With funding from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), ARWC collaborated with Chaffee County and residents impacted by the Decker Fire - and subsequent flooding - to address issues most likely to negatively impact life, safety, property, recreation, and the delicate ecological systems of the Arkansas River watershed. Projects were designed to protect life and safety, provide education and reduce the potential for non-point source pollution that impacts water quality by improving post-fire areas to reduce sediment and contaminant delivery into the Arkansas River.
Bar ditch improvement in Loggie Gulch
ARWC increased the capacity of a stormwater drainage system bar ditch below the burn scar to accomodate heavier storm flows. The work allows the structure to hold more sediment and help prevent property damage below the structure.
We reinforced a stock pond full of water and sediment at risk of breaching, and re-contoured and reinforced an emergency spillway. We used log structures to protect the channel and encourage the water to spread out and deposit sediment in a field.
ARWC worked in partnership with River Science, Canon City Water, and Colorado Springs Utilities to install two turbidity sensors between Canon City and Salida to allow the water providers enough time to react to precipitation and sediment runoff from post-fire areas that threaten drinking water supplies and infrastructure.
We are thankful for the opportunity to partner with CDPHE and aid those who are affected by the Decker Fire. Although this funding provided some relief to address the most pressing issues that could impact life, property, recreation, and the environment, we know that it cannot solve all the existing problems. Therefore, we provided education and outreach as part of our activities to inform landowners, partners, recreators, and downstream users of the potential risks and threats due to post-fire flooding. We hope to encourage individuals to act independently to protect their properties and inspire other federal, state, and local partners to join us in the recovery and protection of our watershed. Our outreach included educating landowners about how to handle ash, debris removal, water rights, and educating the county on EWP procedures, identifying areas of concern.
Forest health and wildfire mitigation work on Monarch Pass is moving along successfully with 115 of 185 acres of treatment area completed. The cut-to-length steep slope equipment being used for the first time in Colorado is proving safe, effective and efficient. The specialized equipment is designed to remove trees on steep slopes with technical terrain that has previously made thinning impossible on the pass. Crews are working hard to complete the project before the deep snow flies, most likely by early November. Learn more about the project.
We would like to share a positive example of critical watershed restoration work being done in the Arkansas River Basin. In this difficult time, we remember that we must tread lightly, caring for each other and the land that sustains us.
Trout Unlimited's Jason Willis designed and implemented restoration of the Monarch Pass Gravel Pit, a former gravel mine adjacent to Monarch Mountain's Gunbarrel ski run. The abandoned pit was in poor condition, stripped of vegetation. Situated on a steep hillslope, eroded soils from the site washed into the headwaters of the South Arkansas River. As Jason said, the site was a "barren landscape that provided an open pathway for highly mobile soils to cross Hwy. 50 and flow into the headwaters of the South Arkansas River."
Jason partnered with ARWC through the Monarch Pass Forest & Watershed Health Project to design and implement this important work. We will continue to collaborate with our partners to make more of these projects a reality. Each effort makes a measurable improvement to the health of the entire watershed.
Read more about Jason's work here: https://www.tu.org/blog/good-outcomes-from-field-season/