BERTHOUD, Colo. – Northern Water and the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) have renewed their ongoing partnership with the signing of a multi-year agreement to fund proactive forest health initiatives. The historic and uncharacteristic wildfires of recent years have clearly reinforced the need for such critical projects.
Northern Water will provide $500,000 to the CSFS over the next five years to help fund various measures aimed at reducing the severity and impacts of future wildfires in the region. Among other benefits, minimizing the severity of wildfires can reduce impacts on the local watersheds relied upon to provide water to homes, businesses and farms.
These proactive measures will specifically target areas surrounding the collection and distribution systems of the Colorado-Big Thompson (C-BT) Project. Northern Water jointly operates the C-BT Project with the Bureau of Reclamation to provide supplemental water and generate hydropower for an area of northeastern Colorado that includes about 1 million residents and more than 600,000 irrigated farm acres.
For several years, Northern Water and the CSFS have collaborated on individual projects targeting key sites. These include forest-thinning and mastication efforts, which reduce the number of trees that could serve as fuels for wildfires. This new five-year investment provides a continuous source of funding that will allow the partners to more effectively plan ahead, implement a broader scope of funding and realize economies of scale.
“Partnerships like this are incredibly important in addressing forest resiliency and the impacts that uncharacteristic wildfire and other disturbances can have on our public water supply,” said CSFS Watershed Program Specialist Weston Toll. “We truly couldn’t do this work without the support of key partners like Northern Water. We look forward to working together to ensure these investments have a positive impact on forest health and the delivery of clean water for residents of Northern Colorado into the future.”
Investment in Forest Health
Wildfires are a naturally occurring element of forests, but by implementing forest health and fuels reduction projects, Northern Water and CSFS are working to minimize the potential for future fires to grow large, intense and destructive, therefore helping to limit their impacts on the environment, water supplies and infrastructure when they occur.
Proactive forest health and mitigation investments in the long run can also help save dollars spent on post-wildfire recovery and response efforts. Entities across Northern Colorado are currently spending millions of dollars in response to last year’s Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires – the two largest in state history.
“We are incredibly grateful to have partners like the Colorado State Forest Service, who enable us to leverage resources and collaborate on such a critical aspect of watershed health,” said Northern Water Environmental Services Director Esther Vincent. “We have always understood the importance of forest health and how that impacts our ability to deliver water to the people and entities that depend on our system. However, after seeing the state’s two largest wildfires on record recently take place right in our backyard, and as we hear of forecasts calling for additional challenging years ahead, we absolutely want to increase our commitments in this area.”
Protecting Water Supplies
Check out this video of prior work by the CSFS and Northern Water at Lory State Park to help protect the water supply in Horsetooth Reservoir, which is part of the C-BT Project.