Diverse stakeholders come together on site for the Upper Gunnison River Restoration & Irrigation Improvement Project, a 2021 Community Funding Partnership grantee.
Staff Works with Water Users Across the West Slope
“Our first year of grant funding represents communities across the West Slope. The Colorado River District is proud to provide integral support for multi-benefit projects in every river basin and nearly every county we serve,” said Amy Moyer, Director of Strategic Partnerships.
Since the July board meeting, Moyer and other River District staff have traveled throughout the West Slope with boots-on-the-ground, participating in the State of Colorado’s Yampa Basin Drought Tour, the White River Natural Resources Tour, and Northwest Colorado Council of Government’s Water Quality and Quantity Committee.
Staff also conducted over 20 pre-application and site visits traveling to Delta, Garfield, Gunnison, Mesa, Moffat, Montrose, Rio Blanco, and Routt Counties.
Video production company Vital Films has been contracted to work with Moyer and the District’s External Affairs team to document, highlight, and celebrate the collaborations and progress achieved in year one of the Community Funding Partnership.
“As we near the end of the first year of the program, we continue to collect lessons learned and areas for future discussion,” Moyer continued. “We look forward to reviewing all aspects of this program to make sure that we are supporting our communities as they identify multi-benefit solutions to their water needs and honoring the trust given to us by the voters last November.”
Community Funding Gets a River District Boost
In addition to the $4.2 million for grant awards provided annually by the tax revenue from 7A, the Board agreed to transfer a significant surplus from the general fund into the pool of money used exclusively for Community Funding Partnership projects. At the October Board meeting, a resolution was unanimously adopted stating, “This resolution authorizes and directs the transfer of monies to the Community Funding Partnership Fund from the General Fund in the amount of revenues less expenditures and an amount sufficient to cover expenses prior to the receipt of tax revenues.”
“We are looking at an additional $600k above and beyond what we promised the voters for 2021 and then another $550k for 2022 to be made available for Western Slope water projects,” said General Manager Andy Mueller.
Four New Projects Receive Board Approval
At the recent October meeting, the Colorado River District Board of Directors greenlighted $780,000 for four larger applications at the recent Fourth Quarterly Board Meeting in addition to two smaller grants approved by River District staff.
Below is a summary of the most recent project awards. A complete list of Community Funding Partnership projects is available on the River District’s website at: https://www.coloradoriverdistrict.org/community-funding-partnership/
Steward Mesa Ditch Diversion Improvement Project
Stewart Mesa Ditch and Reservoir Company
$200,000 awarded, Delta County
The Stewart Mesa Ditch is the second largest agricultural water provider in the North Fork Valley, serving 243 users and supplying water to farms, ranches, and orchards on the South side of the valley. Identified as a priority project via the recent Stream Management Plan, this project will modify and improve the diversion structure and headgate of the ditch. The existing diversion is antiquated and problematic for water users served by the ditch, for recreational users of the river, and for fish, including native fish species. Through this upgrade, the project will protect the ditch from flooding, improve controls, reduce erosion, eliminate safety hazards for boaters, and improve the habitat and population resiliency for fish populations.
Yampa River Forest Restoration Project
City of Steamboat Springs
$150,000 awarded, Routt County
Over a three-year period, the Yampa River Forest Restoration Project aims to restore mid and upper canopy tree cover to reaches of the Upper Yampa River to help reduce summer water temperatures. As identified in the 2018 Stream Management plan, the project offers an innovative, natural infrastructure approach to protecting West Slope water supplies in the face of rising temperatures. The expected outcomes from the project are six acres of new riparian plantings, and 1.5 miles of river with increased shading in reaches where summer temperatures exceed state standards.
Crystal River Restoration at Riverfront Park
Town of Carbondale
$100,000 awarded, Garfield County
The Crystal River Restoration Project will restore and enhance a one-half mile, 18-acre reach of the Crystal River as it flows through the Town of Carbondale and improves the efficiency of the town-owned Weaver Ditch headgate and diversion. The project will implement river restoration improvements and water diversion modifications that will result in long-term, self-sustaining river channel stability, fish habitat and spawning areas, low flow connectivity, enhanced species diversity and ecosystem resiliency, and create opportunities for recreation including angler access points.
Wolf Creek Reservoir Project Permitting
Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District
$330,000 awarded, Rio Blanco and Moffat Counties
Since 2013, the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District has conducted planning work to design a water storage project within the White River basin. A 2014 conditional water right for a 66,720 acre-foot reservoir was awarded to the project in January 2021 for the following beneficial uses: municipal, augmentation, mitigation of environmental impacts, hydroelectric power generation, recreation, piscatorial, and wildlife habitat. River District funding is intended to support an inclusive, collaborative permitting process supported by data and responsive to public feedback.
Lower Yampa Augmentation Needs Study
Great Northern Water Conservancy District
$30,350 awarded, Moffat County
The project will fund a Lower Yampa Augmentation Study to investigate anticipated needs for an augmentation plan in parts of the Lower Yampa Basin. This study seeks to quantify augmentation needs, divide the study area into regions that have a common downstream call and potential augmentation source, evaluate the ability to provide augmentation water from Elkhead Reservoir, and, if necessary, present high-level information regarding augmentation sources, outside of Elkhead Reservoir.
Canyon Creek Fish Passage Project
$44,114 awarded, Garfield County
This project improves fish passage and productive fish habitat in Canyon Creek by installing concrete baffles and hemispheres within a previously impassable set of concrete box culverts under Interstate 70. This project supports healthy spawning habitat in areas affected by recent wildfires and supports new fish passage research to encourage future, nearby projects.