by Delia G. Malone and John C. Emerick
Roaring Fork Stream Health Initiative
This project was born in early 2003 out of the realization that the Roaring Fork valley was rapidly losing its riparian forests to land development, and that there were noticeable problems with the stream environment in many areas, including algal blooms and sedimentation that seemed abnormal. We suspected that there were many undocumented problems with the river and riparian system in the valley, but we also knew that there were financial resources available for restoration and conservation projects. Unfortunately, there was no comprehensive data base of riparian and stream conditions in the valley with which to identify and prioritize key areas for protection or remediation. We believed that such a data base would be invaluable if not necessary for the citizens of the valley to be competitive in the acquisition of federal and state funding for river and riparian conservation and restoration. Thus, in the spring of 2003 we set out to finance and conduct a watershed-wide habitat assessment.
The purpose of the project has been to create a comprehensive inventory of in-stream and riparian habitat quality in the watershed; to identify stream segments in need of restoration and protection; and to assist local jurisdictions, non-government organizations, and private landowners in the development of sustainable management strategies for in-stream and riparian resources in their area. The main product of the project is this catalog, which documents the existing physical habitat conditions of the watershed’s rivers and streams and identifies those reaches in need of restoration as well as those in need of protection. To facilitate the development of effective remediation strategies, constraints on stream and riparian habitat quality in the watershed were also identified and characterized in this assessment. This catalog provides government organizations, adopt-a-stream citizen groups, private companies, and individuals information to prioritize, develop and implement restoration projects for degraded sites and management plans for conservation sites. Additionally, this science-based inventory of the physical instream and riparian habitat establishes baseline conditions for future monitoring.