airlines profitting at the loss of the few remaining quiet areas. Many areas in Colorado were and still are dramatically affected by DIA's changes in flight routes. Even the Indian Peaks Wilderness, the most popular Wilderness in the country, now suffers from a DIA flight path passing directly over its center sometimes at altitudes barely high enough to clear the Continental Divide, generating noise at 75-85db (about equivalent to a chain saw at 30 ft). If you want to see your community protected and these past noise infractions corrected, call the two Colorado senators today and ask them to co-sponsor the Quiet Communities Act, S. 951.

Senator Wayne Allard
7340 E. Caley #215
Englewood, CO 80111
Senator Ben Nighthorse-Campbell
303-866-1900 (CO)
202-224-5852 (DC)
1129 Pennsylvania
Denver, CO 80203

As a result of PUMA's and other local organization's work on Denver International Airport (DIA) jet noise a bill has been introduced into the U.S. Senate and House titled the "Quiet Communities Act of 1997". Its intent is three-fold:

  1. To reestablish an EPA office of Noise Abatement that was cut from funding in 1982.

  2. To study ways of noise impact analysis that take into account the affects felt in quiet areas.

  3. To research and report ways to reduce or redirect noise, especially that from aircraft and airports.

This bill, sponsored by Torricelli in the Senate and co-sponsored by Skaggs in the House was created and directed at problems generated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA has been serving the commercial establishment rather than the citizenry in layout of flightpaths. DIA is a prime example. Airlines were involved in all DIA flightpath decisions; there was no public input.

Click on Buttons to see full Text of the bills:

To get involved in local action on the DIA noise issue contact: Paula Hendricks and Norman Lederman







Unhappy Trails?

The wild areas that surround our homes and the trails that access them are just one of the things that many of us enjoy about living on Magnolia Road. Trails get us out into these areas to observe wildlife, provide exercise and allow us to experience solitude and outdoor enjoyment.

The trails we enjoy need protection.

Due to population growth and new recreational trends, trail use is increasing on Magnolia Road. Not only are levels of use increasing, but types of use are changing as well. As mountain bikes and off-road vehicles become more widespread, new trails are pushing into previously undisturbed habitat. Like many other things affected by population growth–traffic, air quality, housing development–increased trail use brings increased problems too.

Biologists have known for a long time that roads affect wildlife habitat. Roads invite human disturbance, allow weed invasion, and introduce new types of predators to previously less accessible areas. Elk have been found to avoid areas where road densities are high and studies show that bull elk deaths are higher in backcountry areas with a lot of access.

Trails affect wildlife and habitat in similar ways. Like roads, trails affect the abundance and reproductive success of some species, while allowing the introduction of predators and new types of weeds (often noxious species) into previously undisturbed habitat.

A study of trails in Boulder City Open Space found that habitat-specialized bird species, such as solitary vireos and grasshopper sparrows, avoid trails, while generalist bird species, such as crows and robins, congregate along trails. The study also found that song birds who build nests near trails have a greater chance of reproductive failure due to predation of blue jays, magpies and other nest predators.

Bird species that avoid trails due to their sensitivity towards humans can become crowded into smaller and smaller chunks of already diminishing habitat as trails proliferate.

If these habitat chunks are in less suitable habitat, (for example, if species are displaced away from riparian areas to drier areas) some species may suffer population declines.

In addition to the invisible edge effects, there are the more easily observable on-site impacts of trails, plant trampling, soil erosion and soil compaction are but a few. Even these seemingly invisible effects are significant; for example, when trampling causes changes in plant composition which in turn affects insects needed for pollination by some plants.

All types of trail use, whether hiking, horse riding or mountain bicycling, affect wildlife. However some uses spread human influence over greater distances than others. While a hiker might need six miles of trail for a day trip, a mountain biker or motorcyclist might need thirty to eighty miles of trail for the same experience.

Biologists concerned with trail effects have formulated guidelines for bio-logically-sound trail design:

Develop trails along existing corridors (roads and existing trails) rather than pioneer trails into undisturbed habitat.

