Steamboat group gets $20K for Yampa River improvements |

Steamboat group gets $20K for Yampa River improvements

Water flows down the Yampa River upstream of Catamount Lake. The area is slated for a project meant to improve environmental and recreational conditions on a 4,300-foot stretch of the river.
Courtesy photo/Yampa Valley Stream Improvement Charitable Trust

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A Steamboat Springs environmental organization has received a $20,000 grant to improve almost a mile of the Yampa River.

The Yampa Valley Stream Improvement Charitable Trust was one of eight organizations in the state to receive a Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund grant, which is meant to support projects that contribute to cleaner water, healthier wildlife habitats and better recreation opportunities. The Colorado Watershed Assembly awards the grants annually through an application and review process.

This particular project will focus on a 4,300-foot stretch of the Yampa River, from its intersection with Sarvis Creek downstream to Catamount Ranch. The purpose of the project is to enhance the health of the watershed and trout habitat, according to Drew Johnroe, executive director and president of the Yampa Valley Stream Improvement Charitable Trust.

Starting this spring, volunteers will work to return the section of the river to a more natural state. This includes adding more holding areas for adult fish, improving existing juvenile trout habitat and reducing harmful sediments in the water. They should complete the project by next year, Johnroe said.

In total, Johnroe expects the Pleasant Valley Project to cost about $245,000. Several participating organizations have contributed funding, such as Healthy Rivers and Yampa Valley Fly Fishers. The Charitable Trust has some funding of its own, which it raises through donations and the annual Golf Trout tournament in September.

“It’s being done in connection with all these other entities that are part of the overall community of groups that are making the river better,” Johnroe said.

The area within the scope of the Pleasant Valley Project is a more remote place for fishing and hiking, a chance to get away from the busier parts of the river near Steamboat. In the winter, for example, the section of the river is only accessible by skiing or snowshoeing. Johnroe said the goal is to maintain that remoteness while making the area better for recreation and wildlife habitat. 

“This is really a win-win for everybody,” he said. “Healthy rivers are what this is all about.”

A map shows the scope of the Pleasant Valley Project along the Yampa River.
Courtesy/Yampa Valley Stream Improvement Charitable Trust

Since 1982, the Yampa Valley Stream Improvement Charitable Trust has overseen work to improve the quality and health of its namesake river. One of its major contributions was a 10-year project to clean up the Chuck Lewis Wildlife Area. 

That stretch of the river used to be lined with old vehicles and other debris as a way to stabilize the riverbanks, Johnroe said. Members of the Charitable Trust removed 88 car bodies, a refrigerator and other old trash as part of a comprehensive improvement effort.

“It was sad to have something so valuable being treated as a storm sewer,” Johnroe said.

The project cost almost $1 million to complete, he added, but it has since brought invaluable improvements to ecology and recreation, from more healthy fish populations to fly-fishing to downstream tubing. 

In a news release about the grant funding, Colorado Watershed Assembly Executive Director Casey Davenhill commended the Yampa Valley Stream Improvement Charitable Trust for its emphasis on taking a natural approach to river stewardship, using boulders and newly planted trees in projects instead of artificial devices. He also noted its ability to bring together various stakeholders in the area for the common purpose of improving local watersheds.

“The value to the community is enormous, and strong partnerships with land, dam and reservoir manager have been established that will endure for years to come,” Davenhill said in the release.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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