Later that decade, the steel mill and what was then the Colorado Department of Health agreed to strip Salt Creek of its designation as a state waterway. Without it, the mill did not have to report pollution levels at the creek as required by the recently passed Colorado Water Quality Control Act.
The steel mill agreed to monitor cyanide, ammonia, and phenol levels in the creek, only some of the pollutants regulated by the state. The state extended the arrangement with current owner Evraz in 2018, nearly 40 years after the original agreement, records show. Its renewal caught Campbell's attention.
Three tracts make up the refuge: the South Tract is primarily farmland; the Middle Tract holds refuge headquarters and Bitter Lake (named for its water, which tastes sour to many people and often dries up in summer, leaving nothing but a white alkaline bed); and most of the North Tract is designated Wilderness. Salt Creek itself runs through the center of the Wilderness, an area of native grassland, sand dunes, brushy bottomlands, and a northern boundary distinguished by its red-rimmed plateau, all just west of the Pecos River. 2b1af7f3a8