Kerber Creek Restoration

Kerber Creek Restoration

Since the early 1990s, the BLM's San Luis Valley Field Office has been involved with the Kerber Creek Restoration Project. The project began in 2005 as a coalition of government agencies, environmental organizations, and local landowners all dedicated to restoring the Kerber Creek Watershed after a historic mining boom in Colorado’s northern San Luis Valley. In the late nineteenth century, silver ore was discovered in the area, resulting in an economic boom as miners and their families moved to what became the Bonanza Mining District.
 

 

Rawley mines upstream of the Minnie Lynch mine circa 1925

Large-scale mining came to an end in the 1930s; however, significant amounts of mine wastes were deposited along the stream and by the 1990s, had been transported by floods throughout the watershed. The results were depleted aquatic life and riparian vegetation, altered stream channels, and deteriorated water quality which led to Kerber Creek being placed on the 2006 Colorado Clean Water Act 303(d) list of impaired water bodies. 

After voluntary cleanup efforts by the American Smelting and Refining Company in the 1990s, the Bureau of Land Management analyzed 19 miles of the creek, from the town of Bonanza to Villa Grove, to determine further clean-up options. Since 95 percent of the land along the stream and within the floodplain is privately owned, further rehabilitation required local landowners’ cooperation. Thus, the Bonanza Stakeholders Group (BSG), a coalition of local landowners, was established in 2007.

 

Through partnerships with numerous governmental agencies and nonprofit groups, the project has received more than $2 million in grants and more than 13,000 volunteer hours of restoration work. Additional funding has been provided by several governmental agencies.

The project and BSG have been the recipients of numerous awards, including, the 2011 American Fisheries Society—Western Division’s Riparian Challenge Award and the 2011 Public Lands Foundation’s Landscape Stewardship Award.  

Today, restoration work continues as the project engages in community development and education efforts.

For more information about the Kerber Creek Restoration Project please visit:  www.kerbercreek.org

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A restored portion of Kerber Creek near the town of Bonanza, about 1 year after restoration work was completed.