The beginning of the year is a great time to look back on our accomplishments as a community engaged in protection of our precious watershed. In 2018, roughly 1,500 volunteers and dozens of agency, business, and municipal partners helped the Eagle River Watershed Council keep our waterways clean and healthy. As with any New Year’s resolution, it is nice to look back on the year behind us and reflect on how our successes set us up for this year ahead.
The Eagle River, Upper Colorado River, and their tributaries cover about 989 miles in Eagle County. That’s a lot of river miles that need attention around our beautiful county, from picking up trash to planting and controlling erosion. Some of the community’s hard work is easy to spot – 1,300 people in bright yellow vests filled orange bags with 24,000 pounds of trash during our annual Community Pride Highway Cleanup and River Cleanup events last year. To those who contributed: nice work keeping all that trash out of our favorite launch sites and fishing holes along our rivers!
In partnership with Eagle County Open Space and Eagle Valley Land Trust, we and almost 30 volunteers gave Miller Ranch Open Space in Edwards some much-needed attention in August. Fencing was installed around sensitive riparian and wildlife habitat, and degraded social trails (unauthorized trails) were scratched out. New signs were installed to direct visitors to safer and less erodible trails down to the Eagle River.
We are lucky to have partners and friends from one end of the watershed to the other. We continued our multiyear restoration project near Shrine Pass with the US Forest Service, Town of Vail, and 100 Vail Resorts EpicPromise volunteers. More than 200 people from the valley attended our third annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival in April. Local homeowners in East Vail worked with us to review and improve their riparian area landscaping techniques to reduce erosion while maintaining private owner’s needs. And we organized our second annual bilingual Community Float on the Upper Colorado River with support from Timberline Tours and Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement. With help from many community and municipal partners, we also provided public tours of Rifle Falls Fish Hatchery, the Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant, and the snow telemetry station up at Beaver Creek, and were happy to partner with Betty Ford Alpine Gardens to provide an update on water quality monitoring efforts below the Eagle Mine.
The Watershed Council team continued important work on local watershed initiatives and education efforts this year, too. As part of a larger, continued effort to designate Deep Creek in western Eagle County as a Wild and Scenic River, we held an onsite photography tour and a fun but educational evening at the Minturn Saloon. We co-hosted a Vail Symposium panel discussion about the Law of the Colorado River, and an evening with scientist Dr. Brad Udall to dive into climate change, weather patterns, and their impact on the Colorado River Basin. And we are leading a Community Water Plan process that will include municipal and public engagement events throughout 2019 and well into 2020, so stay tuned! Watershed Council staff and partners also continue their hard work behind the scenes on issues including the Eagle Mine Superfund site, resiliency and fire management planning in Eagle County, and expanding our education and outreach efforts up and down the valley.
If you are interested in learning more about our river restoration projects or community events, or if you would like to align your business with one of our several partnership programs, please contact us at 970-827-5406 or check out our webpage at http://www.erwc.org. Happy New Year from the Eagle River Watershed Council!
Larissa Read is the Board President for Eagle River Watershed Council. The Watershed Council has a mission to advocate for the health and conservation of the Upper Colorado and Eagle River basins through research, education, and projects. Contact the Watershed Council at (970) 827-5406 or visit www.erwc.org.
This article ran in the Vail Daily on February 13, 2019.