Fraser River work near Tabernash aims to improve habitat, create wetlands |

Fraser River work near Tabernash aims to improve habitat, create wetlands

Will Bublitzwbublitz@grandcountynews.comGrand County, Colorado
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
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All the heavy equipment operating in the open meadow southwest of Tabernash, Colorado, this week is not constructing another development, but rather is working on a project that will restore the water quality and the riparian environment along a portion of the Fraser River. In a partnership among Rendezvous Colorado, Devils Thumb Ranch and the Middle Park Land Trust, the projects goal is to redirect a quarter-mile section of the river and recreate a wetlands area.We now have a 600-foot section of wide, straight and shallow river, said Geoff Elliott of Grand Environmental Services, a local consulting group tasked with designing the project. Were shooting to create 1,300 feet of river and three acres of wetlands that doesnt currently exist.Elliott explained the river will be redirected into a new channel that will be scooped out of the surrounding meadow. The new river channel will be in the shape of a large M. The old river channel will become part of the new wetlands.On Thursday afternoon, the diesel-powered excavators of Conroy Excavating of Tabernash and Ecoscape Landscaping of Grand Lake began scooping out the new channel and moving the dirt to create earthen berms where trees and other vegetation can be planted.The workers were also doing their best to move and preserve the native willows and other vegetation for replanting later.Also involved in the project are other companies including WatersEdge Reclamation of Fraser, the Construction Guys of Kremmling, and Carroll & Lange Surveyors and JVA Engineering, both of Winter Park.Once it has opened, the new river channel is expected to improve that section of the river as a better environment for fish.Right now, this section of the river is real wide and flat, about 45 feet wide, without much fishing value, Elliott said. The new channel will decrease its width to 36 feet. The river will be narrower and deeper with lots of holes and pools where fish like to live. It will be a much more dynamic river. The river-and-wetland restoration project is a wetland mitigation for Rendezvous Colorado in Fraser, which consumed about three acres of wetland during its site development in recent years.Under the U.S. Clean Water Act, developers are required to ensure there is no net loss of wetlands by creating new wetlands in another area. A win-win situationThe Rendezvous Colorado mitigation project, which is authorized under a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is taking place on property owned by Devils Thumb Ranch. We looked at several off-site mitigation sites in the area, said Terry Stanford, Rendezvous director of development. And the Devils Thumb Ranch property offers us the best location to improve the health of the Fraser River while satisfying regulatory requirements. We wanted to keep the wetland values right here on the Fraser River.Seth Martin, Devils Thumb assistant general manager, said this is a win-win scenario for the ranch, which was looking for ways to improve its fishing habitat on the 35 acres of conservation easement that it has in the Fraser River Valley. Rendezvous offered to help us with our fishery improvements in return for allowing them to create riparian wetlands next to the river, Martin said. Its important to keep the river restoration work consistent with our conservation easement and overall direction.The Devils Thumb site was located after Rendezvous hired Elliott and Grand Environmental Services to find the best river location for its mitigation project. In turn, Elliott credited Kirk Klancke of the East Grand Water Quality Board and Adam Cwiklin of the Middle Park Land Trust with assistance, including a list of eight landowners along the Fraser River who might be interested in such a project.I came to Devils Thumb and explained what we wanted to do, Elliott said. They said: You want to give us more river, better fishing habitat and new riparian wetlands? Of course, they said yes.Elliott pointed out that this is the first time that a customized flyfishing area is being created in Grand County. The only similar projects of this size have been done in Idaho and California.The new river channel may be opened as early as next week. Elliott said he hopes all of the landscaping, replanting and cleanup work for the project can be completed by mid-November.

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