UCRWG touts new watershed resiliency plan | SkyHiNews.com

UCRWG touts new watershed resiliency plan

Members of Middle Park High School's Interact Club and other community members plans willows along Smith Creek north of Granby. UCRWG assisted with the project.
Courtesy photo

Protecting Grand County’s waterways is more than just a hobby, it is a calling for many local residents who are passionate about the rivers, streams and riparian valleys of Middle Park and recently a number of like-minded citizens formed a new organization called the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group.

The process of creating the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group, or UCRWG (pronounced uc-rah-wag), kicked off in the fall of 2016 with a series of open community meetings wherein concerned citizens came together to discuss the formation of the group. Unlike other conservation and watershed groups that focus on specific habitat improvement projects UCRWG focuses its energies on scientific data, education and public outreach.

Samantha Bruegger, a member of UCRWG’s communications team explained UCRWG’s mission as being a sort of clearing house resource for connecting community members and various groups with one another to help facilitate watershed work. At the same time UCRWG hopes to establish a comprehensive and “digestible” database of local watershed information those group call upon as needed.

Late last week several members of UCRWG’s Board of Directors as well as affiliates of the organization hosted a community forum to introduce one of the key aspects of UCRWG’s future plans, a watershed resiliency plan. Tiffany Gatesman, UCRWG’s President, noted the watershed resiliency plan is not a watershed management plan. Instead UCRWG’s resiliency plan focuses on strategies that can be employed to sustain local watersheds in the event of natural disasters such as fires, droughts and floods.

“We are going to be making a plan and finding spots in the county where we need to help the watershed be resilient,” Gatesman said. “It is not a management plan. It is used to guide the group and other stakeholders in the county.”

Gatesman referred to the resiliency plan as a “living document” that will be updated on a regular basis as the group develops more comprehensive data sets. Part of UCRWG’s development of the resiliency plan entailed community conversation events where group members realized the general public does not always understand the complex and difficult issues facing local waterways.

“Water Quantity and Quality trends are complex, reflecting ‘cumulative’ watershed influences and a long history of actions,” notes the groups resiliency plan. “Data is abundant in the area, but lacks a chohesive watershed perspective which in turn limits cause-and-effect analyses and generation of new, cost-effective mitigations.”

As such the group plans to develop a “holistic watershed model” that will hopefully give a better overall view of local watersheds taking current conditions and the need for community education into account. Moving forward UCRWG hopes to promote community participation in watershed efforts such as the willow-planting project on Smith Creek north of Granby that was undertaken by Middle Park High School’s Interact Club in May.

The Interact Club was assisted by UCRWG in their efforts and Interact Club Co-President Katelyn Cimino is also on the UCRWG’s Board of Directors.

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