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Forest-to-Faucet Project Protects Colorado's Headwaters

 

Recent wildfires and the state’s 3 million acres of pine beetle-infested forests have emphasized the need to protect forest health. In 1996, the Buffalo Creek Fire burned 11,900 acres. Six years later, the Hayman Fire – the largest wildfire in state history – charred another 138,000 acres of land.

The combination of the Buffalo Creek and Hayman fires, followed by significant rainstorms, sent more than 1 million cubic yards of sediment and debris into Denver Water’s Strontia Springs Reservoir. Large fires create sediment in watershed areas, which cause operational challenges, water quality issues and clogged treatment plants. 

Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service have teamed up to reduce the risk of devastating forest fires from harming watersheds around and upstream of Denver Water reservoirs. 

Through this Forest-to-Faucet project, Denver Water will match the U.S. Forest Service’s $16.5 million investment, totaling $33 million. This investment will fund forest treatment and watershed protection projects on 33,000 acres of Forest Service lands in areas critical to Denver Water’s water supply during the next five years. 

Forest treatments, such as thinning, clearing and creating fuel breaks, reduce the speed and intensity of wildfires. Such treatments can slow the spread of a fire, allowing firefighters to control a fire before it reaches homes and power lines or impairs water supply and distribution. 

In addition, smaller, less severe fires can reduce the amount of soil erosion and sedimentation of reservoirs that occurs after the burn. The restoration treatments will also help the forests become more resistant to future insect and disease and maintain habitat for fish and wildlife.

The first watershed restoration project on the Pike National Forest under Forest-to-Faucet is now underway, taking place on 677 acres of land on the Indian Creek and Rampart Ranges in Douglas County. 

This National Forest land has a dense mix of trees, including Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir and Gambel oak. Restoration project work will include tree removal, which is vital for reducing potential fire behavior and crucial to sustaining healthy forests and watersheds.

It will protect water quality, reduce the risk of large-scale wildfire, reduce the risk to human life and property, and create sustainable forest conditions. 

Other Forest-to-Faucet restoration projects underway include work on 1,726 acres of bark-beetle infested lodgepole pine forests in the watershed upstream of Dillon Reservoir on the White River National Forest.   

Photo Caption: 
Recent wildfires and pine-beetle infestations have emphasized the need to protect forest health

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