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Four environmental projects receive extra funds from PitCo commissioners

Study of Wild and Scenic designation for upper Crystal River receives additional $100,000

Pitkin County hopes to secure a Wild and Scenic designation for the upper Crystal River to prevent dams.
Scott Condon/Aspen Times file

The Pitkin County Commissioners recently approved extra funding for four environmental initiatives, including research to designate part of the Crystal River as Wild and Scenic.

At their March 24 meeting, the board approved a total of $312,000 in supplemental appropriations to the 2021 budget for the projects. In some cases, the prior budget for a project wasn’t big enough to get the job done. In other cases, the scope of the proposed work expanded so more funds were needed.

In addition to the Wild and Scenic designation for part of the Crystal River, the projects included adjustments to the study of the proposed trail between Redstone and the summit of McClure Pass; ecosystem enhancement in Sky Mountain Park; and a climate action study by the Community Development Department.



Following is a rundown of the projects based on the materials submitted to the commissioners from county staff.

Project: Research to advance the Wild and Scenic Designation on the Crystal River.




Amount: $100,000 was approved in addition to the original budget of $297,000.

Description of work: The Healthy River and Streams Department will seek professional services for exploration of the special designation for parts of the river and potential development of strategies for achieving the designation.

“The goal of designation is to prevent dams from being built on the upper 39 miles of this beautiful river and to preserve the Crystal River’s status as a free-flowing stream,” the staff description said. “The upper 39 miles sought for inclusion are in the counties of Pitkin and Gunnison. The irrigated ranchland in Garfield County is not included in the request for designation.”

Project: Environmental review of the Redstone to McClure Pass Trail

Amount: $47,000 in addition to the original budget of $92,000.

Description of work: Pitkin County has proposed the trail and must pay for a third-party review under the National Environmental Policy Act. Pitkin County altered the trail alignment proposal on the pass last fall after conferring with the staff from the White River National Forest and Colorado Department of Transportation. The alteration created the need for additional field surveys on wetlands, lynx habitat, cultural resources, rare plants and other conditions along with additional work. The engineering and technical work combined with other work in the NEPA process has a total budget of $223,295. A draft Environmental Assessment will likely be ready for review in late summer 2021.

Project: Sky Mountain Park ecological restoration.

Amount: $65,400 in addition to the original budget of $65,000.

Description of work: The Open Space and Trails program is working on a restoration of two former agricultural ponds in pastures along Brush Creek to restore riparian habitat. The department has also created a test plot to study effective restoration of sagebrush habitat. To complete the projects, the county needs an above ground, temporary irrigation system and installation of wildlife fencing. The irrigation and fencing materials will be removed within about 10 years and used elsewhere.

Project: The Community Development Department will hire outside experts for studies on how climate action policies would affect the economy and greenhouse gas emissions.

Amount: $100,000 in addition to the original budget of $135,690.

Description of work: The studies will look at existing conditions of the regional economy and the greenhouse gas inventories related to the development industry. There will be a projection of carbon emissions up to 2050 based on current trends. A third study will look at how identified climate action policies will affect greenhouse gas emissions and the economy. The county will also explore collaboration with the city of Aspen on a joint greenhouse gas emissions inventory and on climate action initiatives.

The information will be available as part of the public outreach undertaken as part of the proposed revision of the county’s main growth control tool, the Growth Management System.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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