Swan River Restoration Project Blog

Updates on construction and project milestones.

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Nov 16

Swan River Restoration Project Update - Closing Out 2020

Posted on November 16, 2020 at 12:17 PM by Jason Lederer

As the books close on extraordinarily unique 2020, we are reflecting on another successful year for the Swan River Restoration Project. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a record number of visitors to Summit County, and a historic Colorado wildfire season, we were able to maintain momentum advancing restoration activities.  
Photo Point 1

Reach B Gravel Crushing: The County’s gravel removal contractor, Schofield Excavation, completed all mass excavation and gravel crushing activities on the Reach B site! This is a major milestone for the project and we are thrilled to see this effort completed. Mass excavation associated with gravel removal achieved approximate floodplain and bankfull elevations across the site, significantly reducing grading requirements during restoration construction. With the remaining year on Schofield’s lease agreement, they will relocate residual stockpiles offsite during the 2021 season. They will also leave behind aggregate and soil materials for use in restoration construction. 

Reach B Design-Build: Final site assessment work, including wetlands delineations, subsurface investigations, and survey, was completed by the project design team, ERC-Tezak, during October and early November. Design development and permitting are scheduled to advance quickly over the fall/winter/spring in anticipation of 2021 construction.

In coordination with project partners at CPW, we made the decision not to include a fish migration barrier during this project phase. Though restoring a native cutthroat trout population remains a project goal, CPW is not in a position to reintroduce native cutthroat trout to the Swan River main stem during this phase. There are anticipated challenges with building community consensus around applying a fish toxicant to the watershed, which would be necessary for killing all competing fish (e.g., brook trout) in the connected watershed prior to reintroducing a native cutthroat population. Additionally, applying a fish toxicant would negatively affect some of the other Swan River restoration successes. Recent fish surveys indicate a native mottled sculpin population is becoming established in the recently restored Reach A and a fish toxicant would eliminate this species. It is reasonable to maintain cutthroat trout reintroduction as a long-term project goal, especially since several opportunities exist to create a fish migration barrier later and elsewhere along the main stem. However, given the anticipated challenges and complexities associated with this effort in the Swan River, cutthroat trout reintroduction is not a priority during this project phase.

As a component of the Rock Island Road crossing, the County will repurpose a temporary construction crossing span from the Fremont Pass Recreational Pathway project (also a County project) near Copper Mountain. The opportunity to reuse this crossing structure significantly reduces project costs, as well as reduces the need to create and transport new crossing materials. Attached is a photo of the span staged near the future crossing location.
Reach B Restoration Funding: Summit County received a $270,000 Fishing is Fun grant and a $140,000 Wetlands/Riparian Creation and Enhancement grant in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Additionally, Summit County recently reapplied for a $300,000 RESTORE Colorado Grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Service. Though unsuccessful during the previous RESTORE grant funding cycle, we have taken helpful feedback from the program managers into account in this most recent application. Award announcements are anticipated during early 2021.

With over $500,000 in gravel royalties available for use towards restoration construction costs, project funding is shaping up well.

Reach A Channel and Riparian Monitoring: Annual post-construction monitoring of several site parameters, including the new channel, soil and plant development, and habitat development continues to yield positive results. Recent monitoring surveys indicate that all parameters are performing extremely well, with the new channel responding appropriately to annual flows (including the historically high 2019 spring runoff cycle), soils and plant materials becoming well-established, and stream habitat (e.g., riffles, pools, stream bed substrate) functioning as intended. A final report for 2020 will be available later this year, or in early 2021.
Reach A Fishery: CPW aquatic biologist, Jon Ewert recently completed the fall 2020 fishery survey. Early indications are that the fishery continues to develop strongly. A final 2020 fishery report will be available during early 2021.
Fishery Monitoring
Reach A Recreation: This year marked the first snow free season with the Reach A site open to the public. It was exciting to see a diversity of users of all types enjoying the restored site - hikers, mountain bikers, walkers, and of course anglers. We hear the fishing is great, but don't tell anyone!
With site now opened, we were also able to install some new kiosks. Thank you to the Summit County Open Space and Trails seasonal crew for all of their efforts formalizing the trailheads!

Stay tuned; 2021 is shaping up to be another exciting year for the Swan River Restoration Project!

Additional information about Swan River Restoration Project is available at RestoreTheSwanRiver.com as well as on the Open Space and Trails Special Projects web page. If you have additional questions about the restoration project, you can contact Summit County Open Space and Trails Director Brian Lorch, or Open Space and Trails Resource Specialist Jason Lederer, or call 970.668.4060.