Colorado Water Project

Doom and Gloom, but what can I do?

dry-soil-1775246_1920_0d9a136786c5fdac9be978631016f2c5.jpg

Drought is plaguing most of Colorado and pretty much everywhere in the southwest. Every summer, it feels like we are saying the same thing and warning everyone about not enough snowpack melt, low flows and warming waters. Whether you are a native, transplant, or visitor to this great state - we can all do something to make a difference in conserving our scarce water sources. 

Most of these ideas are easy to do, while some take practice. Even just adopting one strategy to conserve water, can make a difference. Feel free to leave a comment about your ideas as well!

bitcoin-faucet-1728106_960_720.jpg

1. When brushing your teeth or shaving try not to the let faucet run. Need water? Fill up the sink instead to rinse your razor and turn off the faucet between brushing.

2. Most dishwashers do not require any pre-rinsing, especially if they are relatively new. Instead, scrape off any food (preferably into compost) then run the cycle when the dishwasher is full. Some dishwashers even have a "water saver" cycle you can try.

3. Are you still rinsing your produce under the faucet? Try filling a bowl or tub to rinse them in and reuse the water on your houseplants or garden outside. 

4. Try using a broom to clean off sidewalks, driveways, patios, or decks instead of the hose.

5. Tired of mowing the lawn? Check out xeriscaping alternatives to replace or reduce the amount of grass in your yard. If you do need to mow, keep the trim length minimal to reduce evaporation and increase soil moisture retention which will reduce your need to water it. Having longer grass will help it grow a stronger root system and increase it's drought and pest tolerance.

6. Are you still trout fishing when the water is climbing above 65 degrees? Giving fish a break can increase their chances of surviving during this stressful time. Check out our handy water temperature thermometer for trout.

There are plenty of ways to conserve water in the west and with the rise of energy and resource saving standards in our appliances and home systems, it's becoming easier and easier to use less water without even thinking about it. If you are interested in learning more about the innovative ideas out there regarding water conservation, check out the links below. Colorado's rivers and the trout that live in them will thank you!

Resources & Other Water Saving Tips

Water Conservation in the Home

Rain Barrels in Colorado 

What is greywater? How is it used?

Greywater Opt-in Colorado Legislation

Water Conservation across Colorado

Xeriscaping in Colorado: Budgeting, Design, How to

Free Xeriscaping Plans & Plant Suggestions

 

Celebrating the Colorado River

Celebrate with us by  sharing  the graphic above. 

Celebrate with us by sharing the graphic above. 

The Colorado River is said to be one of the most important water sources in the west, as it contributes to 7 different states' watersheds. July 25 marks the special day that we all use to celebrate this river.  As part of the celebration, storytellers throughout the basin share how important the river is to their community below:

When Collaboration Works

Collaboration is key when it comes to making positive steps towards conservation. Trout Unlimited's Colorado Water Project is one of those collaborative initiatives working with agricultural leaders and organizations to conserve, protect, and restore our limited water resources around the state. Cary Denison, TU Project Coordinator, Gunnison Basin, was featured in the first segment of "This American Land" and talks about the ways that conservation can work with western water laws in providing the stakeholders with what they need and how Trout Unlimited is part of that conversation.

Water is a limited resource in the west and is one of the major talking points for Coloradoans when discussing conservation. The state experiences very little rainfall in summer, fall, and spring but the mountains collect feet upon feet of snow-pack. Snow-pack is like Colorado's natural water storage that slowly melts as the warmer seasons approach, filling our streams, creeks, and rivers with the water needed to last until next winter. With the decreasing amount of precipitation, that snow-pack is becoming a resource that we cannot solely count on. That's where water conservation comes in.

Water conservation is key in using this limited resource wisely and free up more water for other uses including nature. Not to mention more water for our trout to flourish in.

Check out the episode below!

Interested in the story or project?

