Water Projects Make Big Impacts In River District

The Community Partnership Pays Dividends

The passing of ballot measure 7A continues to pay dividends to communities across the fifteen counties of the Colorado River District through the Community Funding Partnership (CFP). The CFP program closed its inaugural year with nearly $3 million distributed to 23 multi-benefit water projects, with six projects fully completed within a year after funding.

Amy Moyer, Director of Strategic Partnerships, shared this with the Board on Wednesday, February 9:

“We continue to be humbled by the creativity and resilience of our West Slope water users as they move ideas into action and confront the realities of a hotter and drier future.”

Amy Moyer

CFP grants have also aided recipients in leveraging over $40 million from other funding sources. With the passing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in 2021, even more federal funding will be available for projects which prioritize infrastructure upgrades and water quality. Given the Community Funding Partnership’s increased notoriety across the District, staff anticipates increased demands and applications. To facilitate this growing interest alongside timely funding opportunities, the River District Board of Directors agreed to implement several administrative changes related to contracting to help streamline processes and keep the grant program an accessible resource to projects of all sizes and scope.

At the meeting on February 9, Directors approved the following projects to kick start funding in 2022:

Minturn Storage Tank Project
Town of Minturn
$250,000 awarded, Eagle County

At 25 –years-old, the Minturn’s existing water tank is deteriorating and experiencing active water leaks. This project seeks to upgrade the Town of Minturn’s water infrastructure to address existing water loss rates, increased wildfire risk in the area, and preparations to meet the community’s development demands.

Fruitgrowers Dam Outlet Gates Improvement Project
Orchard City Irrigation District
$225,000 awarded, Delta County

The Orchard City Irrigation District (OCID) has partnered with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, owners of the Fruitgrowers Reservoir, to plan for upgrades to the reservoir’s control gates. The project modernizes an irrigation dam and reservoir that has been used continuously since 1937, while allowing for more accurate flow monitoring and water releases.

Maybell Diversion and Headgate Modernization Project
The Nature Conservancy
$500,000 awarded, Moffat County

This proposed project involves reconstructing the historic Maybell diversion and modernizing the headgate in the lower Yampa River. The project will improve drought resilience and habitat connectivity in at least 20 miles of the Yampa River, while supporting the recovery of endangered fish and meeting water users’ long-term irrigation needs.

West Slope Growing Water Smart Projects
The Sonoran Institute
$102,000 awarded, District-Wide

This project will deliver a Growing Water Smart training and assistance program for five to seven West Slope communities in the fall of 2023. The program aims to catalyze implementation of water conservation measures and the wise use of our water assets through land use planning. The project focuses on strengthening local land-use policies that influence water demand and to support communities as they manage their water resources into the future.

Lower Gunnison Project Hits Milestone

The Lower Gunnison Project (2015 NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program) took shape six years ago to protect and enhance four natural resource concerns for the region: improvements to water availability, water quality, degraded habitat, and soil health. In a heavily irrigated area with aging infrastructure and challenging geology, unique solutions were needed to increase water use efficiency and water quality throughout agricultural holdings in the Lower Gunnison River communities.

Six years later, fifteen on-farm and seven off-farm construction projects have been completed. The development and implementation of an integrated program to improve off and on-farm irrigation efficiency was applied to four focus areas within the Lower Gunnison Basin:

  1. North Fork Water Conservancy District (NFWCD)
  2. Uncompahgre Project
  3. Crawford Water Conservancy District (CWCD)
  4. Bostwick Park Water Conservancy District (BPWCD)

Lower Gunnison Project

The milestone delisting of the Lower Gunnison River from the Impaired Waters List highlighted these successful efforts of River District staff and a wide array of partners.

Dave ‘DK’ Kanzer, Director of Science and Interstate Matters, led staff efforts, eventually joined by Raquel Flinker, Senior Water Resources Engineer. Along with Colorado River District staff, the milestone de-listing of the Lower Gunnison River from the Impaired Waters list was only possible with dedicated support from a wide array of partners. A full report on the Lower Gunnison Project, including a full list of these partners is available on our website here.

“We got a contract to do good things, and we were required to match, or leverage the $8 million,” Kanzer said.

The six-year-long undertaking was not without plenty of lessons learned, which will help streamline future collaborations of this magnitude.

“Although this phase of the LGP was very successful in getting money to producers and good projects designed and constructed to assist with agricultural sustainability in the District, we learned that effective collaboration not only takes money, it takes local leadership and determination. We are lucky to have both in our agricultural community.”

A total of $16,811,896 in combined federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and partnership funds were expended to bring this project to completion.