A Paradox at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Colorado: Benefits of Applied Research

by Robert D. Jarrett,
Joseph P. Capesius,
Mark A. Gonzalez,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: North American Water and Environment Congress & Destructive Water


The Rocky Mountain Arsenal (RMA), which is located north of Denver, Colorado, was a manufacturing site for chemical weapons during World War II and pesticides for several decades after the war. The RMA, now a Superfund Site, is one of the most contaminated places on earth, although much of the RMA is uncontaminated. Paradoxically the RMA has a variety of riparian and wetland coinmunities supporting numerous species of wildlife. Most notable are cottonwood stands located along First Creek that resulted from flooding. The RMA provides a wintering habitat for more Bald Eagles than in any other urban setting. The RMA now is a National Wildlife Area. Substantial urbanization of the First Creek basin upstream from the RMA is anticipated because of the opening of the Denver International Airport. Of critical concern to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the protection, preservation, and enhancement of biological diversity at the RMA National Wildlife Area. Determination of the hydrology, fluvial geomorphology, and their relation to the cottonwood habitat is one phase of the contamination cleanup and environmental assessment of the RMA. Because of the sparsity of hydrometeorologic data and the complexity of flood processes in alluvial streams in the Great Plains east of the Rocky Mountains, there is a large uncertainty (50 to 100 percent) in magnitude-frequency relations of flooding in Great Plains streams.

Subject Headings: Rivers and streams | Wildlife | Mountains | Soil pollution | Urban areas | Pollution | Pesticides | Colorado | United States | Rocky Mountains | Denver

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