GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A new organization that aims to protect the quality of water in the Middle Colorado River watershed is busy lining up financial support from business and government partners in its effort to become more self-sufficient.
This week, the Garfield County commissioners agreed to grant $25,000 to the Middle Colorado Watershed Council, as long as the coalition meets its matching fund obligations.
Commissioners awarded $13,000 immediately, in recognition of funds already obtained by the group. Another $12,000 will be released if the organization is successful in getting new matching funds by Jan. 31, 2014.
Requests totaling $13,000 are still pending, Donna Gray, who chairs the group’s leadership committee, said at the Oct. 21 Garfield Board of County Commissioners meeting.
The Council has applied to become an official nonprofit organization. It is also working to line up additional funding support from local governments, the energy industry and others that can work together to protect the water resources in the middle Colorado drainage as it passes through Garfield County.
The group was formed in 2009 with funding mainly from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Currently, the organization has just one paid part-time employee, Watershed Council Coordinator Laurie Rink of Carbondale.
Other financial partners to date include Garfield County, the cities of Glenwood Springs and Rifle, the Battlement Mesa Metro District and the Colorado River District.
“This is an area of the river that didn’t have a citizens conservation group established until now,” said Chris Treese, external affairs manager for the River District who works with the group.
“It’s an effort that has value in a larger context for all of Garfield County,” he said.
The group is also currently working to identify and prioritize specific projects to work on, which are expected to be completed by late 2014.
According to the Middle Colorado River Watershed Council’s website [www.sites.google.com/site/midcoriverpartnership/], the watershed encompasses about 7,500 linear miles of rivers, creeks and streams.
Rink explained during a recent presentation to the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board that the Roaring Fork River drainage is not included, because another organization, the Roaring Fork Conservancy based in Basalt, keeps watch over that watershed.
The Middle Colorado Watershed Council’s 2014 planning efforts will involve a series of public meetings to identify issues, answer questions and come up with strategies for water quality preservation in the future.