Trees, silt clog the #RepublicanRiver’s South Fork. #Colorado officials hope money can fix that — KUNC

The Republican River’s South Fork near Hale, Colorado, with the region’s seemingly endless fields. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Jeffrey Beall

From KUNC (Adam Reyes):

Read the first, second and third parts of this series.

Little to no water flows from the Republican River’s South Fork in southeast Yuma and northern Kit Carson counties into Kansas and Nebraska, where it merges with the main river. Officials have a plan that could cost about $40 million to save the fork.

Between the 1950s and 1970s, the South Fork sent 10 and 5-year averages of over 30,000 acre-feet of water across the border with Kansas and then to Nebraska. In the last 20 years, it’s only hit 5,000 acre-feet or more a few times.

There’s more to the issue than just numbers. At one point, the South Fork and the attached, now practically empty Bonny Reservoir made a very popular recreational state park. People in the surrounding communities still mourn losing that…

Silt and trees, like the invasive, water-sucking Russian olive, worsened an already bad situation for this channel. They cover the river bed in southeast Yuma County, stopping what little water flow remains after years of overuse, drought and little rainfall…

A mostly local coalition, including the Kit Carson and Yuma County governments, Three Rivers Alliance, Nature Conservancy, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Republican River Water Conservation District, aim to turn things around for this part of the river.

They want to boost flows by digging up all of the silt, Russian olives and other trees and plants that have grown into this riverbed.

Officials hope doing this will restore the river and help the flora and fauna that rely on it.

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