Windy Gap Reservoir Project to enhance trout populations | improve Colorado River Health

Windy Gap Reservoir Modification and Connectivity Channel Project Description
Windy Gap Reservoir Modification and Connectivity Channel Project Description

by Tara Walker

On May 3, Grand County Assistant County Manager Ed Moyer gave an update on the Windy Gap Reservoir modification and connectivity project during the State of the River Meeting in Granby, Colorado.

Constructed in 1985, the Windy Gap Reservoir is an on- channel barrier to fish and aquatic organism passage as well as a downstream sediment transport. Partners are hoping to increase the health of the Colorado river downstream from the reservoir by adding a connectivity channel with a diversion. This is the first year of the project and will be completed in 2022. One mile of public fishing will be located to the east of the existing dam as an easement.

Fish and Wildlife Aquatic Biologist Jon Ewert commented, “The Windy Gap bypass project is important for a number of reasons. It will connect the trout populations in the rivers above and below the reservoir. We may see spawning movements into the Colorado and Fraser upstream of Windy Gap, which will enhance the trout populations overall.

There are several species of both fish and aquatic insects that occur upstream of Windy Gap, but have disappeared from the Colorado since Windy Gap was built. A two-pronged approach of reconnecting the habitat and improving the Colorado with habitat improvement projects below Windy Gap will enable these species to recolonize the Colorado where they have disappeared. This will enhance the prey base for trout populations and result in a healthier and more diverse aquatic ecosystem.”

The project budget is over 15.4 million dollars and is funded from multiple sources including the Regional Conservation Partnership Program ($5,681,600), Municipal Subdistrict Northern Water ($2,000,000), the Colorado Water Conservation Board ($2,200,000), Colorado Water Plan Grant ($325,000), the Upper River Alliance -landowners ($260,000), Colorado River Water Conservation District (25,000), USFWS ($50,000), and the Grand County Open Lands, Rivers and Trails ($1,000,000).

Moyer thanked project partners and organizers for all their help to make this possible, “I want to thank Grand County Board of County Commissioners and the citizens of Grand County for passing the sales tax to generate funding to fund the project and it’s something to be extremely proud of. I want to thank all the project supporters.”