The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved the development of a Feasibility Study and Design for a 206 Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Program in the Grand Valley of Colorado. The proposed project will remove tamarisk and Russian olive, improve riverbanks, create backwaters, and plant native vegetation to restore bottomland flood plain habitat. These activities will help to restore aquatic and hydrologic functions and conditions as well as related riparian and seasonal wetland habitats.
Stretching along the Colorado River from the Utah state line to the town of Palisade the project will encompass a 56-mile stretch of river. Such restoration efforts are very important as this portion of the river is critical habitat for the four Colorado River endangered fish species. Project features will include specific actions to restore fish spawning areas, improve terrestrial riparian habitat, and increase access to critical habitat for endangered fish.
Up to ten percent of the overall project costs may be used for related recreational and educational actions; e.g., boat launch ramps, educational kiosks, etc.
Lands that will be eligible for an estimated $5,000,000 in grants include public lands and lands under conservation easement adjacent to the river, including the Colorado Riverfront Trail System.
Without this project, the condition of the floodplain will continue to decline as tamarisk and Russian olive spread. This condition will adversely impact endangered fish habitat along the project reach and continue to degrade the conditions of the river corridor.
The 206 project is divided into three phases – Feasibility Study, Design, and Construction. Tetra Tech consultants from Breckenridge, CO with support by the Tamarisk Coalition, are working on the Feasibility Study and Design. These efforts will be coordinated with local entities and organizations such as the Riverfront Commission, the Division of Wildlife, and the US Fish & Wildlife Service.
The Feasibility Study will result in a recommended approach for restoration, including a description overall costs, impacts, and benefits. An Environmental Assessment will accompany the study. Following the approval of the Feasibility Study/Environmental Assessment the Design phase will prepare plans and specifications to allow the Corps of Engineers to competitively bid the project. The Construction phase is the implementation of the actual restoration effort.
The Construction phase will begin after the Design is completed and is estimated to take five years. The Construction includes tamarisk and Russian olive control, revegetation, and some in-stream modifications. All of these efforts are contingent upon Congress authorizing funding of $4,600,000 for implementation of the restoration efforts.
Partners in this project include Grand Junction, Fruita, Palisade, Mesa County, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado Parks, Colorado Riverfront Commission, Audubon Society, Mesa Land Trust, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Tamarisk Coalition and others. Cooperative agreements will be formed with all parties involved to ensure long-term maintenance of the lands restored during the course of the 206 projects
The current project sponsor is the City of Grand Junction.