The Yampa is Wild.
You’ve seen the bumper sticker and heard this often-used phrase if you’ve spent time here in the Yampa Valley, and this year is a reminder of what it really means.
As a mostly free-flowing river, the Yampa is going to occasionally have amazing high flow years like we are experiencing right now. It was incredible to see so many rafters, kayakers, tubers and paddle boarders cheered on by a huge crowd as we recently celebrated just what this means during the annual Yampa River Festival.
When times are good, it’s easy to forget the lean water years. For many years now, the Yampa River has had much lower flows that have led to high temperatures that impact fish survival in the upper reaches. River closures have been a near annual occurrence in the Steamboat Springs area lately, but let’s hope we can escape the dreaded river closure this year and enjoy our favorite activities uninterrupted throughout the summer and fall.
With these flows, you might not be thinking much about the importance of stream restoration projects, enhancing water security with sustainable funding for supporting low flows, or support for replacing aging agricultural infrastructure with structures that add environmental and recreational benefits. However, these continue to be important issues, even in high flow years, and the Yampa River Fund is contributing toward solutions.
The Yampa River Fund provided grant awards to four applicants for 2023. The Colorado Water Trust continues to be a valuable contributor to this community with their contract to lease water from Stagecoach reservoir, when needed, and the River Fund has dedicated a grant to their Environmental Release Program to provide funds if the need arises.
A grant was also awarded to the Community Agricultural Alliance for the Landowner Outreach for Coordinated Projects to Improve River Health project. The funds will contribute to creating a new Outreach Coordinator position to engage landowners and build capacity to develop and implement coordinated river projects that focus on a balanced river system and riparian function that improve river health.
Given high flows this year, it is a good time to replace some aging agricultural infrastructure that is not likely to fare well during runoff. As such, two awards were granted, one to the Shelton Ditch Company and one to the Community Agricultural Alliance as the project sponsor for improvements to the Norvell Ditch.
In both cases, the existing headgates associated with diversion structures will be replaced to improve safety, ensure continued water supplies to local agricultural producers, and improve the efficiency of water use. These grant funds help support a pressing need, and each applicant indicated that future project components will enhance environmental benefits with riparian improvements and by reducing existing obstacles for recreational uses such as fishing and boating.
The Board of Directors and Steering Committee of the Yampa River Fund are excited to see these projects get the funding they need to move forward and provide the community with incredible value. Each year, the fund will continue to support these types of projects and help take the necessary steps to support a healthy, flowing river that benefits everyone.