Trout Unlimited unveils the Eisenhower Reach of the Fraser River
A stretch of the Fraser River extending from the Rendezvous bridge to County Road 8 was dedicated on Saturday, July 14, as the Eisenhower Reach by Trout Unlimited and Fraser Mayor Peggy Smith. “This is a great day for Fraser,” said Smith. President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, who vacationed and fished in the Fraser Valley, will receive recognition across the state and this will help to preserve the history of the valley, she said. Thanks were given by the speakers at the event to the sponsors of the state resolution which created the Eisenhower Reach, state Rep. Randy Baumgardner and state Sen. Jeanne Nicholson. The resolution passed through both the Senate and House of Representatives without a single nay vote, according to Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Trout Unlimited officials hope the dedication of this stretch of the river will allow them to pursue a point of interest sign on US Highway 40 as well as additional signage including a map of the Eisenhower Reach and other signs to be posted throughout the town park. Trout Unlimited officials also hope that the additional signs and the dedication of the stretch of river will encourage visitors to walk the trail on the river and keep the history of Ike’s visits to the Fraser Valley alive. While the dedication of this stretch of the river might help to keep the history of the river alive, it might not do as much to keep the river itself alive and flowing. Future of the Fraser The dedication was lighthearted and fun, but the elephant in the room seemed to be the Moffat Firming Project. Denver Water’s Moffat Firming Project has been in the works since 2003, and the approval process is nearing completion, according to Klancke. As of now, about 60 percent of the natural flows of the Fraser River are diverted to the other side of the Continental Divide. The Moffat Firming Project would increase to 80 percent, Klancke said. There has already been some work done on the Fraser River including the rechannelization of flows to create a sustainable habitat for aquatic life and to try to cope with lower flows and rising temperatures. While the rechannelization has helped to create a better fishery, Trout Unlimited is pushing for more mitigation to be completed on the river if the Moffat project were to go through. Trout Unlimited is not totally opposed to supplying more water to the Denver area; however, they are asking for certain mitigation efforts to be undertaken if the Moffat Project is approved. “We aren’t opposed to Denver’s offers but we want the right protections in place,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “I would rather see a healthy Fraser Creek than a dead Fraser River,” he said. The proposed mitigations Trout Unlimited wants to see as part of the deal include: • Management of water supply to ensure adequate flows with seasonal flushing to clear out sediment and to keep the temperature of the river cool; • Funding to deepen the river channels and add streamside plants for shade; • Intensive monitoring of the river and aquatic life in order to prevent and respond to negative changes in trout and other aquatic species; • And a bypass around Windy Gap Reservoir to help restore the Colorado River’s flow and overall health below the Windy Gap Dam (to offset reduced flows from Windy Gap diversions). Trout Unlimited has proposed that $10 million will be needed to complete river work in order to mitigate the existing damage to the Colorado River and the potential damage to the Fraser River basin. Colorado Parks and Wildlife estimates that Colorado River work will cost $500,000 per mile, while Trout Unlimited estimates there are 20 miles of river that needs work, giving them the $10 million figure. Cost to water consumers Western Resource Advocates, a non-profit environmental law and policy organization based in Boulder, has estimated the cost to Denver Water consumers would equal 54 cents per year, per household, per $5 million if charged as water rates and $129 per tap, per $5 million if charged as tap fees. Klancke has published the Impacts of the Trans-Basin Diversion in Grand County in which he discusses some of the possible threats of the diversion of 80 percent of Grand County’s native river flows and also some of the possible solutions that could be utilized. Two things that were mentioned by Klancke in both the publication and in person were: Water that is diverted to Denver much of the time is used to water lawns with grass species that are non-native to Colorado and therefore require much more water (60 percent of all residential water use goes to keeping outdoor landscapes alive); and that 90-95 percent of water that is used in Grand County, usually for farming and ranching operations, is returned to the waters of Grand County while none is returned when the water is diverted to Denver. “Saving water means keeping it in the streams where it belongs,” said Larry Quilling, president of Boulder Flycasters, a Colorado Trout Unlimited Chapter. “We strive to make sure that water that is diverted goes to the right usage while water that is saved stays here,” he said. More information about Trout Unlimited, the project, and how to get involved is available at http://www.coloradotu.org or at http://www.defendthecolorado.org.