The Fraser River was recently named as the third most endangered river in the US. Since then, the Fraser has come under increasing pressure. To find out why, and what you can do about it, keep reading.
The local town of Fraser was known as the Western Whitehouse during the Eisenhower administration because Ike spent so much of his free time here fishing the Fraser and other local rivers. Today, the Fraser River still offers excellent fishing despite the diversion of the majority of its water. The Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited is one of the leaders in the effort to protect the Fraser, the headwaters of the Colorado and the associated cold-water fisheries in a difficult situation. Our members are dedicated to protecting this amazing fishery and environment to the best of our ability. We understand that previous generations of western Colorado residents sold the rights to a substantial portion of the water that originates here to communities on the Front Range of Colorado, and that has consequences for our rivers today. We realize that much of the water which historically flowed through the Colorado to the Gulf of California and the Pacific will continue to be diverted across the Continental Divide to Front Range cities and will ultimately find its way to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. While we would like to see as little water diversion as possible, our efforts are focused on minimizing the effects of that inevitable water diversion on the natural environment.
By careful stewardship of our environment and through tireless education, we will do our best to maintain a healthy riparian environment here in Grand County.This website exists, in large part, to facilitate education about the science and the practical aspects of the challenges faced by our rivers and environment. You'll find links to a great deal of information and some suggestions as to concrete steps all of us can take to ensure the long-term health of our rivers and environment.
The Colorado River Headwaters Chapter is working hard to change the Fraser from a river in decline to a healthy aquatic ecosystem and a sustainable fishery. In addition, the Colorado Headwaters Land Trust works to place critical land into environmental easements in an effort to protect the Fraser and upper Colorado. You can also check out our Facebook page:
"Save the Fraser River."
It's the message on those blue oval stickers that adorn so many car bumpers and tailgates. By now, hopefully just about everyone in Grand County is familiar with the phrase.
So what is this all about, anyway? What's up with the Fraser River, and why do we need to save it?
The Fraser River begins as a tiny headwaters stream near Berthoud Pass, flows through the towns of Winter Park and Fraser, and finally reaches its confluence with the Colorado River near Granby. It provides prime fishing and other recreational opportunities, not to mention it is the critical artery of the entire valley's ecosystem.
This river also happens to be one of the primary sources of municipal water for Denver and other Front Range communities. Some 60 percent of the Fraser's flows are diverted under the Continental Divide to the Front Range through the Moffat Tunnel system.
This diversion system is what prompted the Save the Fraser River campaign. Obviously the Front Range needs water, but according to current water laws, Denver Water could legally drain the river dry. As the amount of diverted water has increased, so has the need to monitor the health of the river. This is where the campaign comes into play.
This campaign, championed by the local Colorado River Headwaters chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU), is intended to raise awareness about Denver Water's diversion project. The campaign also aims to protect and preserve the Fraser from the effects of the diversions.
I had the opportunity to become active with our local chapter of TU. I continue to be impressed with the organization's efforts in conservation and education, and I am grateful to be a part of the efforts.
We were successful recently in finally establishing an agreement with Denver Water to incorporate a balance between water diversion and river health, which took years of negotiations to accomplish. This agreement is known as a "Mitigation and Enhancement Plan," which includes measures to reduce the impacts of the water diversion project and to improve existing stream conditions.
Much of this Mitigation and Enhancement agreement incorporates a "Learning by Doing" management approach that closely evaluates the health of the river. Water temperatures, aquatic life, riparian vegetation, and other vital signs are monitored to ensure the river and its ecosystem is preserved. This agreement was accomplished in large part through public support, so again, thank you to everyone who has supported the Save the Fraser River campaign!
This campaign and its initiatives are an ongoing effort. We still need more resources: to continue stream monitoring and improve river habitat; to continue offering chapter events and educational outreach; to ensure that TU attorney Mely Whiting can continue to represent the Fraser River on behalf of our campaign.
That's why we at TU would like to encourage the community to continue the campaign with us. We have several events and activities planned throughout the season. Our chapter's annual banquet is held each year during July at the Devil's Thumb Ranch. With dinner, drinks, door prizes, and both live and silent auctions, the banquet is a really fun way to support the Fraser River. Other events, including the Riverstock concert and National Public Lands Day, are scheduled for later this summer – stay tuned for details!
Both corporate and individual sponsorships are available. Corporate sponsorships include complimentary tickets to the banquet, as well as special recognition at the banquet and in TU media. Several individual sponsorship opportunities are also available, including Silver, Gold, and Diamond sponsor levels. These sponsorships are a great way to show your support and provide critical resources for the Fraser River.
Whether it’s a sponsorship, a donation, or just rolling up your sleeves to help, there are plenty of ways to support the ongoing campaign to Save the Fraser River. To stay updated on the campaign or to contact us about sponsorship opportunities, we encourage you to visit our website at www.coheadwaters.org and to check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/SaveTheFraserRiver. You can also sponsor the Fraser River at Winter Park Optical near Safeway in Fraser.
