Beautiful view of the Colorado River floating through Glenwood Canyon in winter.

Garfield County grants watershed council $15,000

$5,000 matching grant helps cover costs of monitoring in Grizzly Creek Fire burn area

February 28, 2024

Garfield County has continued its support of the Middle Colorado Watershed Council (MCWC) by approving two grants for the nonprofit organization totaling $15,000. One grant ($10,000) covers the county’s annual support of MWCW’s efforts to protect and enhance local watersheds, while the other ($5,000) is being used to match a grant from the Colorado River Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to continue covering the costs of post-fire monitoring in the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar along the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon.

Following the 32,631-acre wildfire in 2020, rain gauges were placed in Glenwood Canyon that monitor soil moisture to help officials prepare for possible debris flows. Water quality monitoring stations were also placed in the canyon, offering customized data for each downstream municipality that could be affected.

“Three years ago, we started working on post-Grizzly Creek Wildfire mitigation and restoration projects,” said Paula Stepp, MCWC executive director, to the Board of County Commissioners. “That funding request (from Garfield County) was about getting a (matching) grant from the (CWCB) to put rain gauges in Glenwood Canyon in seven different locations. … This was so that when there was flooding and debris flows, we knew what that impact would be downstream to our users, particularly our municipalities but also our agricultural community.”

She added that the MCWC is reaching out to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), local municipalities, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to see if the rain gauge services are still necessary. Those talks will determine if the program continues beyond 2024.

“It was a community effort and foundation that looked at what to do immediately after the fire in that second year,” Stepp told the board. “So, we’ll engage with those members as to what’s important and what could potentially happen with post-fire activity in the canyon. … There will be a lot of stakeholder outreach this spring and summer, so that if we do need more funding, we’ll be ready in the fall to pursue that money.”

She added that funding was allocated from the CWCB for a risk analysis, which is currently underway and mapping potential problem areas in the Elk Creek drainage in New Castle; Rifle and Government creek drainages near Rifle; and the drainages above Battlement Mesa, should a fire impact those areas.

“That analysis is more in line with what we do with the Grizzly Creek Fire area,” Stepp said. “If another fire happens, what should we be looking at? In particular, they’re looking at road crossings, culverts, and infrastructure that, should we have debris flows and flooding, would be impacted at a county or town level.”

The MCWC is also pursuing a risk analysis for the Parachute Creek drainage, if funding can be secured.

“I really want to thank you for taking this on,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. “This is important, and I know you’ve put a lot of time and effort into this monitoring.”

The grants, which come from the county’s general fund, were approved unanimously, 3-0.