Community Funding Helps Leverage Federal Dollars

NOTE: The Community Funding Partnership agenda item was moved from Tuesday, April 18, to Wednesday, April 19. See recording here.

“As the Community Funding Partnership embarks on its third year, we continue to reflect on the importance of this funding program in building trust and partnership in our communities,” said Amy Moyer, Director of Strategic Partnerships in her update to the River District’s Board of Directors. “Navigating the crisis on the Colorado River is turbulent and ever-changing, yet we hope the Community Funding Partnership remains a source of innovation, stability, and support for our water users.”

Including recommendations approved during this meeting, the Community Funding Program has, to date, awarded $7.4 million in funding to 84 projects, including $1.3 million in 2023 awards to 14 projects.

As per River District policies, all applications with requests greater than $50,000 must be approved by the Board, while smaller requests can be approved on a rolling basis by the General Manager. At this meeting, only two projects fell into the prior category, and both were unanimously approved by the board.

Both applications  involved large scale, municipal projects which will need to use the CFP funds to leverage federal funding. In her Board memo, Amy Moyer explained the unique role which CFP has stepped into over the past year.

“We continue our efforts to leverage the federal funding made available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. Building a strong set of Colorado projects that are near shovel-ready continues to be priority for the Community Funding Partnership and the District. This includes continuing the CFP Accelerator Grant Program and supporting projects as they navigate federal funding streams.”

Projects Approved at the Second Quarterly Board Meeting of 2023

Project Name: Steamboat Springs Smart Irrigation Central Control System
Project Applicant: City of Steamboat Springs
Recommended Amount $250,000
County: Routt

The City of Steamboat Springs will take the first steps to install a smart irrigation central control system with master valves and flow sensing to control irrigation at 49 city-owned sites including parks, facilities, open space, medians, and right of ways.

Wills explained, “At a higher level, this is the first step of many to implement the City’s water conservation plan.”

This system will allow for automatic daily water adjustments based on weather and soil conditions and automatically detect water line breaks and shut down the water supply immediately. Annual water savings are estimated to be 20% or 11.83 acre-feet the first year, while also saving money, energy, and staff time. This first phase of the City’s water smart parks strategy lays the groundwork to achieve greater water savings in the next phase when the city updates in-ground irrigation system components and converts areas of non-functional turf to lower water use species. Efficient water use improves the reliability of water supplies, enhances community resilience to drought and wildfire, and helps sustain a healthy river and ecosystem.

Just before the Board voted unanimously to approve the funding, General Manager Andy Mueller provided this observation: “This project demonstrates a good step forward in recognizing the importance of urban water conservation. For the future health of the Colorado River and the West Slope, all sectors will have to make cuts.”

Project Name: Coal Creek Dam Rehabilitation Project
Project Applicant: Town of Crested Butte
Recommended Amount: $300,000
County: Gunnison

Lake Irwin, located about seven miles west of the Town of Crested Butte, sits at the headwaters of Coal Creek, which is the sole municipal water source for the Town. The Coal Creek Dam Rehabilitation Project seeks to restore and maintain the raw water conveyance infrastructure, which is critical for both the Town’s domestic drinking water supply and instream flows in Coal Creek.

The infrastructure of the Coal Creek Dam is nearly a century old and needs extensive upgrades to ensure the Dam’s safety and effectiveness. The 85-year-old valve and vault are exhibiting signs of failure with water infiltrating the valve chamber. In addition, the first 20-30 feet of the timber set intake tunnel is beginning to collapse, and the discharge piping is beginning to exhibit longitudinal cracks and deflection.

In 2021, the Community Funding Partnership awarded the Town a $42,000 award to support engineering and design with an encouragement to apply for additional funding to support later construction.

“The Town already has achieved 60 percent design and engineering,” said Moyer. “In addition to CFP funding, a large infusion of federal funds will allow plans to move to final design and construction by 2024.”

The Community Funding Partnership grant award will allow the town to write a competitive grant application for the vast majority of the $7.6 million in funding needed to complete the project.

“This project will also benefit all downstream water users,” offered Carolyn de Groot, Town Engineer, Town of Crested Butte.