Concentrate visitor use on existing trails rather than allow trail proliferation into unfragmented habitat.

Avoid riparian areas and other sensitive habitat.

Educate trail users on how to mitigate impacts by staying on trail and leashing dogs, and staying off wet, muddy trails.

Trail planning in the Magnolia area will be picking up steam in the next two years as the Forest Service, Boulder County, and the Denver Water Board’s Gross Reservoir planning efforts get underway. The Boulder Ranger District of the Forest Service will embark on its Travel Management Plan, the County on its Reynolds Ranch Open Space planning, and Gross Reservoir planning is already underway.

As we participate in these efforts, we will need to balance the still-wild qualities of the Magnolia area with the pressures of an expanding population: we will need to weigh human recreational needs with the long-term survival of many of the species which inhabit the Magnolia area.


About the Author
Roz McClellan, PUMA member, has been active in environmental issues in Boulder County since 1981 and is currently the Director of the Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project, an organization working to protect biodiversity and prevent habitat fragmentation by mapping and protecting remaining wilderness areas.






Gross Reservoir Re-Licensing: An Issue of Concern


In 1950 the Federal Energy Power Commission (now called the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or FERC) issued a 50-year license to Denver Water Board (DWB) for Gross Reservoir. FERC typically issues licenses for specific time periods and then reassesses conditions before renewing. In anticipation of the 2000 expiration date, DWB is applying for a new license by April 1998. The approximate duration of the new license is 30 to 40 years.


Gross Reservoir can store up to 43,000 acre-feet of water, the fourth largest of DWB's reservoirs. It stores water diverted from the Williams Fork and Fraser Rivers through the Moffat Tunnel to South Boulder Creek. A small portion of the water is also collected from the creek itself. The water in Gross is then released into South Boulder Creek to a diversion dam 5 miles downstream and diverted through canals and pipelines to Ralston Reservoir, north of Golden. After treatment, the water is used by customers of DWB in the metro area.


Prior to applying for the license, DWB started a process to identify issues concerning re-licensing, starting with neighborhood communities, local, state and federal agencies, environmental organizations and recreational user groups. DWB contracted out various impact studies during 1997, while seeking public input in a series of meetings. This information was used to draw up a management plan as part of the application.

As part of this process, during the past eleven months PUMA members have met with residents, State, City and County Parks representatives, the US Forest Service, and special interest groups to discuss a future recreation management plan for the reservoir.

The result of this year-long process is a draft management plan that Denver Water will submit for approval. A 90-day review period of the draft management plan begins at the end of this month. Once stakeholders, agencies and public comments are made, a final plan will be sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) in Washington, D.C. Then FERC will make a decision on the license and its conditions.

If you are interested in the draft or would like to be able to review and make comments on it, please contact Leslie Parker with the Denver Water Board at 303-628-6553 or email us at puma@magnoliaroad.netPUMA remains active in this process and will continue to keep you posted.

To find out more information about this issue you can email PUMA members Mary Scheller or Susie Gallaudet (Recreation Workgroup) or Scott Reuman (Aquatics Group).








County Road 68J: A Road to Disaster?

Concern over the use and misuse of County Rd. 68J has been the topic of recent discussions between the Boulder County Commissioners and local residents.

What's the Issue?

The debate is over what to do with this dirt road that connects Magnolia to Flagstaff; a mile of which is rough and un-maintained. While some Flagstaff residents say they use the road to get to Nederland and to Eldora, a majority of the motorized use on 68J is recreational motorcycles and four-wheel drive vehicles.

The primary concern of PUMA and other local residents is the negative impact that motorized use has on the wildlife and ecology of that area. In recent years, traffic, all-night partying, indiscriminate shooting, abuse from motorized vehicles, trespassing onto private properties, and untended campfires along the road have concerned local residents from both the Magnolia and Flagstaff sides of 68J. Construction debris, trash left by partyers, old appliances and auto engines have been dumped along the road and in the nearby forest. A survey conducted by PUMA in 1994 and presented to the US Forest Service pointed to 68J as one of the local areas most in need of additional patrolling and protection.

