Denver Water recently filed its application for an amended license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for its Gross Reservoir/Moffat Firming project. The filing included valuable new commitments to benefit native trout in headwater watersheds within the Fraser and WIlliams Fork basins - and that's good news for cutthroats and the anglers who value them. More than two years ago, Denver Water came to an agreement with Grand County and TU that incorporated a variety of river protections and enhancements in conjunction with their Moffat Firming Project - measures that we agreed would result in a healthier Fraser and Upper Colorado River system than without the Moffat project. The agreement was a great model of collaborative conservation to achieve better outcomes than we could achieve alone.
On top of reiterating their past commitments to enhancing the Colorado headwaters, Denver Water's new FERC application includes additional commitments to benefit native trout on pubilc lands in the Williams Fork of the Colorado and the Fraser River watersheds. Specifically:
- Denver will install fish barriers on Bobtail and Steelman creeks in the Williams Fork headwaters to secure existing populations of native cutthroat trout in approximately 6.3 miles of habitat
- Denver will install a fish barrier in nearby McQueary Creek that will secure another 2.6 miles of habitat that can then be restored for native cutthroat trout by the US Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife
- Denver will maintain and operate its diversions on Hamilton and Little Vasquez creeks in the Fraser watershed to permanently secure existing native cutthroat trout populations in approximately 10 miles of habitat
- Denver will help coordinate and participate in a joint interagency restoration project to protect up to 15 miles of new cutthroat trout habitat in St Louis Creek, also in the Fraser watershed
These commitments were incorporated in a settlement agreement between Denver and the US Forest Service for the FERC licensing process, and represent another important step in ensuring that the impacts of Denver Water's Moffat project are mitigated. Denver Water has said that they intend to leave the watersheds impacted by their project in better health than they are today - and these new commitments to native trout restoration in the Williams Fork and Fraser basins are another positive move in converting those words into on-the-ground action.
Kudos to Denver Water and the US Forest Service for launching a strong partnership to benefit native trout!