Contact Cary Denison, Project Coordinator, Gunnison Basin, cdenison@tu.org

When Collaboration Works

Collaboration is key when it comes to making positive steps towards conservation. Trout Unlimited's Colorado Water Project is one of those collaborative initiatives working with agricultural leaders and organizations to conserve, protect, and restore our limited water resources around the state. Cary Denison, TU Project Coordinator, Gunnison Basin, was featured in the first segment of "This American Land" and talks about the ways that conservation can work with western water laws in providing the stakeholders with what they need and how Trout Unlimited is part of that conversation.

Water is a limited resource in the west and is one of the major talking points for Coloradoans when discussing conservation. The state experiences very little rainfall in summer, fall, and spring but the mountains collect feet upon feet of snow-pack. Snow-pack is like Colorado's natural water storage that slowly melts as the warmer seasons approach, filling our streams, creeks, and rivers with the water needed to last until next winter. With the decreasing amount of precipitation, that snow-pack is becoming a resource that we cannot solely count on. That's where water conservation comes in.

Water conservation is key in using this limited resource wisely and free up more water for other uses including nature. Not to mention more water for our trout to flourish in.

Check out the episode below!

Interested in the story or project?

Contact Cary Denison, Project Coordinator, Gunnison Basin, cdenison@tu.org

A second look at "trash fish"

Ugly fish. Trash fish. Suckers. Chubs. A lot of native fish in our rivers don’t get no respect. Many anglers consider them good for nothing, except for throwing back—way back onto the bank.

But we anglers and sportsmen who care about rivers and cutthroats need to adjust our attitude a bit and quit looking down our noses at some of the “other” native fish.

Turns out “trash” fish like Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpbacked chub, bonytail and other native species are critically important to river and trout habitat conservation efforts here in the Colorado River Basin and other watersheds in the West.

And trout and other angler-favored species are riding their fintails to a better life.

The pikeminnow has been around for millions of years in the Colorado Basin and can grow up to 6 feet long and live for decades. Pioneers used pitchforks at times, it’s said, to haul them out of the river, they were so abundant. The fish provided food (albeit a bit bony) for the settlers.

But with growing water diversions, drought, invasive species and other factors pressuring the river in the last half century, the numbers of these native fish plummeted, and they were listed under the Endangered Species Act. In 1988, the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program was launched to bring them and the chubs and suckers back to sustainable numbers.

For three decades, the program has fostered cooperation, rather than conflict, among water users and directed federal and state funds to infrastructure projects that have benefited multiple users, from ranchers and farmers to municipalities.

Trout Unlimited and other conservation groups have supported those efforts, because the water projects, improved infrastructure and enhanced river flows needed to recover pikeminnows, suckers and chubs also benefit upstream coldwater species like trout.

For instance, TU helped upgrade the Relief Ditch and Hartland irrigation diversions on the Gunnison River a few years ago—a project that improved habitat and flows for trout.

The project would not have been possible without funds directly tied to native fish recovery.

Cary Denison, TU’s project coordinator in the Gunnison area, says that many anglers don’t realize that much of the West’s native trout have been removed from their historical ranges, and the remaining “natives” are those fish that many consider to be trash fish.

“If we aim to improve these rivers, we need to leverage the importance of these species to improve trout habitat as well.”

They are some of the original members of that river community, and they belong there. We need all of the pieces of a river ecosystem intact to keep it healthy.

So take a second look at that “trash” fish and give it some serious props for helping improve and restore our rivers for the other fish species we love.

Randy Scholfield is TU’s communications director for the Southwest.

Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Partnerships Paying Off for Fraser River

The fish are returning to Fraser Flats. It took years of vision and persistence, but Trout Unlimited’s long-game strategy of collaboration on the Upper Colorado River is paying big dividends for anglers and local communities that depend on a healthy river.

Exhibit A is the Fraser Flats Habitat Project. The Fraser River, a key tributary of the Upper Colorado, had been degraded by years of water diversions and other pressures.

TU and a host of water stakeholders joined forces to reverse that decline. The effort, called Learning by Doing, brought together a variety of partners including Denver Water, Northern Water, Grand County, Trout Unlimited, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to help restore the Upper Colorado watershed.

