Green Corner: Conservation starts with conversation (column)
For more than 10 years, Trout Unlimited, Grand County and several West Slope interests have been negotiating with the two largest water diverters in Grand County. The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Denver Water divert 60 percent of the Upper Colorado River and the Fraser River to the East side of the Divide for their water supply. This makes Grand County the most heavily diverted county in Colorado. In 2003, both of these major diverters proposed projects that would divert an even greater percentage of water from the rivers in Grand County. The saying that conservation starts with conversation has been the theme of the West Slope entities involved in the mitigation negotiations. Years of negotiation, have resulted with a type of adaptive management that we call “Learning by Doing” and a cooperative agreement with several mitigation offerings from the diverters that are tools to be used by “LBD”.
The LBD partners who meet regularly to look after the health of Grand County streams are Denver Water, Northern Colorado Conservancy District, Colorado River Water Conservation District, Grand County, Middle Park Water Conservancy District, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Trout Unlimited. The tools that they have to work with are environmental water, money and operational flexibility.
In the two years that LBD has been in existence, it has been using the operational flexibility of the diverters to make sure that their water rights are exercised in the most environmentally friendly ways possible. Last year saw an improvement in the health of Ranch Creek based on how and when Denver Water took its entitled amount of Fraser Valley water. Starting in May of 2017, the LBD group will re-channel .9 miles of the Fraser River. The project is called the Fraser Flats River Habitat Project and is designed to help move sediment and cool temperatures in the flattest, slowest moving section of the Fraser River in the Fraser Valley. The project is funded by private money, grants and Denver Water. Because of cooperation from all the LBD partners, this pilot project has a strong potential of setting the stage for the future health of the rivers in Grand County.
In the near future, we will see other stream improvement projects such as the Windy Gap bypass and the irrigators river improvements near Kremmling. Both of the projects have received most of their funding through a federal grant with financial help from the state and the two Front Range water diverters. 30 miles of the Upper Colorado River will be improved through these two projects.
These three huge river improvement projects are proof that the Front Range and West Slope are working together and gaining traction to save our rivers and proof that conservation does start with communication.
The vegetation portion of the project will be to re-plant the wetlands plants which have been grazed off by a century of cattle operations in the valley. The Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited will be writing and implementing the vegetation plan and overseeing the harvesting and planting of the wetlands plants. This will give all Grand County citizens who hope to be part of healing our rivers a chance get in the river and take part in the project. If you would like to be placed on the volunteer list please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Through communication and diligent management of the aquatic resources in Grand County, LBD will be improving the health of Grand County’s streams one reach at a time. The future of our rivers hinges on the success of the dedicated partners that are participating in the adaptive management that trout Unlimited and other West Slope entities have fought so hard to bring into existence.
Infinite West is planning on having a Green Connections forum on April 30 at MPEI in Granby at 1 p.m.
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