by Anna Drexler-Dreis
Plans are moving forward to re-channel and re-vegetate a 1-mile stretch of the Fraser River, a collaborative effort by the Grand County Learning By Doing (LBD) group. The re-vegetation component of the river project will be completed with assistance from the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited and community volunteers. Once the willows are established along the banks of the Fraser River, they will help stabilize the riverbank, increase shade cover, and improve the riparian zone to boost aquatic life and fishing opportunities.
The re-channeling component will be completed by an independent contractor, Freestone Aquatics, Inc., and is a critical piece of the entire project to improve the Fraser River. “Because so much water from the Fraser River is diverted to the Front Range, the Fraser is seeing a decline in aquatic health,” said Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited. “The Fraser Flats project will match the stream bed with existing stream flows, allowing for healthier river habitat. A highlight of this project is that Denver Water is helping pay for the solution to a problem it helped cause.”
On Saturday, May 6, community volunteers will harvest thousands of willow stakes from Ranch Creek. Then, on Saturday and Sunday, May 20 and 21, volunteers will replant the willow stakes along the previously grazed banks of the Fraser River. In the fall, in-stream work will be done to narrow the river at low flow times of the year and add more riffles and pools that will improve aquatic habitat. By next spring, a half-mile reach of the Fraser River will open for public fishing.
The section targeted for restoration is in a flat valley floor where portions of the river have seen a measured decline in the fishery. Jon Ewert, aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, reports, “We’ve done surveys that show that the fish population in this section of the Fraser is quite a bit lower than other sections where the habitat is in better shape. I expect to see a large improvement in the fish population on this reach after the habitat improvement is completed, similar to the improvements that we’ve seen on the Town of Fraser property.”
Said Grand County Commissioner Rich Cimino, “I am thankful to all the people who have worked hard to make this Fraser Flats project happen! This science-based project will improve the Fraser River.”
Do you want to make a difference for this important waterway and join in the willow harvesting and planting days this spring? Go to www.grandcountylearningbydoing.org or email Anna Drexler-Dreis at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to sign up to be a volunteer.
Anna Drexler-Dreis is a board member on the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited and is overseeing the vegetation component of the Fraser Flats River Habitat Project.