The group’s inaugural project at Fraser Flats aimed to restore a roughly one-mile stretch of the Fraser between the towns of Tabernash and Fraser, with the goal of providing healthy habitat for trout even during periods of reduced flows. The Fraser in this section had become too wide and shallow, resulting in sedimentation and high temperatures that smothered bug life and pressured coldwater-loving trout.

Design work began last fall. In late spring, more than 150 volunteers turned out to plant willows and cottonwoods along the streambank for shade and bank stability. Then in summer and fall, the group brought in Freestone Aquatics to narrow the river with point bars and other structures to increase velocity and depth of the river. Freestone also created a series of riffle and deep pools to provide better holding water for trout.

The results already have been nothing short of spectacular.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife conducted a fish survey on Oct. 5, shortly after completion of the project, and found dramatic increases in the biomass of brown and rainbow trout in the stretch compared to previous surveys, and an even larger increase in numbers of larger (14" and up) fish.

Preliminary electrofishing survey results from CPW showed the reach experienced a 415% increase in brown trout biomass, and a 550% increase in the numbers of brown trout greater than 14" in length. While rainbows are a smaller component of the population (15% of biomass, 25% of larger fish #s), they also blossomed with an increase of 267% in biomass and a 400% boost in fish over 14".

"We are elated," Mely Whiting, legal counsel for Trout Unlimited, told the local Ski-Hi News. "This is amazing. The biomass [in the river] has more than tripled, just from last year, and only in the matter of a couple of weeks since the project was completed.”

Biologists also reported seeing large brown trout actively spawning in many areas of the stretch. In short, Fraser River trout have wasted no time moving into the improved habitat.

What’s more, starting in spring 2018, the project will also provide public fishing access along a half-mile of the Fraser Flats section.

“This section of the Fraser River is the healthiest I’ve seen this river in the 47 years I’ve lived here,” TU’s Klancke said. “The best part is we’re hoping to do more river improvements like this in the future with our Learning By Doing partners.”

Colorado Public Radio this week aired a segment about the successful project and the "unusual partnership" between TU and Denver Water .

Watch the video below from Denver Water for another good overview of the project benefits.

TU, partners move forward on Fraser River restoration

In this 5 1/2 minute video, Kirk Klancke, Anna Drexler-Dreis and other leaders with the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter share the story of how collaboration among TU, Grand County, Denver Water, and other stakeholders is creating opportunities to restore healthier habitat for the Fraser River and its riparian corridor.

Unveiled at the Colorado Headwaters Chapter's annual banquet in July, the video was part of that evening's theme of recognizing how "conservation starts with conversation", recognizing key leaders including Denver Water board member Tom Gougeon and former Grand County Commissioner James Newberry for their leadership in opening the door for greater dialogue and cooperation among former adversaries in addressing  shared interests in the health of the Fraser River watershed.

To learn more about the work of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter with the Fraser and Upper Colorado  Rivers, you can visit the chapter website here.

Corps approves permit for Moffat Project in Colorado headwaters

The Army Corps of Engineers gave its approval to Denver Water's proposal to expand Gross Reservoir in Boulder County in order to firm its Moffat System water supplies from Grand County. While the project will increase total diversions from the Colorado headwaters, Denver Water has incorporated mitigation and enhancement measures to the project that local TU members in Grand County believe can actually improve the Fraser River's health. As part of its commitments under this permit and the associated mitigation and enhancement plans, Denver Water will manage diversions to help provide needed flushing flows on the Fraser and its tributaries, complete habitat and native trout restoration work in the Williams Fork basin, and contribute funds toward ongoing habitat improvement efforts like the Fraser Flats project.

“The Fraser is a river beloved by generations of anglers, boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts —it’s the lifeblood of our community,” said Kirk Klancke, president of TU’s Colorado River Headwaters chapter in Fraser and a longtime advocate for the river. “As an angler and Fraser Valley resident, I’m gratified that this agreement keeps our home waters healthy and flowing.”

