The St. Vrain Creek watershed is critical to maintaining the health, biodiversity, character, and economy of communities within the region including Lyons and Longmont.  The creek is also home to a diverse population of native fish, provides recreational uses, has its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park and the Indian Peaks Wilderness, and its confluence in a county that is the largest agricultural economic producing county in Colorado.  With such a wide range of uses and intense focus of study, the St. Vrain poses an excellent opportunity to balance river health with water users’ needs through completion of a stream management plan.

Colorado’s Water Plan’s (“CWP”) objective is to cover 80 percent of the locally prioritized lists of rivers with Stream Management Plans (“SMP”).  CWP used the South Platte Basin Implementation Plan (“BIP”) to help inform this measurable objective.  The South Platte BIP studied a reach of St. Vrain Creek for environmental and recreational opportunities and concluded streamflows may be present to achieve desired outcomes; however, the BIP further concluded “studies that relate the channel form and function to the streamflows can make assessment of flows in the area more robust”, and in recognition of the significant post-flood stream restoration activities “assessments should be made regarding the requirements of aquatic and riparian ecosystems in the area…”.

Following the 2013 flood, the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District (“District”) held several stakeholder meetings that determined an interest in pursuing a SMP and that the District was in a good position to lead in the development.  In 2017, the District submitted a Watershed Restoration Program – Stream Management Plan Grant (“SMP”) application, to the Colorado Water Conservation Board and was awarded $150,000.  The District also submitted a Water Supply Reserve Fund Grant application, Executive summary, Exhibit A – Scope of Work, and Exhibit B – Existing Studies Summary to the South Platte Basin Roundtable and was awarded $50,000!

The SMP will take place in two phases over approximately five years.  The overall goal of the SMP is to build upon the already completed extensive studies in the basin to collaboratively identify projects and management strategies that will transition stakeholders from flood recovery to stream health projects that improve environmental conditions in the river while also meeting water users’ current and future needs and are aligned with private property rights and the prior appropriation system.

This is an exciting opportunity for our community!