- Associated Press - Saturday, November 7, 2020

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - When Gen. Grenville Dodge established Cheyenne in 1867 by building the first Union Pacific Railroad townsite, Crow Creek still twisted and turned through Wyoming’s landscape, serving as a home to a variety of wildlife.

But as the city grew around the creek, it was straightened to pass through faster, and the fish and wildlife subsequently disappeared.

A number of organizations want to breathe life back into the creek, and those efforts will see a bigger boost, thanks to Frog Creek Partners, the Rotary Club of Cheyenne and Microsoft. With a $100,000 Microsoft grant, the Rotary Club will buy at least 50 Gutter Bins from Casper-based Frog Creek Partners to catch garbage and debris before it enters stormwater drains.

“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,” Cheyenne Rotary Club President Brent Lathrop said.

The Gutter Bin is just one offering of Frog Creek Partners, whose goal is to prevent trash on the streets from washing into stormwater drains and into bodies of water. The bin is installed on existing stormwater drains and captures everything from sediment to hydrocarbons before it hits the stormwater conveyance system. An adjustable funnel system directs polluted water into a “Mundus Bag” filter, which can be removed and discarded or recycled like a coffee filter.

In 2021, the Gutter Bins will be placed in strategic locations in Cheyenne, preventing thousands of pounds of trash from flowing into Crow Creek, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports.

“Crow Creek is a very impacted watershed,” Frog Creek Partners Founder Brian Duerloo said. “This donation will capture at least 6,000 pounds of pollution per year from the city streets of Cheyenne. What we’re going to do is deploy this capital as wisely as possible – with the help of the city of Cheyenne, the Rotary Club of Cheyenne, the Laramie County Conservation District and Microsoft – putting these Gutter Bins in high-target areas to get as much trash as possible.”

For the Rotary Club, this effort fits perfectly into their mission that includes a focus on the environment and clean water, which Lathrop said are quality-of-life issues that impact living conditions.

“It’s all about Crow Creek. It’s all about citizens of the city being able to get down and enjoy the benefits of that river going through here,” Lathrop said.

Currently, the level to which Crow Creek can be enjoyed is limited. No fish inhabit the stream, and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality classifies Crow Creek as impaired for sediment and E. coli, which is another issue the Crow Creek Revival movement hopes to address.

“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,” Duerloo said.

And while the pollution has an impact on the health of Crow Creek, its impact on waterways doesn’t end there. With Wyoming being a headwater state, the pollution flows into the Gulf of Mexico and enters the ocean.

“The filth in Cheyenne streets can show up in your shrimp cocktail a year from now. The filth in our streets in Wyoming is either showing up in an 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,” Deurloo said.

Ultimately, the goal of the Gutter Bin installation project is to lessen that impact, both locally and globally.

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