Grant creates watershed group |

Grant creates watershed group

Andrew Wise
Special to the Sky-Hi News

A $100,000 grant from the US Bureau of Reclamation will fund the creation of the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group, a new conservation organization working on issues related to the upper Colorado River in Grand County.

Shadowcliff, a non-profit organization that operates the Shadowcliff lodge and retreat center in Grand Lake, was the entity that applied for the grant. Hillary Mizia is the executive director of Shadowcliff and project lead for the new group.

The grant was created through the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART program, which was established in 2015 and will provide $50 million to fund 64 projects across 12 states.

Geoff Elliott, of Grand Environmental Services in Grand Lake, will serve as the group’s project scientist. “We’re building on Governor Hickenlooper’s call for conservation-based collaboration,” Elliott said in a press release, referencing the governor’s comments during the development of the Colorado Water Plan finalized in 2015.

“Working closely with our Chambers of Commerce, this WaterSMART grant will strengthen efforts to cultivate watershed awareness and grass-roots action through education, leadership training, and ‘citizen science.’ These are keys to sustainable community development as we work together to manage our precious water resources in this era of climate uncertainty.”

According to the description of the plan on the Bureau of Reclamation website, the watershed group will include representatives from multiple interest groups in Grand County, ranging from water providers to other local environmental groups, ranchers, hydroelectric producers and federal land managers with the goal of creating a watershed restoration plan.

“We don’t need new regulations or controls,” Elliott said, “just common sense, respect, and a shared vision for our children’s future.”

The watershed group will have a complex relationship with the Bureau of Reclamation. One of the most contentious issues related to the headwaters region is Colorado-Big Thompson project, which draws water from Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Reservoir, and Granby Reservoir for use on the Front Range. That system is managed in part by the Bureau of Reclamation.

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