Recently, the Colorado Water Conservation Board awarded the Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative and the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District $403,739 to move the Monarch Pass Watershed and Forest health project along.
The US Forest Service is working on a fuels mitigation project to treat approximately 3,000-acres of beetle-kill by harvesting the dead trees. The UAWCD has joined these efforts to help secure funding and partners for approximately 600-acres of the project. This phase of the project will utilize new and innovative technology that will allow access on the steep slope terrain east of Hwy 50. You can read more about the project here.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board stated that this is the first watershed and forest health project of its kind in the state of Colorado and sees it as a leader which will demonstrate future funding requirements for these types of projects.
Current Monarch Pass project financial partners and contributions to date:
Collectively, these financial contributions bring the local and state match to just over $660,000. An outstanding showing of how diverse interests can work together for watershed and forest health.
Thank you to everyone who has provided support to date. If you're interested in learning more, please contact Chelsey Nutter, Projects Manager.
A statewide funding source for local needs
Are you aware that Colorado has a Water Plan?
Issued by Governor Hickenlooper in 2014, the Colorado Water Plan was created as a roadmap to address Colorado’s current and future water needs, including those in our community. The Water Plan was led by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and was a multi-year collaborative process rooted in extensive engineering analysis, local and statewide stakeholder input, and identified what our water needs are and how to overcome those challenges.
Now that this inclusive plan has been created and put into action, the question remains:
How does Colorado continue to fund its implementation and close the $100 million gap created by the reduced severance tax funding on an annual basis?
Currently, the Inter-basin Compact Committee, a committee arising out of the “Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act” legislation to facilitate conversations on the statewide level between the nine Basin Roundtables, is working in partnership with the Colorado Cattleman’s Association and two predominate foundations to develop a new framework geared toward funding Colorado’s water future. This leadership team comprised of local and statewide water managers, officials and experts, including the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, has identified healthy rivers, water quality, conservation and efficiency, sustainable agriculture, infrastructure, and Colorado compacts, as the six primary categories for the fund. There are common themes throughout these water priority areas with one being the need to improve forest health. As you know, by protecting forest health we do many things, including protect rivers and streams from sedimentation - a leading cause to the degradation of our water supply and quality. And with most of our water supply situated within national forest lands, protection and improvement of the forest is paramount to our water future.
The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District has utilized and leveraged state funding over the years to actively address water challenges in our community and basin. Our forest and watershed health project on Monarch Pass is a great example of how statewide funds benefit all of us here.
This new source of statewide funding would be under the jurisdiction of the State of Colorado and would provide the necessary financial resources to face our future water challenges, together. It would have a broad and lasting impact on important needs in our own community and would disperse the responsibility of funding across the State. The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District supports funding of this effort based upon a statewide approach. It looks forward to continuing its works and being a part of creating a clear path forward to funding important water and forest health projects on the state, basin, and District-wide levels.
Join the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District for a two-day water festival.
This great family-friendly (and fun!) water education event is sponsored by the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, in partnership with the Foodshed Alliance and are held in conjunction with the Salida Farmers Market and the Buena Vista Farmers Market. Enjoy water education for children and adults as well as demonstration and exhibits.
Free and open to the public.
--Saturday, August 25th - Salida @ the Farmers Market, Alpine Park
--Sunday, August 26th - Buena Vista @ the Farmers Market, South Main Square
No doubt fire is on everyone's minds this summer. It is clear that being proactive with the health of our local forests is imminent. Not only does it protect people, wildlife, the surrounding communities and infrastructure, but it also protects important water resources.
The flash flooding and resultant runoff full of sediment, rocks, and debris that occurs with every big rain event following a wildfire, impacts the tributary streams, creeks and ultimately the Arkansas River. Forest fires also threaten storage vessels which provide critical water supply to all water uses; agricultural, municipal, environmental and recreational. Here at the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District we're working on an innovative forest and watershed health project on Monarch Pass to address wildfire before it happens.
A proactive approach to watershed health
The spruce beetle activity across the Monarch Pass area has increased to endemic levels, deteriorating the forest at an alarming rate. The US Forest Service (USFS) is moving forward with a fuels mitigation project that will treat approximately 3,000-acres of beetle-kill on Monarch Pass by harvesting the dead trees. The UAWCD has joined these efforts to help secure funding and partners for approximately 600-acres that is on steep slope terrain. Generally, steep slopes are excluded from forest mitigation projects due to safety concerns and the high costs associated with using traditional methods to remove down and dead trees. Yet, treating steep slopes is imperative. Often our most critical water supplies such as reservoirs and important drainages that feed into the Arkansas River are surrounded by steep slopes. Initial research has identified over 20,000 acres of this type terrain in the mountainous areas of the Arkansas drainage. Fortunately, the USFS has identified a new technology that can treat the steep slopes on Monarch Pass while at the same time saving money, reducing the impact to the environment and improving safety. This cutting-edge technology has never been used in Colorado, and when successful, this project will very likely become a statewide model for treating steep slopes across Colorado and hopefully encourage investment from private industry.
The UAWCD is taking the lead and a very active role with outreach for the project to bring more partners and money to the table to protect our local water supply, as well as to introduce this new technology to others in the state. We recognize the urgency of protecting our forest and water resources and non-federal matching dollars help expedite the process significantly. We’re excited that to date, the UAWCD in partnership with Chaffee County, City of Salida, Town of Poncha Springs, Colorado Springs Utilities, and the Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative, have secured the needed matching funds to apply for a Colorado Water Conservation Board grant that could provide over a half million dollars for the project. The UAWCD is continuing to look for additional funding partners throughout the State and water community to move this project toward implementation and before a catastrophic forest fire.
We encourage the water community, local municipalities, and other entities to support this project and to make it a priority. Although matching dollars are the best resource to move this project forward, Letters of Support are also vital and demonstrate that our community is committed to a hands-on approach to addressing forest and watershed health concerns. A special thank you to Central Colorado Conservancy for being the first local non-profit to provide a Letter of Support and volunteer hours for this project. It is not a matter of ifour local forests and water supply will be impacted by wildfire, but rather a matter of when. Let’s be proactive, today.
Naturally what is emerging out of this project is a grassroots local watershed entity - a group of local and statewide partners working together on an important forest and watershed project. We hope to continue to build upon the momentum and strength of this effort for future projects. For more information, please contact Chelsey Nutter at UAWCD.
About Water Talks
Water Talks is a monthly column published in area newspapers by the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District.