Community Conversations

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The Upper Colorado River Watershed Group is working under a two-year US Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART grant awarded to Shadowcliff Mountain Lodge with a technical team led by Grand Environmental...

NEW! Janury 19th 2018 – Where are we now?

UCRWG is now in year 2 of the WaterSMART grant from the US Bureau of Reclamation. Grant funding from WaterSMART is  $100,000 in total through Shadowcliff Mountain Lodge serving as our fiscal agent. Grand Environmental Services is subcontracted to lead our technical team.

In year 1 Shadowcliff team guided 5 public “community conversations,” consilidated findings, and formed the Watershed Group Board. The technical teamstudied watershed conditions and opportunities, drafted guiding supporting documents for organization of a non-profit, and researched grant funding.

So far in year 2 the UCRWG board has met twice and the technical team is exploring project concepts and grant strategy with board guidance.


UCRWG Community Meetings & Events


February 25, 2017 – Mountain Parks Electric Community Room, Granby, CO. 

UCRWG team will present findings from 2016 and introduce next steps. All interested are encouraged to attend.This meeting will build upon the groundwork from the 2016 community conversations, but it is not necessary to have attended one of these events. **Light refreshments & coffee will be provided.**

We want to include ALL stakeholders — Citizens of Grand County, Hydroelectric Production, Livestock Grazing, Timber Production, Recreation, Irrigated Agriculture, Environmental Groups, Municipalities, Private Property Owners, National, State, and Local Agencies, etc…. YOU!

Click here to let us know you’re interested in attending!

2016 Community Conversations

  • 10/17 – Granby: Mountain Parks Electric
  • 10/25 – Grand Lake: Community House (by Town Hall)
  • 11/11 – Fraser: The Historic Church
  • 11/14 – Kremmling: West Grand High School

Thanks to all who participated in the Community Conversations in Fall 2016. We encourage everyone within the community that values our watershed to join us February 25th for another facilitated conversation about our findings and how to move forward.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is UCRWG?

UCRWG stands for the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group. We are a small team of passionate and committed people who are serving as facilitators for the creation of a watershed resiliency plan in Grand County, Colorado and a local supporting organization. We are focused on connecting current efforts and ideas, not about creating new ones.

This facilitation process began in Fall of 2016 through a series of community meetings in Grand County, free and open to the public. These meetings helped identify the main concerns and priorities of the community, as well as citizens who would be interested in participating in the creation of a Grand County watershed group that will live on after this initial effort is done. You can see photo recaps of these community meetings on our blog.

Who is UCRWG?

The People

Right now, the UCRWG team consists of five main folks, with many more supporting this community-wide effort:

Hillary Mizia

Program Manager and Lead Facilitator. Hillary is the Executive Director at Shadowcliff, a non-profit educational lodge and retreat center that’s been in Grand Lake since 1956. Hillary has a background in environmental education, group facilitation, and change management. She has been involved in many burgeoning movements over the years as a key founding member, from the Sustainable Living Association to the Community Sustainability Advisory Board for the City of Golden to Mountain Sage Community School, and many more in between. She brings years of facilitation experience and a deep passion for true stakeholder engagement. You can learn more about Hillary at and


Geoffrey Elliott

Technical Project Manager. Geoff has over 30 years’ experience in natural resource management including hands-on field experience in over 200 projects in Grand County, mostly related to water. Projects range from planning, permitting, and construction oversight for utility projects, including water crossings and municipal water intakes, also docks and boathouses, trails and ski runs, and facilitating property transfers and conservation of land and water resources. He is particularly interested in restoring balance between streams and riparian ecosystems, including irrigated hay fields, with fish-friendly diversions and agriculture-friendly bank stabilization. With broad experience in hydrogeology, forestry, and the nuts and bolts of exercising Colorado Water Rights, he’s advising the UCRWG team on resource assessment and the feasibility of watershed projects including permitting and funding.

Geoff and his wife Kate raised two boys in Grand Lake, both graduating from Middle Park High School. He is past President of the Grand Lake Rotary Club and now chairs the Education/WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) Committee, has a BSc. in Earth Science and MSc. in Geology, and is a Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control.

Ken Fucik

Program Support. Ken has experience in environmental industry dating back to 1972. This includes experience in onshore and offshore habitats throughout the U.S. and South America, Asia, Africa, Middle East, and Israel. He specializes in problem solving on technical and regulatory issues. Ken also has management experience with HSE teams from diverse cultures and technical backgrounds.


Joy Phelan

Technical Coordinator. Joy is Grand Environmental Services’s Business Manager and Wildlife & Agricultural Biologist. She has worked for a variety of employers that have included the U.S. Forest Service, Delta Airlines, Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge, and the Youth Conservation Corps before returning to school. She obtained her BS from Oregon State University in 2015 in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences. Her primary duties within the interim UCRWG include organizing local events, and coordinating the technical elements of the WaterSMART grant requirements. In her free time she enjoys spending time hiking, skiing, and snowboarding with her family and volunteering for various local organizations.

Kelly Yarbrough

Project Coordinator. Kelly has a unique variety of experience in program coordination and communication. With an MFA in Drawing from Kansas State University, Kelly’s graduate work focused on the tallgrass prairie ecosystem and the communities and cultures that use it. Most recently, she has served as the founder and coordinator of the Tallgrass Artist Residency at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve of Kansas, and as the Program Coordinator for Shadowcliff Lodge in the Grand Lake. She has over five years of experience in marketing and design for small businesses and individual clients, and brings energy and insight to the process of community engagement.


