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The office of Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser on Wednesday issued the following press release on a $275,000 settlement paid by Vail Resorts for the release of water from it snowmaking system into Mill Creek and Gore Creek that caused a significant loss of aquatic life:
The Colorado Natural Resources Trustees have approved a $275,000 settlement with Vail Corporation to resolve natural resources damages claims related to an inadvertent release of water from Vail’s snowmaking system that discharged into Mill Creek and flowed into Gore Creek though the town of Vail in September of 2021.
The state conducted a six-month investigation and found that, from September 17 to September 20, 2021, Vail Mountain left open isolation valves on its snowmaking system and released approximately two million gallons of water containing hazardous substances into Mill Creek and Gore Creek. A damages assessment identified injuries to aquatic life—including fish, algae, and aquatic insects—along 1.5 miles of river impacted by the release.
Under the terms of the settlement, $249,000 will be deposited in the state’s Natural Resources Damages Fund to be used for a restoration project in the Gore Creek basin. The remaining $26,000 will go to the state’s Water Quality Improvement Fund. The settlement is the result of a joint effort between the Colorado Natural Resources Trustees, Water Quality Control Division, and Division of Parks and Wildlife to resolve all state claims stemming from the release. The agreement will take effect upon signature by the State Controller.
“While an unfortunate accident, this incident harmed aquatic resources in Gore Creek—one of Colorado’s prized trout fisheries in Eagle County. This settlement compensates the community for those injuries, providing funds that will go directly back to restoring natural resources on portions of Gore Creek downstream of the release,” said Attorney General Phil Weiser, who serves as chair of the Colorado Natural Resources Trustees.
“I appreciate Vail Corporation’s willingness to work with the trustees on damages for this accident. Colorado’s fisheries and aquatic resources are some of our state’s most important resources but also can be susceptible to harm where are water resources paramount,” said Dan Gibbs, executive director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “I am hopeful the settlement funds can quickly be put to use to restore Gore Creek and its fisheries and aquatic species for future generations of Coloradans to enjoy.”
“This settlement is the result of collaboration between state agencies and demonstrates our commitment to protecting our natural resources,” said Trisha Oeth, director of Environmental Health and Protection, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We recognize that Vail Resorts shares our value of protecting the environment we all cherish and rely on. The settlement will support the restoration of natural resources, help the community recover, and protect the environmental health of our state.”
For more information about the trustees and the work they do on behalf of Colorado, please visit: https://coag.gov/office-sections/natural-resources-environment/trustees/.