Community Agriculture Alliance: Fund boosts Yampa River in more ways than one
Yampa River Fund manager
It has been another amazing fall season here in the Yampa Valley. As I sit gazing out over the Yampa River from a perch on the second floor of the Bud Werner Memorial Library, I’m thankful that we were all able to enjoy our favorite activities in the river through Steamboat with no closures in 2023.
Supplementing the river flow was an important component of the Yampa River Fund creation, and the additional water released from Stagecoach Reservoir this year helped in late summer after a warm spring sent most of the abundant snowpack quickly downstream and the summer remained mostly hot and dry. The Yampa River Fund was here to provide funding to ensure those flows are there when needed and the fund will be here for years to come.
As important as these additional streamflows are for protecting the health of the Yampa River and our local economy, the Yampa River Fund was designed to address more than just this issue. This fund, through its annual grant cycle in the spring, provides opportunities to invest in conservation and restoration activities that positively impact Yampa River flows and support natural resource-based livelihoods, including agriculture and recreation, throughout the basin. There are three categories of science-based projects that are eligible for grant funding:
- Voluntary, market-based water leases and releases from reservoirs that will enhance river flows
- Restoration actions that will improve riparian, in-channel, streambank and aquatic habitat, with a special focus on addressing temperature issues
- Agriculture infrastructure improvements that will generate combined agricultural, environmental and recreational benefits
Aging infrastructure is a common issue in modern agriculture as most of the water delivery systems to get water out to where it is needed was designed and built decades ago. Many structures are nearing or have exceeded their life expectancy and are inefficient and cumbersome to operate and maintain. Although there are several sources of funds to help with this problem, most provide only a portion of the total project cost and/or require matching funds for their grants.
This is where the Yampa River Fund can provide a partnership. When an infrastructure replacement project includes benefits to the environment, such as improving the streambank vegetation or fish passage or the project improves water use efficiency such that more water can remain in the river to enhance stream health and recreation opportunities, then the Yampa River Fund should be considered as a potential funding source.
Agriculture is an important component of the community here in the Yampa Valley that we all want to see continue to contribute to the vibrant economy and way of life here. Aging infrastructure continues to be a critical impediment to efficiency and effectiveness of many agricultural operations and I hope the Yampa River Fund can be a part of the solution to help find win-win scenarios where infrastructure replacement can be paired with environmental and recreational improvements that benefit us all.
Mike Robertson is the Yampa River Fund manager.
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