Another week, another Monday edition of BRL Today! 🗞️

Don’t miss this morning’s top story from Tim Drugan, which looks at vital efforts from the Boulder Watershed Collective to protect local water sources from fire, flood and toxic pollution. He spoke with the nonprofit stewardship organization’s director and founder Maya MacHamer about navigating a network of concerns in its mission to keep our streams clean.

Plus upcoming public meetings on transportation funding and on accessory dwelling units for Marshall Fire-affected residences, fun ways to celebrate Walk and Bike Month in Boulder, this week’s Juneteenth festivities and more.

That’s it for now. See you on Wednesday!

– Jezy, managing editor

The Boulder Ballet performs at the Glen Huntington Bandshell on Saturday, June 11. The evening featured a mixed repertoire program of short works. Credit: Stacy Feldman

Quickly

🔥 Increased fire concerns today: It’s going to be very hot, dry and windy today, leading to increased fire weather concerns. Via the National Weather Service: “Since the fuels are green (think green grass & trees with green leaves) no Red Flag Warning was issued. However, it would be best to avoid burning or activities that could create sparks.”

💰 Transportation funding: Join Boulder County Community Planning and Permitting and Public Works departments on Tuesday, June 14, for a virtual meeting on transportation funding from 5:30–7:30 p.m. The Board of County Commissioners is considering a potential ballot initiative for transportation funding in 2022. The open house will focus on the future of the county’s transportation sales tax, which expires in June 2024. Options will also be presented for “future funding of multimodal transportation system needs throughout Boulder County.” Register here.

🏠 Post-fire accessory dwellings: Per the county: “Boulder County Community Planning & Permitting is hosting an information session on Thursday, June 16 on a proposed Land Use Code update which would allow an Accessory Dwelling to be built as part of the redevelopment of a property where the residence was destroyed by the Marshall Fire.” The code would only apply to unincorporated portions of Boulder County, not incorporated cities and towns. Register here.

🚌 RTD reviewing e-bike policy: A policy prohibiting motorized bicycles on RTD public transit, a sticking point for cycling advocates, could change pending review from the transit district. “With public interest in battery-powered e-bikes and foldable e-scooters rapidly increasing, RTD is revisiting its current policy regarding these devices,” RTD spokesperson told Denverite. According to a tweet from the district, an updated e-bike policy could be announced “in the next few weeks.”

🚲 Active transportation: Speaking of bikes — don’t forget June is Walk and Bike Month in Boulder. The city is partnering with local community organizations to host free group walks, bike rides and other events celebrating active transportation, including Boulder’s Walk and Bike to Work Day on Wednesday, June 22. See our Picks section below for more.

➡️ Narcan training: Join Boulder County Public Health and the Healthy Futures Coalition for two free trainings on how to administer Narcan to reverse an opioid overdose in an emergency situation. The first training on June 23 is for residents of all ages, while the following June 27 training is for people 25 and under. Register here.

🖼️ Arts campus feedback: Got thoughts on the planned new BMoCA North Boulder Creative Campus? The museum is looking for community feedback to help “provide language and direction based on our shared values.” Take the survey here.

Top Story

Fire, flood, pollution: How Boulder Watershed Collective navigates a network of concerns to keep local water sources clean

Boulder sits on the northeastern tip of the Colorado Mineral Belt: a swath of ore deposits painting a forward slash across the Rocky Mountains from west of Durango up to Jamestown. Prospectors first discovered gold in the Boulder area in 1859, with silver revealing itself soon thereafter.

Having exhausted what precious metals sat readily available in waterways through placer mining — the practice of separating gold flakes and nuggets from the sand and gravel in creek beds — insatiable miners began hard-rock mining: burrowing into the foothills around Boulder, searching for riches and unearthing poisons.

An estimated 20 tons of rock and soil must be pulled from the earth to create a modern 18 karate gold ring. Mine tailings (the discarded remains of ore, separated from the valuable minerals they once contained) that litter the canyons near Boulder suggest mining of old wasn’t much more efficient. Such tailings are not just a blotch on the landscape; they often contain heavy metals that become dangerous should they make their way into water sources.

Maya MacHamer, director of a nonprofit stewardship organization called  Boulder Watershed Collective, is dedicated to ensuring as few of these contaminants make it into our streams as possible. 

“The goal is to pull the tailings, or mine waste, away from where it’s interacting with the water,” MacHamer said. “You can stabilize it on upper slopes away from the stream and cap it with some good soil and get vegetation growing on it. That’s the key to keeping those soils stable. Because hauling it all to the landfill isn’t feasible a lot of the time.”

In 2015, after spending six years as a paramedic in Denver, MacHamer returned to the Boulder area — where she grew up — to focus her attention on local watersheds. Her work began with the Fourmile Watershed Coalition: a group focused on treating wounds caused by the 2013 floods in Fourmile Canyon.

