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Vail Daily letter: Watershed Council among partners of National Forest Foundation

Melissa Macdonald
Vail, CO, Colorado

Regarding your Thursday article “Vail Resorts Fuels Forest Projects,” the Eagle River Watershed Council would like to add our thanks to both Vail Resorts and the National Forest Foundation for selecting us as their partner for the pending Camp Hale project, which was not mentioned in the article.

We will be working with the Eagle/Holy Cross District of the White River National Forest (Dave Neely, district ranger, and Matt Grove, aquatics biologist) to improve habitat conditions for fish, as well as for riparian-dependant terrestrial species along a three-mile segment of the Eagle River in Camp Hale between Rue Gulch and McAllister Gulch.

The Eagle River here lacks quality fish habitat as a result of straightening and dredging the stream channel during the construction of Camp Hale in 1942.

Because of a typically short construction window, the project will be completed in phases.

Aquatic habitat enhancement will include installation of trees and rock weirs to create structure in the existing stream channel, creating pools, cover and velocity breaks for fish. These structures will be designed to accumulate gravel and sediment within and downstream of the structures.

Watershed Council volunteers will revegetate the created bars with willow cuttings to create small but functional areas within the historic stream channel. These areas will create cover and shade, stabilize stream banks and provide an additional food source in the form of terrestrial insects, which comprise a large percentage of forage for trout in late summer.

Volunteers will also aid in filling and revegetating a user-created stream that contributes significant sediment directly to the river.

Additionally, we will need volunteers to help with pre- and post-enhancement monitoring of fish and macroinvertebrates (the in-stream bugs the fish eat), and surveys of habitat improvement.

The Watershed Council has previously worked with the U.S. Forest Service under National Forest Foundation grants on restoration and revegetation projects on Piney River and Red Dirt Creek, a tributary to the Colorado River.

We are currently working on Homestake Creek, which receives extremely heavy recreational pressure resulting in a diminished riparian condition. For example, there are 43 dispersed user-created campsites within 100 feet of the creek in violation of the forest management plan that need to be scarified, reseeded and revegetated. In addition to Vail Resorts and National Forest Foundation, we are fortunate to be partnering with most all of the local schools in our various projects, as well as corporate teams, SOS Outreach, Eagle Valley Trout Unlimited and friends and individuals who want to give back to this beautiful environment we call home.

The Eagle River Watershed Council preserves, conserves and enhances our rivers for people and wildlife using projects, science and community education. In addition to our well known countywide cleanups, we are also working to remove traction sand from Black Gore Creek, finalizing a watershed plan with Eagle County, starting on an Inventory and assessment of the Colorado River in Eagle County and finishing up our 1.6 mile restoration of the Eagle River in Edwards.

We would love to have you join us on one of the many river projects we have going on this spring through fall. Call the Watershed Council at 970-827-5406 and we will sign up you or your favorite group of friends! Some folks have been known to bring their fishing poles. We are moving our website, but it should be back up soon at http://www.erwc.org. See you at the river!

Melissa Macdonald

Executive Director, Eagle River Watershed Council


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