Most significantly, Denver Water will participate in an adaptive management program called "Learning by Doing" through which Denver, Grand County, Trout Unlimited, and other local stakeholders are cooperating to apply mitigation and enhancement resources, monitor river and watershed conditions, and make adjustments to achieve the best results over time. "Rather than remaining an adversary, Denver Water has joined us and our west slope partners as a partner working to improve conditions in the Fraser watershed," explained Colorado TU Executive Director David Nickum.

In addition to the Learning by Doing effort, Denver Water has also pledged resources for improvement work on South Boulder Creek and on the North Fork South Platte (which will be impacted by ripple effects from Gross Reservoir expansion on Denver's systemwide operations, including the Roberts Tunnel). 5000 acre-feet in the enlarged reservoir will also be reserved as an environmental pool to be managed to help provide instream flows at key times to downstream reaches of South Boulder Creek.

Good News for Colorado Headwaters & Native Trout

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!

 

Lessons from the Roan

By David Nickum For more than a decade, the battle over Colorado’s Roan Plateau—a beautiful green oasis surrounded by oil and gas development—raged in meetings and in courtrooms. At issue: Would the “drill, baby, drill” approach to public lands carry the day and the path of unrestrained energy development run over one of Colorado’s most valuable wildlife areas? Or would “lock it up” advocates preclude all development of the Roan’s major natural gas reserves?

Luckily, this story has a happy ending—and a lesson for Colorado and other states in the West struggling with how to balance the need for energy development with conservation of public lands and irreplaceable natural resources.

The Bureau of Land Management recently issued its final plan for the Roan Plateau, closing the most valuable habitat on top of the plateau to oil and gas leases. The plan, which will guide management of the area for the next 20 years, also acknowledges the importance of wildlife habitat corridors connecting to winter range at the base of the Plateau.Roan Plateau in early fall

At the same time, the BLM management plan allows responsible development to proceed in less-sensitive areas of the plateau that harbor promising natural gas reserves and can help meet our domestic energy needs.

What happened? After years of acrimony and lawsuits, stakeholders on all side of the issue sat down and hammered out a balanced solution. Everyone won.

It’s too bad it took lawsuits and years of impasse to get all sides to do what they could have done early on: Listen to each other. We all could have saved a lot of time, money and tears.

The Roan example is a lesson to remember, as the incoming administration looks at how to tackle the issue of energy development on public lands.

There’s a better way, and it’s working in Colorado.

The BLM also this month, incorporating stakeholder input, closed oil and gas leasing in several critical habitat areas in the Thompson Divide—another Colorado last best place—while permitting leasing to go ahead in adjacent areas.

That plan also represents an acknowledgment that some places are too special to drill, while others can be an important part of meeting our energy needs.

And in the South Park area—a vast recreational playground for the Front Range and an important source of drinking water for Denver and the Front Range—the BLM is moving ahead with a Master Leasing Plan (MLP) for the area that would identify, from the outset, both those places and natural resources that need to be protected and the best places for energy leasing to proceed.

We have said that we want federal agencies in charge of public lands to involve local and state stakeholders more closely in land management planning—that perceived disconnect has been the source of criticism and conflict in the West regarding federal oversight of public lands.

Roan cliffsThe MLP process is a new tool that promises to address some of that top-down, fragmented approach to public land management. To their credit, the BLM is listening and incorporating suggestions from local ranchers, conservation groups and elected officials into their leasing plan for South Park.

This landscape level, “smart from the start” approach is one way for stakeholders to find consensus on commonsense, balanced solutions that allow careful, responsible energy development to occur while protecting our most valuable natural resources.

The lesson I take from the Roan? We can find solutions through respectful dialogue—and we shouldn’t wait for litigation to do so. Coloradoans can meet our needs for energy development and for preserving healthy rivers and lands by talking earlier to each other and looking for common ground.