GRAND LAKE - Two nonprofits in the Grand Lake area are forming into one.
The larger Three Lakes Watershed Association is absorbing the Greater Grand Lake Shoreline Association to combine forces and become one powerful water advocacy group.
The Greater Grand Lake Shoreline group formed in November of 2000 "to focus solely on Grand Lake water and ecosystem issues and how they impact homeowners and businesses," said the group's most recent president Michael Cassio. Cassio and the Grand Lake Shoreline's John Brooks are joining the Three Lakes Watershed board of directors.
A main reason the decision was made to absorb the smaller Shoreline group was the "confusion" among potential members, stated Three Lakes Watershed President Scally O'Donnell, who has been involved with the group for 40 years. Some people would join one group thinking they were joining the other, he said, and there was confusion about any differences in goals the groups had.
The Three Lakes Watershed Association will be gaining nonprofit 501(c)3 status out of the deal, something the Grand Lake Shoreline group of about 20 or so members is bringing to the table along with key members having expert knowledge of environmental protection and engineering.
The Three Lakes Watershed, which has more than 200 members, was formed longer than four decades ago in response to the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. The group has been a Grand County voice on issues related to the Three Lakes system, such as the forming of the Three Lakes Water and Sanitation District, opposition to gambling in the town of Grand Lake, and dock and boathouse issues.
In the past decade, both groups have advocated for a solution to the lack of clarity and the sediment buildup in natural Grand Lake, caused by flows through the Colorado-Big Thompson project.
"We've kept the pressure on with letters and going to meetings over many years now," O'Donnell said. "Three Lakes and later the Greater Grand Lake Shoreline group have been the ones really putting the heat on," he said. "Having said that, we've had really terrific support from Grand County. The commissioners and Lurline (Underbrink Curran, county manager) have really been supportive. Their clout is far greater than ours."
At present, a multi-agency-supported study has conclusions about the degradation of the Three Lakes system, and a review panel has been assembled to study potential solutions to the degradation problems. Cassio, who has worked in environmental protection for 25 years, is a member of the Three Lakes Technical Committee involved with the process, made up of representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Geological Survey, State of Colorado, Grand County, University of Colorado, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Trout Unlimited and the Three Lakes Watershed Association.
"Finally, progress is being made," O'Donnell said, who predicts a solution will be applied to the Grand Lake pollution problem over the next decade. O'Donnell cited documents in the possession of the Three Lakes Watershed group dating back to the 1950s, when the Town of Grand Lake recognized the lake's degradation, appointed a committee to study the problem, then wrote letters with "long legalese" to congressional delegates "urging something be done about it," O'Donnell said, but nothing came from it.
The documents, O'Donnell said, show the problem has long been on the radar of the Grand Lake-area community, and lately the steps taken - including a clarity standard established by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to be applied to Grand Lake in 2015 - are as close to a resolution as ever.
The merger of the two nonprofits "develops a single voice and citizen advocacy group that addresses the entire ecosystem, instead of two competing entities," Cassio said. "I believe merging the two organizations makes us a much more effective organization that will represent the people and businesses impacted by water quality issues in the Three Lakes area. By creating one single association, individuals can join one single organization that is focused on all the water issues in the area instead of an organization only focused on one lake."