County Rd 68J cuts through one of only two remaining elk migration corridors in all of Boulder County. Between November and April, elk who spend their summer grazing in the mountain meadows of the Rocky Mountain Front Range head for lower elevations, specifically Winiger Ridge, looking for winter browse. If this area is not protected from its current abusers, the vitality of this area will be threatened and the health of the elk that come here annually could be at risk.

At PUMA's request, Boulder County Commissioners held a public meeting to discuss closure of the road to protect the area as part of the Winiger Ridge Environmental Conservation Area and Wildlife Migration Corridor. While arguments were heard on both sides of the issue, no one denied that the value of the land as wildlife habitat was being severely compromised under current use patterns.

What's the Solution?

PUMA members are eager to find a solution that benefits everyone: people, animals, and plant communities.

As a result of the meeting with Boulder County Commissioners, Clark Misner, County Transportation Director, has organized area residents, Boulder County staff, and Forest Service representatives to look for a consensus solution.

The group-designed solution was implemented this summer beginning in May, when 25 to 30 PUMA and Lakeshore volunteers worked with the Forest Service to close and sign spur roads off 68J. In July, the Boulder County Transportation Department installed two "locked-open" gates on both ends of 68J. Signs intended to prevent trespassing on private property, and discourage shooting, camping, dumping and fires were then posted at both ends.

The signs caused some confusion to local residents who have been long-time users of that area. To clarify, land on either side of the gates and signs is private property, but 68J is a year-round county road. Horseback riders, mountain bikers, hikers, bird watchers, walkers are encouraged to use and enjoy 68J. The sole purpose of the signs and gates is to prevent abuse of the area. This fall, the County will return to 68J to install boulders in front of spur road entrances to prevent people from driving around closure signs or removing the existing temporary barriers of dead wood.

Magnolia and Lakeshore residents living on or near 68J report that the signs, spur road closures and gates have alleviated many of the problems. So far, none of the spur road closure signs have been removed. The 68J working group will reconvene this November to assess the situation and plan for any future work needed in the area. At that time, PUMA will present a summary of all the 68J and Winiger road/trail surveys conducted this summer by PUMA volunteers. If you want to participate in the 68J working group or would like to provide input or ask questions, please call Bay Roberts at 447-8836 or e-mail at








South Boulder Creek: Diversions and Impacts

    Water, water everywhere
       Water,water nowhere.

After weeks of participating in discussions with the Denver Water Board (DWB) concerning the re-licensing of Gross Reservoir, several active PUMA members accompanied Bob Crifasi, City of Boulder Water Resource Specialist, on a field trip to South Boulder Creek. The purpose of the trip was to understand what happens to the water below the reservoir. Gross Reservoir and South Boulder Creek are part of the Denver water system, supplying about 20 percent its water.

What We Saw

On Friday, February 14th, four PUMA members stood on a small concrete weir near Eldorado Springs and looked down into South Boulder Creek. There was no water. None. Even the rocks were dry. Crifasi explained, "Upstream from this dry river bed, all the water that flows down from Gross Reservoir is shunted off into Community Ditch, a water supply for the cities of Louisville and Lafayette; their use doesn't entirely dry up the stream, water comes back in from other sources just downstream from where we are now."

Indeed, there was water just a short distance downstream entering the dry river. The clear water for which Eldorado Springs is famous, flowed directly into the riverbed. Although this flow amounted to perhaps only 10 to 20 percent of the water supply diverted into Community Ditch, South Boulder Creek was no longer a desert.

Crifasi went on to explain, "Water supply and water laws are complex issues and there are a web of uses of South Boulder Creek by the people and biological communities this water supports."