“Fourmile Canyon was severely damaged,” MacHamer said. “They’d had a wildfire in 2010 and flooding in 2011, so by the time the flood came in 2013 that small watershed had a lot of damage.”

Early water testing revealed that MacHamer and her team couldn’t improve the health of the creek without confronting the defacement of the landscape providing its water. Like carbon put into the atmosphere by generations past, mine tailings created by the long dead are a problem that must be solved by the still living.

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BRL Picks

👩‍🎨 Muralists wanted: Street Wise Arts is looking for muralists to participate in the fourth annual Street Wise Boulder Mural Festival happening September through October. Since its inception in 2019, the festival has installed more than 85 murals throughout the city. Deadline to apply is Friday, July 1.

🚲 Bike Show returns: Head to Upslope Brewing on Wednesday, June 15, for the return of the Boulder Bike Show. Presented as part of Walk and Bike Month festivities, the event features creative bike categories with prizes awarded by audience judges. Categories include Hottest Single Speed, Best Decorated, Best Frankenbike and more.

📅 Juneteenth events: Mark your calendars for June 16–20, when NAACP Boulder County and the Executive Committee, African American Cultural Events Boulder County present a four-day slate of Juneteenth happenings — from an outdoor community celebration with Rep. Joe Neguse to a youth art development workshop and showcase. Full schedule and workshop registration here.

Covid-19 Updates: June 13, 2022

  • 256 daily new cases (7-day avg.) ⬆️Up 12% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 26 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) ⬆️Up from a high of 14 last week.
  • 43% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 70% since July 2020.
  • U.S. ends testing mandate for international air travelers: “Today, CDC is announcing that the Order requiring persons to show a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the United States, will be rescinded, effective on June 12, 2022 at 12:01AM ET.” The CDC said the “COVID-19 pandemic has now shifted to a new phase,” due to vaccines, effective therapeutics and high rates of immunity.

What We’re Reading

📖 Boulder Mayor Aaron Brockett on new regional gun laws: “‘The more places that have similar regulations, the bigger the impact,’ Brockett said. ‘Somebody tries to buy one in Boulder and they can’t. They go to Louisville and they try again. They can’t. Maybe that’s when they give up. Maybe that’s when they reconsider the terrible path that they’re on.'” [9News]

📖 Improper vaccine storage in Denver metro: “More than 1,800 adults and children in metro Denver need to be revaccinated for COVID-19.  The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Centers for Disease Control determined that the Colorado Alliance for Health Equity and Practice Family Medicine Clinic for Health Equity improperly stored and mishandled vaccines at 63 off-site clinics. Those clinics were held between February 2021 and January 2022 in Centennial, Denver, Englewood and Westminster.” [CPR News]  

📖 Colorado air pollution regulators are years behind: “In March 2009, a Western Slope oil company filed an application for a state air emissions permit for its wastewater treatment facility. On Thursday, state regulators got around to holding a hearing on that permit — about almost 13 years behind schedule.” That facility is not alone: “There are 60 other facilities past the deadline for new or renewed permits. The backlog has included landfills, factories, tank batteries and compressor stations.” [Colorado Sun]

ICYMI from BRL

🗳 Ahead of primary election, candidates for Boulder County commissioner are about evenly matched in campaign cash. The only two Boulder County primary races on the June 28 ballot are for county commissioner and county sheriff. No Republican candidates are vying for either office.

✍️ Boulder’s gun laws are now among the most restrictive in Colorado. By pursuing regional gun-control ordinances, the City of Boulder is now flanked by several communities with similarly stringent gun laws. Cities bordered by Weld County are pursuing fewer reforms.

🔥 Why is the Town of Superior allowing Marshall Fire survivors to opt out of its residential sprinkler requirement? The latest regulatory concession for those seeking to rebuild highlights the tension between underinsured homeowners and the effort to create fire-resilient communities for the future.

Only 30 new members to reach our goal!

In honor of BRL’s recent 6-month anniversary, we launched our first member drive last week. Reader support is vital to ensure we can continue our work and grow much bigger to provide more local news coverage. We’re already 70% of the way to our July 4 goal of 100 new members. Thank you for your generosity! If you haven’t yet, will you join us today to become one of the our new BRL members? Any amount qualifies you as a member.

Thanks for reading!

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Have a story tip for us?
Send us your ideas at tips@boulderreportinglab.org.

– The BRL Team

Jezy J. Gray

I’m the managing editor of the Boulder Reporting Lab. In addition to years of writing on the culture, politics and history of my home state of Oklahoma, I was the final editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Voice, a local bi-weekly newspaper where I led a small but mighty team of journalists to regional and national honors in feature writing, diversity reporting, LGBTQ+ coverage and more. I look forward to listening to and learning from the Boulder community as we work together on telling the stories that matter here.