Colorado River in Grand County set for $7.75 million improvement project
Christmas came a little early this year for the Colorado River.
On Wednesday Dec. 21 the Natural Resources Conservation Service, part of the federal US Department of Agriculture, announced The Colorado River Headwaters Project (CRHP) will receive a $7.75 million grant to apply to a series of river restoration and conservation projects in Grand County. The grant, totaling $7,758,830, comes to the CRHP through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), part of the NRCS.
The $7.75 million grant will be divided up between a series of water projects including the creation of a bypass channel that will connect the Colorado River below the Windy Gap Reservoir to the sections of the River above the Reservoir. A significant portion of the funds will also be used to improve river habitat downstream from the Windy Gap as well as improving irrigation systems for irrigating ranchers in the Kremmling area and to improve soil and water quality.
The projects, taken together, stand to directly improve more than 30-miles of the Colorado River in Grand County as well as 4,500-acres of irrigated land, according to a press release put out by Trout Unlimited (TU), which will serve as the fiscal agent for the grant and was the lead partner for the application.
Representatives from TU state they believe the improvements will make up to 11,000 acre-feet of water available to help improve the quality of the river during, “low-flow conditions”. According to TU this will be the first time a stream engineering project of this scale has been undertaken in Grand County.
Drew Peternell is the director of TU’s Colorado Water Project and was excited about the announcement. “This is a huge win for the Colorado River,” Peternell stated. “We’re seeing an exciting and ambitious conservation vision for the upper Colorado become reality.” Peternell stated he expects to, “put the ecosystem pieces of the upper Colorado River back together,” from this project and will be looking to, “restore the river and its trout fishery to health.”
One local group very excited about the new grant announcement is the ILVK (Irrigators in Lands in the Vicinity of Kremmling). The ILVK partnered with TU and the other associated organizations for the CRHP and a significant chuck of the grant funding will go towards a river restoration project they have been eyeing.
The ILVK is looking to improve the habitat of the Colorado River near Kremmling by redeveloping a series of natural pools and riffles in the riverbed. Improving the habitat of the River will elevate the local water table in the area, which will provide the local irrigators with better access to their water right allocations that flow down the Colorado.
Paul Bruchez, one of the members of the ILVK, is among those working to restore portions of the Colorado. “This news is life-changing for the headwaters of the Colorado River and those who rely on it,” Bruchez stated. “Years ago, water stakeholders in this region were at battle. Now, it is a collaboration that will create resiliency and sustainability for the health of the river and its agricultural producers. Healthy ranches need healthy rivers, and the RCPP funding will help sustain both.”
Multiple local and regional groups have partnered with TU and the ILVK for the CRHP including: Northern Water, Denver Water, the Colorado River Conservation District, Middle Park Soil Conservation District, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Grand County and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
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Grand County voters will be deciding on a number of issues this November from tax increases to school board memberships. Ballots were mailed out last week and Election Day is Nov. 2.