From The Summit Daily (Taylor Sienkiewicz):
In 2019, the Blue River Watershed Group started working on an integrated water management plan in partnership with Trout Unlimited to understand why there is a decline of fish between the Dillon and Green Mountain reservoirs and how to reverse or mitigate the problem.
The plan and its associated research is also intended to guide future goals and projects in the Blue River basin watershed.
The local water management plan is part of the larger Colorado Water Plan
, which aims by 2030 “to cover 80% of the locally prioritized lists of rivers with stream management plans and 80% of critical watersheds with watershed protection plans.”
Blue River Watershed Group Executive Director Erika Donaghy said the local water plan is a way to protect the Blue River watershed for its multiple uses, including being part of Summit County’s summer and winter recreation economy.
“In terms of planning for our future — and as the climate is changing and we know water is getting more and more scarce — … it’s a proactive plan to make sure that we are really using this scarce resource really wisely going forward and how do we protect its quality,” Donaghy said.
The conservation efforts in the plan also line up with Summit County Open Space and Trails efforts. Summit open space Senior Resource Specialist Jason Lederer explained that the county’s main goal is to have thoughtful management of natural water resources.
“The county has, in partnership with groups like the Blue River Watershed Group, worked hard to restore streams to a natural condition so that they provide better ecological function in terms of habitat and water quality components,” Lederer said.
The Blue River Watershed Group is in phase one of the plan, which includes assessing the conditions of the entire watershed by breaking up the watershed into three reaches. Donaghy explained that in this first phase of the plan, the group is putting together detailed descriptions of each of the reaches, including compiling information such as the average temperature of the water, the state of aquatic life, whether there are mining impacts and types of habitats.
These descriptions will come from data and studies that already have been done as well as new studies. The plan is meant to evaluate all uses of the watershed, including municipal as well as agricultural uses. Once the initial stage of the plan is complete, Donaghy said there will be some areas where there simply isn’t enough information to move forward, requiring more research and studies be conducted. In other areas, the group will have the information they need and can come up with solutions to improve issues that have been identified.