What We Learned

Denver's water supply is partially provided by a system of collection channels, pipes, reservoirs, and tunnels that run through Boulder County and adjacent to the Magnolia area. Gross Reservoir collects water from South Boulder Creek. Moffat tunnel adds west slope water to the creek.

Six miles below Gross Dam, Denver's water is diverted from the Creek through pipes and ditches for Denver's industrial, agricultural, and residential users. These diversions affect the water flow in South Boulder Creek. Human modifications have affected all its uses, from the alpine tundra to the kitchen table.

Our small group followed this pipeline into Boulder County Open Space south of Eldorado Springs. Here, Crifasi introduced us to one of the many difficulties of ecosystem management in a land where much of the Front Range has been modified by the works of man.

In the bottom of a deep valley, Crifasi pointed to where, "the largest population of a very sensitive species of amphibians lives. These frogs may seem unimportant, but they are indicators of healthy wetlands. Changes to the Front Range ecosystem over the last 100 years have driven many small populations to the brink of extinction. In this valley, a small leak from Denver's supply pipe has become vitally important to the survival of this now-rare species."

Further downstream, the "Hooded Ladies Tresses," spiranthes, are a rare orchid in a similar situation; they grow only in wetlands that are now artificially maintained by a series of ditches. Crifasi told us that major changes to the water-supply systems around Boulder County could sacrifice this species forever.

Other complex problems created by the numerous claims to the water in South Boulder Creek include seepage and diversion. Water flowing in a ditch, unlike water in a pipe, seeps into the ground. Some of this seepage gradually flows back into South Boulder Creek and into the wells of nearby residents. At each diversion, water flows off into the ditch, decreasing the flow in the Creek. While some water seeps back into the creek, sections may vary from almost totally dry to near-normal flows depending on how much water is being diverted.

The web of life supported by the Creek has changed so dramatically that it only distantly resembles that of pre-European settlement of the area.

What Are the Solutions?

Can this complex interrelationship be used to provide a healthy water supply to the population of people, plants, and animals now dependent on it? A concrete structure Crifasi showed us is a small step in that direction.

The old style weir, used to divert water into an irrigation ditch, is like a small, vertical dam. With this style weir, Creek water is backed up just enough to force it to ditch level, some water then flows down the ditch and some continues down the Creek to other users. Unfortunately, this vertical weir presents an impassable wall to fish, minnows, and other creatures in the Creek. This divides the Creek into many small, independent segments, resulting in a loss of biological diversity.

A new weir designed by the City of Boulder and interested volunteers (a Parabolic Weir) sends the rightful share of water into the ditch, but offers easier passage to many aquatic creatures. Although Crifasi said the design needs refinement, it is a great improvement over the old style.

The problem that remains is convincing the farmers, ranchers, municipalities, and other share-holders to spend some money to improve the health of the whole river ecosystem.

During the re-licensing process for Gross Reservoir, Denver will be required to study the impacts of their operation on the South Boulder Creek. Denver has agreed to perform many studies along the river corridor; however, when PUMA members, Crifasi, the City of Boulder, and others requested that Denver Water extend their studies to include the sections below Community Ditch, DWB refused, claiming they had no legal responsibility.

It is our belief, especially after taking this special tour along the lower Creek corridor, that impacts to the natural river system do not end at legal boundaries. Water, like air, flows and mixes with many elements, changing its content and affecting the many lives that depend on it.

Denver is not alone in its impacts.

All of the people, ditch companies, municipalities, and residents along the Creek are impacted, and each in turn affect others. This is probably the last time for the next 50 years that DWB is required to do a thorough study of this river and will be the best opportunity to understand how to protect the water and ecosystem that so many depend on.

If you would like to ask Denver to extend their study boundaries, please write to:

 Ms.Leslie Parker, Denver Water Board
Director of Community Outreach
1600 West 12th Avenue
Denver, Colorado 80254
Phone: 303/628-6553
Fax: 303/628-6199
 Send a copy to:

Ms. Dianne Rodman
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Office of Hydropower Licensing
Washington, D.C.Phone: 202-219-2830