Restoration: Should beavers have a role in river restoration?

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Here’s the release from Kansas State University (Melinda Daniels/Jennifer Torline):


When engineers restore rivers, one Kansas State University professor hopes they’ll keep a smaller engineer in mind: the North American beaver.

Beavers are often called ecosystem engineers because they can radically alter stream or valley bottom ecosystems, said Melinda Daniels, an associate professor of geography who recently studied the connection between beavers and river restoration. Beaver dams create diverse river landscapes, she said, and can turn a single-thread channel stream into a meadow, pond or multichannel, free-flowing stream.

“Our argument is that the restoration target for streams with forested riparian zones has got to acknowledge the diversity brought to river systems by active beaver populations,” Daniels said.

Daniels and three researchers from the University of Connecticut co-authored “The River Discontinuum: Applying Beaver Modifications to Baseline Conditions for Restoration of Forested Headwaters.” The article, led by Denise Burchsted at the University of Connecticut, appears in a recent issue of BioScience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

While the research involves observations of several watersheds in northeastern Connecticut, the results are applicable to any forested stream, which typically have large beaver populations. Beaver populations have rebounded in recent years, Daniels said, after coming close to extinction in the early 19th century by hunters for their fur.

The ultimate goal of the research, Daniels said, is to help restore rivers in an efficient way that acknowledges ecosystem diversity and doesn’t destroy it.

“A lot of rivers are in trouble and need work and restoration, but it’s amazing how little we know about the systems we’re trying to fix,” she said. “We know they’re broken, but we don’t exactly know what they should look like because we know so little about how many of our river systems function.”

Current restoration projects often don’t consider the role of beavers as ecosystem engineers, and instead focus on creating continuous free-flowing streams, Daniels said. Such restoration can be expensive because it usually involves completely tearing down small 19th-century milldams and re-engineering an entire valley bottom.

Rather than tear down the whole milldam and radically change the surrounding ecosystem, the researchers recommend river restorers only remove part of it. This allows some ponded water to remain and mimics the role of beavers. Daniels said that in many cases if an old dam breaks and forms a gap, beavers may build their own dam to patch the gap and recreate the ecosystem that previously existed.

The researchers plan to continue river observations and collect more data to provide river restorers with insight for maintaining river ecosystem diversity.

“You can use these natural analogs to produce an ecosystem that looks a lot more like the one that was there before the colonists arrived,” Daniels said. “We can restore rivers in a way that mimics the naturally diverse beaver streams, and we can save a lot of money in the process.”

More restoration coverage here.

Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation board and the Community Water Supply Workgroup workshop recap

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From the Pagosa Sun (Randi Pierce):

With the holiday season quickly being relegated to memory, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation Board and Community Water Supply Workgroup will soon continue their comprehensive look into PAWSD fees at a third work session dedicated to the topic slated to take place Jan. 4…

At the first of the work sessions, held on Dec. 9, PAWSD and CWSW members discussed a number of items with engineers Patrick O’Brien of Briliam Engineering and Mike Davis of Davis Engineering, including items needed for the engineers to update the CIP and system model:

• Determining an acceptable calculation for water demand;

• Determining a correlation between water demand and use per equivalent unit, peak day;

• Determining if the full build-out condition or population projections should be used as the basis for modeling and cost projection; and

• Reviewing operation standards relating to water pressure, fire flow and water age…

The second work session, held on Dec. 15, afforded the group a chance to review the calculation for water demand, review the correlation between demand and use per EU, discuss and define “new growth” and how account holders should be credited for assessed water availability fees, and discuss inclusions.

With some minor changes in the formula agreed upon at the previous meeting, the group agreed to the calculation of water demand, with the agreement made that the chart would be updated on a regular basis.

The discussion then turned to peak day and water loss, which brought up the topic of how much water storage exists and how long district reserves would last.

More San Juan River basin coverage here.

