Watershed Fire Recovery

Rebuilding After Fires

The Grand County Board of Commissioners and the Northern Water Board of Directors have agreed to be sponsors for the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program for the East Troublesome Fire recovery effort. 

The EWP Program is a federal program managed by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to implement watershed protection projects that mitigate risks to life and property caused by sudden watershed impairments such as post-fire flooding, sediment or debris. This program identifies projects that, if implemented, may prevent or minimize future loss. By federal law, all local projects that receive EWP funding must have a local sponsor to administer the program. 

As sponsors, Grand County and Northern Water will work with Middle Park Conservation District, the Three Lakes Watershed Association, NRCS and the Colorado River District (EWP Partners) to prioritize and implement EWP projects. The EWP Partners are also collaborating with more than 40 other federal, state and local organizations, to ensure the most efficient and effective implementation of emergency watershed restoration recovery efforts in areas of Grand County affected by the East Troublesome Fire of October 2020. 

Project Planning and Damage Survey Reports

Following the fires, Grand County and Northern Water began working with partners on post-fire watershed restoration and planning of projects that mitigate threats to life and property due to post-fire flood, sediment or debris. During the week of Feb. 8, EWP Partners performed field assessments of nonfederal lands in the affected areas of the East Troublesome Fire. Teams identified potential postfire hazards to life and property that may occur in coming months and years; as well as potential treatment options to mitigate hazard risks, and estimated costs of potential treatments. 

Postfire hazards may include but are not limited to: stream channels becoming clogged with sediment and debris which may result in flooding; infrastructure such as roads and bridges becoming damaged by increased sediment and debris during runoff; and homes and or other structures that could be impacted by increased water and debris flows. Because of the effects of the fire on the landscape, ephemeral channels might emerge where water has not historically flowed. The assessment teams are working with NRCS to summarize the data and prepare Damage Survey Reports which will be submitted to NRCS national headquarters for funding consideration and possible approval.

DSR field objectives included: 

  • Collect field data relating to watershed impairments threatening life and property;
  • Prepare preliminary plans to protect life and property and create a digital map;
  • Ground truth desktop analyses and anticipated mitigation strategies; and 
  • Establish relationships with specific landowners.

Locations included:

  • Feb. 8 - Willow Creek, Area A – Northern Water
  • Feb. 9 - Stillwater Creek and Colorado River tributaries down to Windy Gap, Area A – Northern Water
  • Feb. 10 - Colorado River upstream of Shadow Mountain Reservoir and North Inlet, Area A – Northern Water
  • Feb. 11 - Lower Colorado River tributaries downstream of Windy Gap to Hot Sulphur Springs, Area B – Grand County
  • Feb. 12 - Hot Sulphur Springs to Troublesome Creek, Area B - Grand County
Project Planning and Funding

Following funding approval, Grand County and Northern Water are working with EWP Partners to develop criteria to prioritize projects identified by EWP and which have the greatest beneficial impact. Watershed recovery funding needs are likely greater than what will be funded through EWP. In addition, EWP funds can only cover 75 percent of recovery costs, and matching funds from other sources must make up the difference. EWP Partners are actively working on raising match funds. Long-term operations and maintenance of projects is also not covered by EWP and will need to be funded separately. The amount of EWP funds has not yet been determined, and local sources of supplemental funding will likely include a mix of state, local and private money. Only projects that have been evaluated and approved by the sponsor agencies and by NRCS will be eligible for EWP funding.

Next Steps

To maximize the use of existing resources, we envision that Grand County and Northern Water will lead emergency watershed restoration projects for specific geographic areas affected by the East Troublesome Fire and will be your point of contact for fire-related emergency watershed recovery activities on private property. Projects will not be planned or completed without landowner approval.

Contact

Our team is dedicated to helping you through this time of recovery and rebuilding and we are here to support you through this process. If you have any questions, please contact Grand County or Northern Water.