The Organizations

Grand Environmental Services is a local Environmental Consultant Firm located in Grand Lake. They help clients manage land and water in the Colorado Highcountry offering services that include environmental and wetland permitting, construction oversight and monitoring, agricultural related services like headgate and ditch management, erosion control and bank stabilization to name a few. Grand Environmental Service’s primary duties within the interim UCRWG are to support the effort through the technical expertise offered by founder and owner, Geoff Elliott, and Business Manager, Joy Phelan.


Shadowcliff is a not-for-profit lodge and retreat center in Grand Lake, CO with a mission of An eco-friendly mountain sanctuary where together we are creating a climate for a restorative world. As a part of the Grand Lake community for sixty years, Shadowcliff is naturally invested in Upper Colorado watershed resiliency and supporting community-driven efforts to uphold that. Shadowcliff is supporting UCRWG as the primary recipient of the WaterSMART grant used to fund this project and by the program management expertise of its executive director, Hillary Mizia.

Why establish an Upper Colorado watershed group?

Taken from our agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation:

“The Nation faces an increasing set of water resource challenges.  Aging infrastructure, rapid population growth, depletion of groundwater resources, impaired water quality associated with particular land uses and land covers, water needed for human and environmental uses, drought and climate change all play a role in determining the amount of fresh water available at any given place and time.  Water shortages and water-use conflicts have become more commonplace in many areas of the United States, even in normal water years.  As competition for water resources grows – crop irrigation, city and community growth, energy production, and the environment – the need for information and tools to aid water resource managers also grows.”

How are you funded?

We are currently funded by a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART grant.  Taken from the agreement:  “The U.S. Department of Interior’s (Department) WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow) Program establishes a framework to provide Federal leadership and assistance on the efficient use of water; integrating water and energy policies to support the sustainable use of all natural resources; forming strong diverse partnerships with States, tribes and local entities; and coordinating with other Department bureaus and offices on water conservation activities.

The Cooperative Watershed Management Program (CWMP) contributes to the WaterSMART strategy by providing funding to watershed groups to encourage diverse stakeholders to form local solutions to address their water management needs.  The purpose of the CWMP is to improve water quality and ecological resilience, conserve water, and reduce conflicts over water through collaborative conservation efforts in the management of local watersheds.”

What is WaterSMART?

We are currently funded by a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART grant. WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow)

US Bureau of Reclamation program, Congressional Mandate with Agency cooperation (Dept. of Agriculture)

Focus on disaster preparedness: Drought, Wildfire, Flood

Emphasis on Ecological Resilience: the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change, so as to retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedback (USBR)

Deliverables (tangible outcome that is produced by the project) :  Watershed Group 501(c)3, Watershed Resiliency Plan

How can I get involved?

Right now, the best way that you can be involved in Grand County watershed resiliency is by coming to our events or just by contacting us. We are working through a long process of connecting the many people and organizations doing great work on behalf of our watershed and we need EVERY voice at the table.

We are currently looking for Board Members and Volunteers. Please contact us if you are interested. 

Also be sure to sign up on our email list and follow us on Facebook for updates!


What is a watershed?

From the the USGS:A watershed is an area of land that drains all the streams and rainfall to a common outlet such as the outflow of a reservoir, mouth of a bay, or any point along a stream channel. The word watershed is sometimes used interchangeably with drainage basin or catchment. Ridges and hills that separate two watersheds are called the drainage divide. The watershed consists of surface water–lakes, streams, reservoirs, and wetlands–and all the underlying ground water. Larger watersheds contain many smaller watersheds. It all depends on the outflow point; all of the land that drains water to the outflow point is the watershed for that outflow location. Watersheds are important because the streamflow and the water quality of a river are affected by things, human-induced or not, happening in the land area “above” the river-outflow point…Watersheds can be as small as a footprint or large enough to encompass all the land that drains water into rivers that drain into Chesapeake Bay, where it enters the Atlantic Ocean.”

From our community (generated from responses gathered during our 2016 community meetings):

What is a watershed group?

To describe the purpose of a watershed group, we must start by thinking locally. Specific goals and priorities for a watershed group will vary depending on the characteristics of the watershed and the people who depend on it.

One definition of a watershed group from the Alpine Watershed Group in eastern California, is, “a locally organized, voluntary, non-regulatory group established to assess the condition of the watershed and build a work plan to implement restoration and protections activities within the watershed.

A healthy watershed helps filter sediment and pollutants while supporting the many living organisms that depend on the ecosystem. Healthy watersheds improve the economy and help provide resources for everyone to use and enjoy.  The Alpine Watershed Group is committed to providing healthy watersheds for future and current generations.”

In order to define what a watershed group in Grand County, Colorado will look like, we need engagement from Grand County citizens, starting with the community meetings happening Fall 2016.

Here are just a few examples of successful watershed groups across the country:

What is a watershed plan?

Again, it is important to remember that what constitutes a watershed plan will greatly depend on the specific location and needs of the watershed and the people who are involved in creating such a plan.

From the EPA (with our grant, we will be accomplishing Steps 1-4) :

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