Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney):
Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region announced their plans to equally share an investment of $33 million, over a five-year period, in restoration projects on more than 38,000 acres of National Forest lands, at an event in Dillon, Colo., today.
This partnership will accelerate and expand the U.S. Forest Service’s ability to restore forest health in watersheds critical for Denver Water’s water supplies and infrastructure. Forest thinning and other wildfire fuels reduction projects will take place around and upstream of Strontia Springs, Gross, Antero, Eleven Mile Canyon and Cheesman reservoirs, and in an area near the town of Winter Park. The projects will reduce the risk of wildfires upstream of Denver Water’s reservoirs and other water delivery infrastructure.
“Thirty million Americans depend upon water from Colorado’s public and private forests. Maintaining the health of these forests is everyone’s business,” said Harris Sherman, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. “I applaud Denver Water for their long-term investment in our National Forest watersheds. By leveraging our shared resources, we are able to do more work, faster, and in the critical areas. This partnership is a model for forest managers and water providers throughout the country.”
“There is a direct connection between healthy forests and sustainable supplies of clean water,” said Greg Austin, vice president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners. “Denver Water has spent more than $10 million in the aftermath of the Buffalo Creek and Hayman fires. We are taking this proactive step to invest in the future, by keeping our watershed healthy rather than paying for impacts from a catastrophic crown fire in the future. Denver Water is committed to managing water supplies, developing resources and carrying out projects in an environmentally responsible way, and we’re happy this partnership has such mutual benefit.”
Forest health treatments will help protect water resources for Denver Water’s customers as well as millions more downstream beneficiaries, including homes, businesses and agriculture. Restoration also will help the forests become more resistant to future insect and disease, reduce wildfire risks and maintain habitat for fish and wildlife. More resilient forests will also be more adaptive to the impacts of a changing climate.
Gov. Ritter applauded the creation of this partnership between Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service. “The scale of the ongoing mountain pine beetle infestation is well beyond anything anyone of us has experienced,” Gov. Ritter said. “It is going to take unprecedented levels of collaboration to address these serious threats to our forests, our communities and our watersheds. This is an historic commitment and a vital step toward healthier forests in Colorado.”
More coverage from the Summit Daily News (Robert Allen). From the article:
The work is intended to protect critical watersheds against catastrophic wildfires in areas impacted by mountain pine beetle, as well as other tree-killing infestations…
Areas treated are to be include the Blue River watershed as well as forests upstream of Strontia Springs, Gross, Eleven Mile Canyon and Cheesman reservoirs. Colorado has about 3 million acres of dead trees — amid 17-18 million across the West — because of beetle infestation. [Harris Sherman, U.S. Department of Agriculture under secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment] said the problem relates to past fire suppression efforts and climate change.
More coverage from the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn). From the article:
Part of the Forest Service share of the funding will come from money that’s already been allocated to the Rocky Mountain region of the Forest Service, said Harris Sherman, Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. Additionally, several national forests in Colorado competed favorably for a separate slice of forest health funds that will also specifically toward these critical watershed treatments. Denver Water customers will pay for the other half of the work, seen as an effective way to prevent the huge back-end costs associated with cleaning up after a fire. “I don’t think we’ll have any problems selling this to our rate payers,” said Greg Austin, vice president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners. Austin explained that Denver Water has already spent $10.5 million on dealing with impacts to Strontia Springs Reservoir after the disastrous Hayman fire. It could cost up to another $30 million to complete the restoration, and more if there are significant rainfall events that lead to more erosion and sedimentation.
“The Forest Service can’t do this alone,” said Sherman, adding that about 33 million people in 13 states depend on water that come from Colorado watersheds. “Maintaining these forests is everybody’s business. I applaud Denver Water for their long-term investment in our national forest watersheds.”
The work will focus in thinning, fuel reduction, creating fire breaks, erosion control decommissioning roads, and, eventually, reforestation. The partnership could serve as a model for similar agreements across the West and with other industries, Sherman added, singling out the ski industry and power companies with infrastructure on forested lands. Denver Water manager Jim Lochhead said the agreement is a critical partnership based on mutual interest, and credited former Denver Water manager Chips Barry with laying the groundwork for the announcement. The work will take place on the Upper South Platte River, in the South Platte River headwaters, the St. Vrain River, and in the Colorado River headwaters, including the Blue River.
More restoration coverage here.