‘The Poudre Runs Through It: Northern Colorado’s Water Future’

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Update: Here’s the release from the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado (Contact: Ray Caraway 970-488-1980 or


What do we use every day, but know little about? Water! The future of the Poudre River and water for Northern Colorado is much debated, but how well do we understand the issues surrounding it?
The public is invited to join three entities providing community leadership – UniverCity Connections, Colorado State University, and the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado – in creating shared understandings of the complex topic of water in Northern Colorado. The organizers believe these shared understandings will result in a better informed and more engaged community.

The Poudre Runs Through It: Northern Colorado’s Water Future is a three-part series that begins with a public forum on Thursday, February 3 from 5:00 – 8:00 pm. The gathering will highlight the river and its social, environmental and economic impacts – past, present and future. It will take place at the Larimer County Courthouse Office Building (200 West Oak Street, Fort Collins).

Subsequent “Northern Colorado Water 101” educational programs in February and March, facilitated by the Colorado Water Institute, will offer members of the public opportunities to learn in a user-friendly format. These programs will cover a broad range of topics, including the importance of the Poudre to agriculture, the city, the environment; the water law that governs diversions from the river and its quality; various efforts to preserve and enhance the river; and objective coverage of current controversies surrounding the river. The public will gain a better understanding of potential options for securing water for future water needs including conservation, agricultural transfers, storage, reuse, and land planning strategies.

In April, public dialogue opportunities will be facilitated by the CSU Center for Public Deliberation to give community members a chance to hear from their neighbors, have their voice heard, and collaboratively work through the tough issues.

“Our region has gained well-deserved national recognition for its excellence and innovation,” Ray Caraway, president of the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado said. “How we deal with the complex issues surrounding water will shape our future and test our ability to find solutions in the midst of controversy.”

Co-sponsored by UniverCity Connections, Colorado State University, and the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado, the entire series is free and open to the public. For more information or to RSVP, visit or contact Chelsea DeFoort at

UniverCity Connections, an initiative of the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado, facilitates productive conversations regarding Colorado State University, Downtown Fort Collins and the Poudre River. Colorado State University and the Colorado Water Institute are leaders in research, education, and outreach for water issues in Colorado and around the world. CSU Center for Public Deliberation enhances local democracy through improved public communication and community problem solving. The Community Foundation of Northern Colorado, founded in 1975, is a nonprofit organization that manages more than 300 individual charitable funds and $44 million in assets.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Should Glade Reservoir be built? How would it and other proposed water-storage projects affect the Poudre River? CSU and the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado will help answer those questions during a series of public forums in February, March and April…

Called “The Poudre Runs Through It: Northern Colorado’s Water Future,” the series of three forums will address how the Poudre River affects agriculture and the city of Fort Collins and how water law governs how water is used and diverted from one river basin to another. The forums are designed to help the public gain a greater understanding of Northern Colorado’s future water needs, where the water might have to come from and how the Poudre River fits into that future…

The first event will be a public forum about the river’s social, environmental and economic impacts. The forum is scheduled for 5 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Larimer County office building at 200 W. Oak St. Educational forums called “Northern Colorado Water 101” will be scheduled in March and April, followed by other forums facilitated by CSU’s Center for Public Deliberation. The series, co-sponsored by the Community Foundation, UniverCity Connections and CSU, is free and open to the public.

More Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.

2011 Congressional re-districting

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State legislators are starting the re-districting process following the census last year. Here’s report from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The process takes place every 10 years when fresh census data are released. In hopes of keeping districts competitive and avoiding the courts deciding those boundaries, the group was created as a buffer to partisan bickering that could derail those objectives. “In large part, the communities in the 3rd Congressional District are rural,” [ate Sen. Gail Schwartz] said. “They share agricultural interests and outdoor recreational economies. It’s also important to protect the water in that district in particular.” Folding metropolitan areas along the Front Range into the 3rd Congressional District would place the coveted water of the Western Slope in peril, Schwartz said. So she opposes redrawing the 3rd Congressional District in a way that would include more urban centers. However, Schwartz contends that Pueblo by virtue of being less parched than some larger cities and more attuned to rural interests because of its neighboring farming hubs is a natural fit for the 3rd Congressional District that spans the Western Slope.