Partnership seeks grant to study middle Colorado River | AspenTimes.com

Partnership seeks grant to study middle Colorado River

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Kelley Cox/Post Independent fileAgricultural interests are among those at the table to discuss a watershed plan for the Middle Colorado River.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A group of water users, conservation groups, agricultural interests, businesses, gas industry representatives and local governments are seeking federal funding to complete the first-ever watershed plan for the middle Colorado River watershed.

The Glenwood Springs City Council recently committed $3,650 in matching funds and will send a formal letter of support for the federal 319 Watershed Planning Grant. The city will also provide in-kind support for the project.

Garfield County commissioners have lent their support to the partnership as well, and the Battlement Mesa Metro District board of directors recently approved $1,000 in matching funds, according to Clark Anderson, facilitator for the new Middle Colorado River Watershed Partnership.

Various stakeholders began meeting in September to explore the idea of forming a watershed group to go after the grant opportunity, Anderson explained.

“More than 50 people from different agencies, businesses, organizations and the general public came together to discuss the potential value in forming a ‘watershed partnership,’ as well as what needs or issues it might address, how it might operate and what benefits might be realized for different stakeholders,” according to a summary of the project provided to the City Council earlier this month.

The partnership was formed to collaborate and share information about the watershed, and provide a unified voice to protect and enhance water quality, reliability and the overall health of the stretch of Colorado River between Glenwood Springs and DeBeque.

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Until now, this was one of the few stretches of river in the state without a watershed group. The focus of the watershed plan will be on its health and management and educating residents of its values.

The effort has brought together a wide range of interests, including representatives of the natural gas industry whose activities are prominent in the region.

If the grant is successful, the ultimate goal will be to prepare a “State of the Watershed” report.

“It will look at data gaps and any water quality and water quantity issues,” said Donna Gray – who works for Williams Production gas company and sits on the partnership’s steering committee – during a presentation at the Dec. 2 Glenwood City Council meeting.

“It will also identify specific projects that we’d like to get behind, such as tamarisk control,” she said.

The partnership is also planning education and outreach activities to inform stakeholders and engage the public in the process.

“Education was far and away the top priority,” according to a summary of the steering committee’s Dec. 3 meeting. “There was recognition that education must be focused internally (educating ourselves) and externally (the public, local officials, etc.).”

The grant application is to be submitted this week. The steering committee’s monthly meetings are open to the public and include periodic educational seminars on topics of interest. The next meeting will be at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 14 at the Garfield School District Re-2 building in Rifle.

jstroud@postindependent.com