Develop, Implement, and Monitor a Community-based Cooperative River Restoration Plan.
1) Perform a comprehensive river corridor inventory. An inventory is crucial to fully describe existing conditions of the Poudre River and its corridor. The inventory will form the basis of a restoration plan and include assessments of the following dimensions:
a. Biologic: aquatic and terrestrial animals and plants
b. Physical: physical attributes of the river, including flow regime and sediment transport characteristics
c. Water Quality: including human drinking and/or secondary water standards, toxicity thresholds for river/riparian biota, and an examination of the State of Colorado 303(d) list of degraded river criteria
d. Recreation: the Poudre River offers some of the finest recreational opportunities anywhere. The inventory would include identifying recreational opportunities that could be enhanced from the mouth of the canyon to the confluence of the South Platte River.
e. Education: includes learning centers, interpretive sites, outdoor classrooms, field trips, and community workshops where the community can have the opportunity to contribute to baseline data collection.
f. Cultural: identify important historic and cultural sites.
The Poudre that the Pioneers Found
A story told by J. R. Todd, as quoted in History of Larimer County Colorado, 1911, by Ansel Watrous, 1972 edition, Old Army Press, Pages 26-27 of 513 pages plus index.
"Doubtless, the trip up the Cache La Poudre valley led by George Pinkerton and others in the year 1852, will be interesting to the present citizens of Larimer County, as well as to others elsewhere. The waters of the river were as clear as crystal all the way down to its confluence with the Platte. Its banks were fringed with timber not as large as now, consisting of cottonwood, boxelder, and some willow.
Its waters were full of trout of the speckled or mountain variety. The undulating bluffs sloped gently to the valley which was carpeted with the most luxuriant grasses. It was in June, the mildest and most beautiful part of the summer in the western country, when the days were pleasant, the nights cool and the mornings crisp and bracing. The sky was scarcely ever obscured by clouds, and its vaulted blue, golden tinted in the morning and evening, was like a dream of beauty. Not an ax had marred the symmetry of the groves of trees that lined the banks. Not a plow, or spade, or hoe had ever broken its virgin soil. Wild flowers of the richest hue beautified the landscape, while above all towered the majestic Rocky Mountains to the westward of the valley, like the grim sentinels they are, ever watching, watching and noting this advancing vanguard of civilization.
To the travelers the Poudre valley appeared to be the hunters' paradise. Trout were caught then along the Poudre River from its mouth to the foothills, and the small streams in the mountains were alive with them."
2) Solicit community input for the restoration plan. Provide an opportunity for all Poudre River stakeholders to be involved in developing and implementing a detailed restoration plan. Stakeholders include private land owners along the river corridor and within the watershed; local, state, and federal agencies; non-governmental organizations; water rights holders and managers; and local colleges and universities. The restoration plan would prioritize the river into segments to optimize restoration efforts. Recommendations would be made for improvements such as flow regime and stream channel characteristics such as cross sectional geometry to balance the flow and sediment load. In-stream structures that currently impede fish passage or alter natural river processes would be identified for removal or replacement with structures that serve the same function but are more consistent with restoration objectives. Opportunities to restore riparian habitat and eradicate non-native and/or invasive species will be highlighted. Some in our community have shown what the Poudre could look like with considerably higher flows.
3) Implement the restoration plan. Implementation will be in the form of a phased approach whereby high priority river segments will be restored first. Implementation may take the form of actions by water managers to re-establish natural flow patterns to the extent possible. Implementation may also require construction to replace or modify poorly performing in-stream structures or channel modifications. Successful restoration will only occur when members of the community develop a strong sense of ownership of the project. Northern Colorado is home to many local companies that service the natural resource industry and a broad academic community that should be utilized as appropriate. Community based resources will be utilized to the extent practical, such as volunteer planting of riparian vegetation , removal of invasive species, or installing stream bank protections.
4) Monitor post-restoration success. Restoration success can only be guaranteed if the project is monitored beyond initial implementation. Feedback to the community will be an important part of communicating restoration success and offers a tremendous opportunity to involve local stakeholders in monitoring. Post-project monitoring will collect information to evaluate whether restoration objectives have been met. Monitoring may occasionally indicate that further restoration activities are warranted or may identify additional restoration objectives.
As a concrete portion of our plan, SaveThePoudre endorses the development of a modest minimum flow program to improve the river's flow during critical low flow events and minimizes the detrimental day-to-day and even hour-to-hour large (sometimes enormous) streamflow fluctuations. We are in the process of working with other partners on this project.
We also add our endorsement to a long term goal to secure even more instream flows that would partially restore the river from its current degraded state, especially by actually increasing annual peak flows. This scientifically sound flow recommendation has been endorsed by some of the most prominent river ecologists and scientists in the world and, when implemented, would lead to substantial river restoration.
In addition to developing a community-based river management paradigm based on cooperation and collaboration, SaveThePoudre wants to pursue a wide array of policy and legislative opportunities to achieve river restoration at the Federal, State, and Local levels:
• Link conservation and efficiency to river restoration at the local, state, and federal level for the Poudre and for other Colorado rivers.
• Develop programs so that water donations, loans, and acquisitions can receive tax credits and be used to restore river flow.
• Improve Colorado’s Instream Flow Program to better protect streams.
• Improve citizen participation in Colorado’s Water Conservancy Districts.
• Adopt water policy changes to raise the legal standing of water quality issues.
• Work to establish a rotating fallow, or irrigated/non-irrigated rotation, program for the Poudre River and South Platte Basins.
• Fully develop policies for successful alluvial aquifer storage.
There are other plans, other visions, in store for the Poudre. For example, see the Conceptual Plan (6 MB) for a paddle park in downtown Fort Collins just below College Avenue. And guess what? Paddlers need good quality water IN the river!
Also see the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club's Sustainable Solutions for Colorado's Water Future.