The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District endorses Fremont County #restoration project — Heart of the Rockies Radio

Van Norman Project graphic credit: River Science via Heart of the Rockies Radio

From Heart of the Rockies Radio (Joe Stone):

Members of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors agreed to support a stream restoration project for a 2-mile section of Oak Creek on the Van Norman Ranch near Cañon City.

Luke Javernick, executive director of Cañon City-based River Science, provided an overview of the project at the District’s May board meeting.

As a demonstration project, the endeavor promises to provide important information to guide future restoration efforts, and since the land lies within the Upper Ark District, directors and staff agreed on the importance of being involved to better understand the risk to water rights as well as the benefits.

Javernick said the benefits of “process-based stream restoration” include wildfire suppression and habitat improvements in the stream as well as in the riparian zone. “But the real impact is restoring hydrologic connectivity between the surface water and groundwater.”

Process-based restoration involves hand-building stream features that mimic natural structures, he said. “We’re mimicking nature, encouraging natural river processes for beneficial restoration,” and those structures can be modified or removed to accommodate the dynamics of the stream. “It takes time … five to 10 years.”

From the District’s perspective, one of the most important questions the project will attempt to answer is how stream restoration effects flows and, therefore, water rights.

“If you’re slowing the water down and allowing it to soak into the aquifer, when do you get that equilibrium?” Javernick asked. “We need UAWCD support because you’re the experts in water rights administration. … We need your help in navigating what types of creative solutions might be available.”

The Van Normans have an Oak Creek water right. However, the Town of Rockvale has the senior water right on Oak Creek, Javernick said, and “the Town is onboard.”

The Colorado Water Conservation Board has awarded a $99,900 grant to the Van Norman Project, and Javernick indicated that the Phase I project budget includes $10,000 for the Upper Ark District. “We’re asking for a $10,000 (in-kind) match.”

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