@DenverWater, et al. to ink $33 million deal for watershed health

Strontia Springs Dam spilling June 2014 via Denver Water
Strontia Springs Dam spilling June 2014 via Denver Water

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The agreement renews partnership work Denver Water initiated in 2010 aimed at reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

New restoration and “wildfire fuels reduction” projects will be done on more than 40,000 acres of watershed deemed critical, according to a U.S. Forest Service announcement.

Denver Water manager Jim Lochhead, U.S. Forest Service regional director Brian Ferebee, Colorado State Forest Service director Mike Lester and Natural Resources Conservation Service director Clint Evan were to sign the latest deal Monday in Denver at the History Colorado Center.

The forest health work has involved clearing trees from beetle-ravaged forests where fire and erosion increasingly threaten water supplies. Lochhead has said investing in forest health helps avoid having to deal with the problem later at a much greater cost.

Water providers have ventured into forest management work because, with bug-infested trees dead and dying on millions of acres of Western forests, weakened soils can erode, especially after fire and heavy rain, releasing sediment into streams, rivers and reservoirs.

After the Buffalo Creek Fire, Denver Water had to spend $30 million dredging and unclogging the city’s Strontia Springs reservoir. An estimated 625,000 cubic yards of sediment from surrounding mountainsides, enough to cover a football field 200 feet high, slumped into the reservoir.

Federal officials have warned repeatedly in recent years that the nation’s forests are threatened like never before. The previous forest health work plan called for thinning 6,000 acres of dense forest near Denver Water’s Dillon reservoir. Denver Water and the Forest Service each contributed about $16.5 million for the work. The forest health deals create work for logging contractors.

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