Together we can protect and preserve the Fraser River for generations to come. Thank you again for your support!
The document available by clicking here is a summary of the proposed agreement. Please note the marked segments in particular. This summary is about the proposed agreement, rather than the entire project summarized below.
Confused about the Moffat Diversion Project? This Executive Summary is about the Moffat Firming Project itself and it's likely impacts, rather than about the proposed agreement you can access above.
A study completed by Colorado State University in the fall of 2013 brought up serious concerns about the impact of reduced flows resulting from the Moffat Project. This is the sort of science based analysis that helped lead to the favorable agreement proposed in March, 2014. Supporting TU helps us to develop and use this sort of information in our efforts to protect our rivers and the environment. We believe the important decisions about our rivers and the environment should be influenced by science not money or politics. For an excellent, readable summary of the study's results, click here.
The Fraser River is an outstanding trout fishery that has been treasured by generations of Coloradoans and even drew President Eisenhower to the area to fish in an area known as his “Western White House”. Now it is poised to enjoy a renaissance and a future worthy of its storied past.
After years of persistence and hard work - negotiations, public outreach, research, community organizing, lobbying – TU has announced a major deal with Denver Water and Grand County that will bring a new spirit of collaboration – along with significant financial and water resources – to conserving and restoring the Fraser River watershed.
This is one to celebrate!
The Fraser, a key tributary of the Upper Colorado that flows from Berthoud Pass to Granby, has been hammered by years of diversions. Currently, Denver Water is taking about 60 percent of the natural flows of the Fraser, and their proposed project to expand diversions through the Moffat Tunnel would take another 15 percent of the river. That would put the Fraser and its trout fishery on life support, unless the river received additional protections and mitigation to offset the potential impacts.
For the past decade, TU has been working to secure just those kinds of protections. We identified three core issues for the river: avoiding excessively warm water temperatures that threaten trout and other coldwater species; ensuring adequate “flushing flows” to keep stream beds from becoming clogged by sediment; and including a long-term monitoring and adaptive management program to deal with future challenges that might not be foreseen based on limited information today. Over the years we had moments of promise and others where things looked bleak – but we never stopped pushing for the protections we knew the Fraser River needed. Now, we can celebrate an agreement that addresses all three challenges and helps secure a bright future for the Fraser.
The new agreement, called the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, builds on other commitments Denver Water has previously made to address issues facing the Fraser. Under the agreement, Denver Water will provide additional instream flows during key summer months to help keep water temperatures from rising too high. They will use the flexibility built into their extensive water diversion system to help meet target peak flows to help flush sediment and maintain habitat. All of this will take part through a new collaboration called “Learning By Doing” that includes long-term monitoring, financial and water contributions from Denver Water, and cooperative management to adjust conservation and mitigation efforts over time to minimize impacts and maximize benefits for the Fraser River. Importantly, Denver has agreed to propose Learning By Doing as a condition of its federal permit for the Moffat Project – meaning that the commitment to this effort will be secure not only today, but for the future.
Through this Plan and the parallel agreements, the Fraser and Upper Colorado will have an impressive package of protections and enhancements to help secure their future:
· Measures to address stream temperature issues:
o Monitor stream temperatures and bypass up to 250 AF of water annually if stream temperatures reach state standards
o Bypass sufficient additional flows to reach defined minimum flows if stream temperature problem persists after the 250 AF have been bypassed
o Contribute $1 million to additional projects if temperature problems persist
· Measures to address sediment issues:
o Work to provide flushing flows as recommended in Grand County’s Stream Management Plan
o Operate and maintain sediment pond that catches highway traction sand
o Contribute $1 million to additional projects if sediment problems persist
· $750,000 for fish habitat restoration projects
· $72,500 for fish barrier and restoration of cutthroat habitat plus any additional measures required by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in its Biological Opinion
· Through Learning by Doing, implement an extensive monitoring program including stream temperature, sediment transport, benthic macroinvertebrates, and riparian areas and wetlands
· Use Denver Water’s system operation flexibility to address identified problems while maintaining water yield
· Provide in-kind contributions of people, equipment and material to benefit Learning by Doing
· $3.25 million for aquatic habitat improvement projects ($1.25 million available before the project is built)
· $2 million for water quality projects (available before the project is built)
· $1 million to pump water at Windy Gap to Granby for release for the benefit of the Colorado River below Granby and below Windy Gap Reservoir
· $2 million for stream improvement projects in the Colorado River
· $1 million for the Colorado River Wild and Scenic Stakeholder effort in the Colorado River
· 1000 AF of water each year released from Denver Water’s Fraser collection system for the benefit of Fraser basin streams
· 1000 AF of water each year released from Williams Fork reservoir (including up to 2,500 AF of carryover storage) for the benefit of the Colorado River below its confluence with Williams Fork
It has been a long road, and one that we haven’t travelled alone. Our conservation allies have been steadfast in their shared commitment to this watershed. Grand County has been a remarkable example of local government leadership in protecting the values of their home waters. Local landowners have contributed their time, expertise, resources, and political support – standing up for their local watershed and community. Denver Water, while we didn’t always see eye to eye, maintained an open door for dialogue and has stepped up to address its impacts in good faith. We deeply appreciate the contributions of all of our partners to this milestone victory for a treasured river.
