Protecting Cheyenne’s Crow Creek from pollution and debris
A number of groups in Cheyenne, Wyoming are committed to the restoration and revitalization to Crow Creek (part of which runs through the downtown area) and its tributaries. In recent years, Crow Creek has been inundated with trash, sediment, and hydrocarbons when it rains or when snow melts, as stormwater runoff isn’t treated between the storm drains and discharge points on the creek. Catch basins on the city streets were meant to temporarily hold heavy pollution, but a lack of maintenance led to complaints about the smell. When many catch basins were filled with concrete, even more pollution was routed directly to Crow Creek. Few fish can currently inhabit the creek, and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has classified it as impaired for its levels of sediment and E. coli bacteria. Knowing the negative impact of the water pollution, community groups sought a unique solution to improve the health and usability of the creek.
Working collaboratively to improve Crow Creek
“Microsoft wants to be a good community partner and help protect the watershed it uses,” explains Dennis Ellis, Wyoming’s Microsoft Community Lead. The Microsoft Community Environmental Sustainability team contributed funding to the Rotary Club of Cheyenne to purchase at 63 Gutter Bins from Casper-based Frog Creek Partners, which was recently selected to participate in the gener8tor gBETA business accelerator sponsored by Microsoft. Microsoft identified the Rotary Club of Cheyenne as an ideal community partner for this project, given Rotary’s commitment to service and focus on providing and protecting clean water.
The Rotary Club was already connected with Frog Creek Partners, which creates unique solutions to catch sediment and pollutants in stormwater runoff. “Part of our mission is to carry out Rotary International’s goals on a local level, and this project does just that,” explains Rotary Club of Cheyenne President Brent Lathrop. Working with the local Laramie County Conservation District and the City of Cheyenne, the most impactful sites around the city were selected to receive a Gutter Bin, with Rotarians volunteering to help with installation in July 2021. The volunteers were honored and joined by Governor Mark Gordon, Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, and State Treasurer Curt Meier during the dedication on July 14th, just before the 125th Cheyenne Frontier Days. Rotary is also exploring the idea of engaging local high school kids to participate in the long-term upkeep of the devices and to scientifically measure their impacts.
Using a sustainable solution to reduce water pollution
The Gutter Bin stormwater filtration system serves as an addition to traditional storm drains and can be easily installed and serviced without special equipment. The device’s adjustable funnel system routs runoff from rain and snowmelt into a Mundus Bag water filter; these filters can be emptied when full, or replaced and recycled. In Cheyenne, contractors will clean the gutters with a large truck-mounted vacuum, lifting the metal grates and sucking out the pollution so the bins can be reused over time.
The founder of Frog Creek Partners, Brian Deurloo, is confident in the impact these Gutter Bins will have on the pollution runoff into Crow Creek. “A lot of people don’t realize that all of the filth on our city streets is washed to our local watersheds here in Wyoming each time it rains or the snow melts,” says Deurloo. “The filth in Cheyenne streets can show up in your shrimp cocktail a year from now because of bioaccumulation. The filth on our streets flows to either the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean, because we’re a headwater state. So the pollution that we’re causing up here is ultimately flowing to the ocean and to our food sources. This generous donation will capture around 12,000 pounds of pollution per year from the city streets of Cheyenne. It’s a wonderful example of how a public-private partnership can create positive impact for the environment.”
Providing a clean watershed for citizens to enjoy
For the last several years, Lathrop has been involved in annual cleanups of Crow Creek. “Typically, what we find is pretty nasty, but I’ve noticed there’s been a decline in pollution the last couple of years since we started doing it. I think the Gutter Bins are going to accelerate the cleanup and we’ll have even less debris coming in. We should know the full impact by next fall.”
Ultimately, the hope is that the cleanup of Crow Creek will contribute to the restoration of the creek as a place for Cheyennites to gather and recreate. “Cheyenne started with Crow Creek, and it has been altered so much over the years. If we can help clean up this portion of it, who knows? We might even be able to get some kids fishing down there,” says Lathrop.