#CrystalRiver restoration finding its footing in #Carbondale park: #Colorado Water Conservation Board considering grant to fund half of $1.46 million effort — @AspenJournalism

The Crystal River widens and becomes shallower just before it passes under the southern bridge into River Valley Ranch. A group of local organizations is working to restore both the stream and the banks.

From Aspen Journalism (Will Grandbois):

The town of Carbondale and the Roaring Fork Conservancy are finalizing funding to restore a half-mile stretch of the Crystal River and 18 acres of riparian habitat — provided they can convince Colorado Parks and Wildlife that it can be done with a light touch.

The location, next to the River Valley Ranch subdivision on the south side of town, is the ideal spot for the effort due to Carbondale’s Riverfront Park on the west side and the headgate for the town-owned Weaver Ditch on the east side, with some associated in-stream impacts.

As spelled out in a Water Plan grant request to the Colorado Water Conservation Board — originally slated for consideration in September but since pushed back to January — improvements will include streambank stabilization and river channel restoration, plant diversification and better access to the park as well as an automated ditch headgate. Efficiency work is ongoing on the ditch itself, but it is not officially part of the project.

The cost of the whole effort was originally estimated at $1,466,478, with roughly half hinging on the Water Plan grant. The multifaceted nature of the project lends itself to a wide array of sources to pay for the rest.

At least eight other agencies have committed funding or are considering grant applications. This includes $100,000 awarded from the Colorado River Water Conservation District in October. Other agencies partnering in the project include the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers Program, Great Outdoors Colorado, Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Fishing Is Fun Program and the Aspen Valley Land Trust. Carbondale has committed at least $220,000 toward the effort to improve the reach of river described in the Water Plan grant application as “severely to unsustainably degraded.”

The project’s many layers make it a perfect fit for the Roaring Fork Conservancy (RFC), according to Heather Lewin, director of Watershed Science & Policy.

“You’ve got so many different things that we’re interested in doing — a flow issue, a riparian corridor, this older ditch outtake and the potential for efficiencies within the ditch itself,” she said.

Although better access and an outdoor classroom are part of the plan, the majority of the property will remain relatively rustic to provide an authentic outdoor experience and good wildlife habitat.

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