Colorado Basin Roundtable updates its list of approved projects for the next 5 years
Projects such as the Silverthorne Kayak Park, French Gulch mine drainage cleanup can access state funding more easily
When environmental projects garner support from the Colorado Basin Roundtable, it’s a sign to the Colorado Department of Natural Resources that they fall in line with the Colorado Water Plan, thus making it easier to obtain grants and other funding. There’s a caveat though: The roundtable only updates its list every five years. If projects want to be added to the list, they must appeal to their representative.
The representative for Summit County is Peggy Bailey, Tetra Tech project engineer and vice president of the board for the Blue River Watershed Group. Bailey is fairly new to her role. She was appointed by the roundtable and took the place of former Summit County Commissioner Karn Steiglemeier. During a Summit Board of County Commissioners work session meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 12, Bailey outlined how the roundtable works, what projects it supported and what’s in the pipeline.
Bailey is one of two Summit County representatives currently advocating for Summit County. Zach Margolis, utilities manager for the town of Silverthorne also sits on the roundtable representing the interest of local municipalities. Bailey’s responsibility is countywide.
The roundtable’s focus is on the Colorado River Basin, one of nine watersheds in the state and one of the largest, according to the roundtable’s website. The eight counties in the basin that have representatives sitting on the roundtable include Summit, Grand, Routt, Gunnison, Eagle, Pitkin, Garfield and Mesa.
The roundtable completed its own implementation plan in 2015 that outlines specific goals of the Colorado River Basin. Projects must fall in line with both this and the state plan, in addition to one of the roundtable’s six focus areas:
- Encourage a high level of basin-wide conservation
- Protect and restore healthy streams, rivers, lakes and riparian areas
- Assure dependable basin administration
- Sustain agriculture
- Develop local water-conscious and land-conscious strategies
- Secure safe drinking water
“If your project is listed on the basin’s implementation plan, then you have a better probability of obtaining the funding,” Bailey said “…Through their vetting process, (the roundtable) looks at what it does for the basin and if it’s in alignment with the interests of the basin’s implementation plan. Then they will put it on this list and they will also write a letter of endorsement for the project. Then that makes it easier for the project proponents to obtain funding.”
Projects are divided into different tiers. Projects in the first tier are ready to launch, supported by an entity and determined to be of importance to the roundtable. Projects in the second tier are nearly ready to move forward, but still need to be pursued. The third-tier projects have less data, don’t have a clear entity supporting them and need to be fleshed out. Projects in the fourth tier are supported, but need to be tweaked before moving forward.
Projects in the first tier include the Swan River restoration project and the Blue Valley Ranch fishery restoration on the lower Blue River. These projects are already well underway and have organizations securing funding that are responsible for moving them along.
Another project in the pipeline is the second phase of the Blue River integrated water management plan. Backed by the Blue River Watershed Group, this was one that Bailey said she helped push forward when the roundtable was updating its list. Formerly in the second tier, this project moved to the first as the group began collecting data over the summer.
Kendra Fuller, executive director of the Blue River Watershed Group, pointed out that these kinds of projects — such as the restoration projects and the Blue River integrated water plan — are critical in maintaining and improving the local natural ecosystem.
“Some of the projects that the water plan is going to address are improving habitat for aquatic life and the health of the ecosystem goes down to the smallest organisms,” Fuller said. “The water plan’s projects are addressing the smallest organisms, and if we increase the health and viability of those organisms, we increase the viability of our larger flora and fauna as well.”
Other projects in the second tier include the Silverthorne Kayak Park, backed by the town of Silverthorne, and cleanup measures in the French Gulch mine drainage, which is backed by the town of Breckenridge and Summit County government.
Bailey pointed out that all of these projects are meant to protect the natural beauty and splendor of not just of Summit County but the entire basin, and that much of the county’s way of living is highly dependent on this single resource.
“Water is really a big driving factor in the quality of life here,” Bailey said. “Not only as an essential need, but also for support of our environment. … It’s a very, very limited resource and there’s a very high demand on it, so we need to work with all of our partners that use the water to try to optimize and protect the values that are important to us all.”
At the end of her presentation at the work session, Summit County Commissioner Josh Blanchard voiced his interest in serving with Bailey and Margolis on the Colorado Basin Roundtable. Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said she was also in support of the work the group was doing and told Bailey to consider the county as a partner on some of these projects for the future.
Silverthorne Kayak Park
Clinton Reservoir’s first enlargement and refill
Cleanup measures in the French Gulch mine drainage
Upper Basin Forest Health and watershed improvements
Phase two of the Blue River integrated water management plan
Dillon Marina shoreline stabilization and wharf structure improvements
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