UCRWG Ramps Up Wildfire Restoration with CDPHE Watershed Grant

UCRWG gives a hearty THANK YOU to our new project sponsors, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)


UCRWG staff member Becca Hofmeister and Project Scientist Tiffany Gatesman monitor water quality in the North Fork.

We are excited to announce that we’ll be rolling up our sleeves and getting to work this summer on some much-needed restoration projects along the North Fork!

Thanks to a generous CDPHE grant and the ongoing support of people like YOU, UCRWG will be helping to address the impacts of climate change and wildfire in this vital artery of the Colorado River. 

It was the hard work and dedication of UCRWG Vice President and Grand Lake resident Ken Fucik that secured the $190K grant to promote wildfire restoration along the North Fork of the Colorado River (NFCR). CDPHE identified UCRWG as a local, grassroots organization well-positioned to help local private and municipal stakeholders grapple with post-wildfire restoration. 

Working with Estella Moore and the CDPHE Nonpoint Source Pollution Management (NPS) Program, funding will be used to bolster ongoing UCRWG efforts in the NFCR watershed northwest of Grand Lake. Colorado’s NPS Program blends Federal and State regulations with industry Best Management Practices (BMPs) to meet cost-effective goals.  

UCRWG will be helping local stakeholders implement watershed-based BMPs, including:

  • Restore and conserve agricultural lands and water as keystone elements of our headwater landscapes.  This includes strategies to cultivate better soil health and climate resilience and sustainable irrigation management, especially where wildfire and subsequent flooding has damaged infrastructure.
  • Protect and restore floodplain connectivity and infiltration areas adjacent to stream channels (e.g. riparian areas/streambank buffer zones and wetlands).
  • Promoting process-based restoration where appropriate to tap natural processes for more resilient landscapes. We’ll be using science-based restoration methods to improve bank stability, reduce erosion, and promote natural stream meandering to improve water quality (Zeedyk and Clothier: Let the Water Do the Work). 

UCRWG President Andy Miller and our team hit the ground running on May 27th with visits along the NFCR to landowners that have already reached out for help.

Proposed projects include:

  • Removing burned hazard trees and chipping some amount of the wood for use on site
  • Developing erosion-control structures, such as contour logging
  • Protecting post-fire regenerating vegetation from overgrazing, including fencing wildlife exclosures and tree protectors

Why the North Fork?

“We identified the North Fork in our 2018 Watershed Resiliency Plan as a top priority. It’s the primary waterway flowing into Shadow Mountain Reservoir, which is listed by CDPHE as impaired and not meeting Colorado state standards for drinking water and cold-water aquatic life. So we’re helping the state address really important health concerns.”
– Andy Miller, UCRWG President

Aerial photo of sedimentation and algal growth in Shadow Mountain Reservoir by the mouth of the North Fork River.

Like much of the Colorado River headwaters, the NFCR has experienced over a century of gradual environmental watershed degradation, including the loss of climate-mitigating beaver.  The East Troublesome Fire of 2020 endangered our watershed’s health further when it blazed through almost 200,000 acres of watershed that feed into the Three Lakes System. Large areas of agricultural and residential lands were impacted, with the scorched slopes and riverbanks of our watershed now feeding sediment and nutrients into the Colorado River and its tributaries. This runoff is classified as  nonpoint source pollution (NPS). The runoff eventually accumulates in Shadow Mountain Reservoir, where it leads to algal blooms and reduced oxygen for aquatic life.

The EPA now recognizes nonpoint source pollution as
the leading remaining cause of water quality problems
due to the dispersed, unregulated nature of NPS
pollutants such as nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen),
pathogens, sediment, and metals. Pollutant loads from
nonpoint sources continue to impact drinking water
supplies, recreation, fisheries, and wildlife.

The CDPHE funds will combine with generous grants from the Maki Foundation and Fire on the Mountain Foundation to continue outreach, education, and collaboration among stakeholders for watershed restoration and fire prevention in the wake of the East Troublesome Fire. Interagency and stakeholder collaborations are crucial for guiding restoration and monitoring efforts addressing post-fire erosion and sediment concerns persisting over the next several years.

Have a project you want to discuss with us? REACH OUT!

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