Update: Big Thompson restoration project

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From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

This stretch of the Big Thompson River, from the Jasper Lake bridge to just before the Cherry Cider Store, was scoured and severely changed during the 2013 floods. It was left too wide and entrenched, with vegetation ripped away from the banks.

The new face of the river has a narrower channel with more areas along the banks for waters to disperse in the event of another flood.

It has large boulders specifically placed to control the flow of the water and to create pools for fish habitat.

There are large trees that extend from under the banks into the river, stabilizing the bank, preventing erosion and creating habitat.

And trees, forbes and shrubs were strategically planted, again to stabilize the banks, prevent erosion and create shade and habitat.

“We’ve really made it look like a river again,” said Shayna Jones, watershed coordinator with the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition.

The goal was to mix several different restoration techniques — the planting, the rocks, the tree trunks — to improve the river while keeping it natural, which from the look of the river is mission accomplished.

“It’s a really good mix of types of restoration,” added Jones.

Even the planting is mixed for diversity and meticulously planned out. The project team chose all native vegetation and placed different shrubs, trees, forbes and grasses in different zones along the banks. The willows, live stands transplanted from the river corridor nearby, are close to and in some spots in the water, while pine trees are further away up the shore.

The trees and shrubs are planted in clumps to mirror nature, not in neat rows as a gardener would do.

Much of the vegetation was transplanted from the natural surroundings, while other plants were specifically grown by the Colorado State Forest Service for river restoration.

This project is among five already completed by the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition and its partners, which have more planned this year in the Big Thompson as do other entities like the city of Loveland and Colorado Department of Transportation.

The recently completed work, called the Jasper Lake project, spans a half mile of the river on both the north and south sides of the highway and crosses private, Larimer County and U.S. Forest Service land.

It cost $800,000 with the money coming from a mixture of federal, state and private sources, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Department of Local Affairs, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Rocky Mountain Flycasters and the Trout and Salmon Foundation.

Though the river project abuts Narrows Park, that piece of public land has not yet been restored. Owned by Larimer County, that park will serve as the site of a temporary bridge crossing the river while the county replaces the Jasper Lake Bridge this fall, so restoration is planned by the county after that bridge project, according to officials involved with the restoration project.

The Big Thompson Watershed Coalition worked with contractors and several partners, including private landowners, on this project. Walsh said one of the greatest parts was to meet the people, to listen about the river’s past and to explain the new, healthier river that was being created.

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