Fraser River restoration underway

A group of hardy volunteers smiles as they dig into the work of planting thousands of willow stakes along the banks of the Fraser River in late May. Over 100 volunteers showed up for the two-day replanting project that is one portion of the larger Fraser Flats Habitat Project, being overseen by the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
Courtesy photo |

Members of the local Trout Unlimited chapter got a taste of the community’s commitment to volunteering with the implementation of the Fraser Flats Habitat Project. Over 100 total volunteers donated their time and energy May 20 and 21 to plant roughly 3,000 willow stakes and about 90 cottonwood trees along the banks of the Fraser River on the Fraser Flats between Fraser and Tabernash.

The Fraser Flats Habitat Project tackled two stretches of the river, a roughly half-mile section located on Devil’s Thumb Ranch property and a four-tenths-mile section located within the boundaries of Grand Water Number 1.

The two sections have water velocity speeds that are among the lowest on the Fraser River in the Fraser Valley.

The project was completed in multiple stages. In early May volunteer teams spent a day harvesting willow stakes from the Ranch Creek area.

The teams of volunteers headed out into cold and blustery conditions to plant the previously harvested willow stakes. The work got underway after a late spring snowstorm deposited multiple inches throughout Grand County in the latter part of the preceding week.

The local Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited oversaw the project and the club’s members were thrilled by the volunteer turnout. “I was amazed by the overwhelming community support that came out,” said Anna Drexler-Dreis, who is on the Board of Directors for the Headwaters Chapter and organized the volunteer work harvesting and planting the willow stakes. “It was amazing to see how many people wanted to come out and help heal the Fraser.”

Many of the volunteers who showed up to work on the project were not Grand County residents, she noted.

“We had a lot of people from Grand County, but we also had some from the Front Range and a few up from the Fort Collins and Greeley areas,” she explained.

Chapter President Kirk Klancke echoed her sentiments.

“These volunteers were a statement that the people here really care about their environment and their rivers in particular,” Klancke said. “We have come a really long way in this fight to keep the river alive.” Klancke called the willow planting project the first step in turning around the health of the local rivers.

“The years of politics, I think, are behind us and the years of science and river projects are ahead of us,” he said. “Now we just have to keep the community engaged and keep it going.”

The Habitat Project is broken down into two main project areas, revegetation and rechanneling. The total cost of the Habitat Project is about $190,000. The revegetation work comprises the majority of the volunteer efforts for the Habitat Project though the rechanneling work accounts for the majority of the fund allocations for the project. The rechanneling work will be begin in September and will be performed by independent contractors Freestone Aquatics Inc.

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