Colorado River watershed partnership wins grant |

Colorado River watershed partnership wins grant

The Middle Colorado River Watershed Partnership has received a state grant to assess watershed conditions and prepare a watershed plan for the river basin between Glenwood Springs and De Beque.

The funding includes a $64,600 grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as well as $72,200 in matching funds for the 18-month project. It is expected to begin this fall.

“The basic idea is to better understand the resource we have and the challenges it faces,” said Chris Treese, with the Colorado River Water Conservation District, which helped form the partnership. “We’re working to build greater awareness within our communities about the watershed and what it means in our lives.”

The project aims to inform decision-making and support local efforts to protect and enhance water quality, promote water efficiencies, and sustain the health of the middle Colorado River watershed. An additional goal is for the partnership to develop into an effective and lasting organization.

The initial task is to analyze existing information and develop a “State of the Watershed Report” that assesses current conditions. Building on that assessment, the partnership will work with local stakeholders to identify projects or activities to tackle key issues. The final plan could recommend a variety of activities, from on-the-ground restoration projects to public education efforts.

“The good news is that we think the watershed is probably in pretty good shape,” said Mike Wilde, a member of the partnership’s steering committee who also sits on the Mount Sopris Soil Conservation District. “But should we take that as a given? Or are there things we should be doing proactively to ensure its long term health?”

As a former educator, Wilde sees the watershed plan as a chance to increase awareness of water and rivers.

“Water is a complex issue. We all need a better understanding of where our water comes from and where it goes, how the watershed plays into that,” Wilde said.

Dave Kanzer, senior water resources engineer with the Colorado River District, said the project fits into larger water management decisions.

“We’re dealing with greater and greater uncertainty, which makes it all the more important to have sound information so we can make good decisions about the future of our watershed,” he said.

Kanzer also touts the benefits of coordination. “It does take time to work together, but sharing information, having a plan, knowing who is doing what; these are things that make us more efficient in the long run.”

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