Community

Funding approved for Phase 1 of river restoration improvements

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Funding for the first stage of river restoration improvements on the Uncompahgre River has been approved after the Montrose Urban Renewal Authority, MURA, board moved to match grant funds for the project.

During its regularly scheduled meeting on March 6, the MURA board approved a $1.1 million tax increment funding, TIF, loan to go along with a $400,000 Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) grant awarded in January.

The funding paves the way for Phase 1 of river restoration improvements on 0.65 miles, or 3,400 feet, of the Uncompahgre River north of downtown Montrose.

Members of City Council will be reviewing construction plans later this summer. The City of Montrose loan to MURA will be repaid through property and sales taxes generated within the MURA boundary. The loan carries a 4 percent per annum interest rate until such time that the loan amount is paid in full.

The grant from the CWCB was awarded through the Colorado Watershed Restoration Program for improvements on the section of the Uncompahgre River located within the MURA boundary and the Colorado Outdoors development.

The project will reestablish a resilient channel, connect the river to its floodplain, create a stable riparian zone, improve fish and other aquatic habitats, stabilize the riverbanks, and provide river access to the public.

A variety of land use practices, flow modifications, and encroachments have impacted the Uncompahgre River and resulted in an overly wide channel, bank stabilization issues, and lack of aquatic and riparian habitat. Within the project area, approximately two-thirds of the river contains what could be considered marginal fish habitat; the remainder is generally devoid of any suitable fish habitat. Aerial imagery indicates the river’s channel has moved approximately 400 feet over the past 50 years.

“We are very thankful to the CWCB for believing in the Montrose community and for believing in this important project,” Montrose City Manager Bill Bell said. “For many years, our community has turned its back on the river corridor and we have been working diligently over the past several years to repurpose the Uncompahgre, with efforts to increase not only recreational use of the river but also to increase the long-term economic vitality of our river corridor. We could not have made this happen without the support of our River Restoration Committee volunteers and the CWCB.”

The design contract for the project was awarded to Ecological Resource Consultants (ERC) in 2017, and the project design is currently 70 percent completed. The project is being driven by a diverse group of organizations that have met on a regular basis as part of the River Restoration Committee to provide the design firm with valuable feedback.

The project complements the MURA development and the soon-to-be-constructed Great Outdoors Connect Trail. This project is also a major element of the MURA Plan of Development and the first step in developing a Gold Medal fishery on the Uncompahgre River. Once completed, this section of the river will join a section of Gunnison River that flows through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and adjoining Gunnison Gorge as the other Gold Medal waters in the vicinity of Montrose. Presently Colorado has 322 miles of Gold Medal waters located in 15 different sections around the state.

Mayfly Outdoors, the parent company of Abel and Ross Reels, is currently moving into their new 41,000 sq. ft. fly-fishing reel manufacturing facility along the Uncompahgre River. The company recently donated 42 acres of land along the river to the city. The city expects construction to begin in winter 2019-2020. Due to river flows, work must be completed within a four-month timeframe from November to February when the river is at its lowest.

A stream-restoration contractor, selected through the city’s competitive bidding process, will implement the project. The bidding process will begin this summer.

The city applied for grant funding in October 2018. The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved funding for the project at their January 28 board meeting.

Phase 1 of the three-phase project is the most expensive due to the amount of work required to re-channel the river. Phase 2, which is located directly north, but still connected to Phase 1, is estimated to cost about $850,000. Phase 3, located directly south of Phase 1, yet still connected to Phase 1, is estimated to cost around $315,000.

For more city news visit: CityOfMontrose.org.

(Note: Video clips for this release are available upon request)

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