And we thank you – our members and supporters – for all that you have done throughout this effort to make this achievement possible. You’ve turned up at public meetings, submitted letters and comments to regulatory agencies, taken part in rallies to support the river, shared theFraser the Trout video with friends and signed the petition of support for the river – all of these individual efforts and actions have added up to a powerful force for change and truly made a difference for the Fraser River.
I’m very proud of what “Team TU” has accomplished together —national staff, state council and grassroots all working together. Mely Whiting of TU’s Colorado Water Project has put blood, sweat and tears into this campaign for years, attending countless meetings, crunching mind-numbing technical data, and negotiating the shoals of the federal permitting process. Our Council staff and volunteer leaders like Sinjin Eberle have helped at every step with negotiations and public education. TU’s Colorado River Headwaters Chapter and its president, Kirk Klancke, spoke eloquently about the Fraser at every opportunity and spearheaded chapter-led restoration projects. (Kirk’s passionate advocacy was the subject of a recentNational Geographic profile online.) At all levels, TU has been working together to protect the Fraser and Upper Colorado.
This agreement comes just over a year after a similar agreement was reached with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District on its Windy Gap Firming Project – including extensive river protections and mitigation for the Upper Colorado River, including a shared vision for reconnecting the Colorado River through the current Windy Gap dam to restore fish passage, create improved habitat, and enhance water quality. Collectively, these agreements and the long-term cooperation envisioned under Learning by Doing give us a chance to truly protect and restore a priceless part of Colorado’s river heritage.
While this is a major turning point, our work in the Fraser basin and Upper Colorado is far from over. With both the Moffat and Windy Gap projects, we need to secure final federal permits that reflect the agreements reached with Denver and Northern. Your voice in urging the Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation to honor these agreements and lend their support and force of law to the effort will be vital. Beyond that, we will have the long-term work of collaborating with Denver, Northern, Grand County, local landowners, and community partners for ongoing monitoring, cooperative water management, leveraging of additional financial and volunteer resources, and completing projects to improve river health. These agreements provide the framework and opportunity for future success – and ensure TU has a place at the table moving forward – but it will take our continued committed efforts to truly achieve the full potential of these victories for Colorado’s rivers.
Your continued support and involvement with TU will make that possible, and I thank you for helping us to make a difference.
CTU Executive Director
Colorado Trout Unlimited | 620 Sixteenth St., Ste. 300
Denver, Colorado 80202
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The Mighty Colorado River TV Documentary
Our rivers face serious, unprecedented threats. The Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited is working with Grand County TV18 to create a documentary series to communicate TU’s message of conservation, restoration, mitigation of damage caused by diversions and preservation to the widest possible audience. We want everyone to be aware of the threats to our rivers and environment and have access to as much information as possible.
Trans-basin diversions of water which originates west of the Continental Divide to the Front Range is having a stunning impact on the environment, yet many people are simply unaware of the facts. They don’t know where their water comes from. Those who have some awareness don’t know what to do about it. TU believes this series is an effective way to narrow this “knowledge gap”.
Grand County TV18 is currently airing the documentary series and is adding more episodes as funding permits. You can watch the series on Comcast channel 18 in Grand County and streaming live on the internet at http://grandcountytelevision.com/ There is already lots of good information included with more on the way! We hope to create moree content for the show as funding and sponsorship becomes available.
At TU, we believe litigation is too expensive, legislation is too slow and education is the key. We know we don’t have the same resources, political clout or funding that are available to the Front Range water users, but we want to do all we can to save the Fraser, the Colorado and our broader environment.
TU needs your help in making this educational project a success. Here are some concrete things you should do to help:
· Become a sponsor or underwriter of the show. Support this just like you support PBS, NPR or your favorite charity. TU is a 501 (c) 3 so your contribution to TU may be tax deductable.
· Advertise on the show. Will your business’ target audience watch a show associated with Trout Unlimited?
· If you can’t personally support the show financially, tell the show’s advertisers and underwriters that you appreciate their support.
· Watch the show and encourage others to watch as well. Spread the word. Pass the link to anyone out of the area.
· Respond to our calls to action. Write letters to the editor and your representatives.
· Keep watching our website. We strive to keep current information available.