by Kiki Sayer, Learning by Doing Project Coordinator
A 0.41-mile section of the Fraser River officially opened to the public for fishing on May 16th, marking the culmination of a $200,000 river restoration project, a collaborative effort by Learning By Doing, including Grand County, Denver Water, Trout Unlimited, Northern Water and other stakeholders. The restoration project represents a new era of water cooperation among East Slope water providers and West Slope agencies and conservation groups.
Said Grand County Commissioner Merrit Linke at the ribbon cutting ceremony, “This project showcases what we can accomplish by working in partnership, and partnering is how we need to work together on our water issues from now on.”
The Fraser Flats River Habitat Project improved a 0.9-mile stretch of the Fraser River impacted from water diversions to the Front Range and ranching practices that left the river wide, warm and shallow. Learning By Doing monitors river health in Grand County and, understanding the stress that this section of the Fraser River experienced, chose it as its pilot restoration project in 2016. The project was funded by LBD partners, a private landowner, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife “Fishing Is Fun” grant through the Sport Fish Restoration Act and a Patagonia Enviro grant. Grand County Water & Sanitation District #1 made public fishing access possible by agreeing to lease its 0.41-mile section of the improved river to Grand County.
An important component of the restoration project was a revegetation effort, led by the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited, that involved recruiting some 150 community volunteers to plant more than 3,000 willow stakes and 90 cottonwood trees along the river to help stabilize the riverbank and provide shade cover. The TU chapter also installed signage and a staircase to improve public access to the river from County Road 83.
A fish survey conducted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife following completion of the river project showed significant increases to trout population, signaling improvements in the fish habitat.
Commissioner Linke was joined at the ceremony by Grand County’s other two commissioners, Richard Cimino and Kristen Manguso. Art Ferrari, chairman of the Grand County Water & Sanitation District Board, as well as Dave Bennett, Director of Water Resource Strategy for Denver Water, also took part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The Fraser Flats public fishing section is accessible from County Road 83/Devil’s Thumb Road, just off Highway 40 near Sunset Ridge ponds. Parking spots are across the county road from the entrance.