Grand Ditch Breach Restoration Draft Environmental Impact Statement Released For Rocky Mountain National Park

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Date: March 21, 2012
Contact: Kyle Patterson, (970) 586-1363

The Grand Ditch Breach Restoration Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) has been released by the National Park Service (NPS).  A public workshop will be held on Wednesday, April 11, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the Larimer County Courthouse/Commissioner's Office at 200 W. Oak St., in Fort Collins and on Thursday, April 12, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Grand Lake Fire Protection District at 201 W. Portal Road in Grand Lake. The public is encouraged to attend one of the meetings. The workshop format will be informal.  A presentation will be followed by a question and answer period.  Park staff will be on hand to discuss the DEIS and answer questions. Exhibits will be on display to describe the project and the environmental analysis.  Attendees will have the opportunity to offer written or verbal comments.      

The purpose of this project is to restore the natural hydrological processes, ecological services, and wilderness character of the area in the Upper Kawuneeche Valley impacted by the 2003 Grand Ditch breach. Implicit in this purpose is that the ecosystems restored are naturally dynamic and self-sustaining. The Upper Kawuneeche Valley area of impact contains more sediment, debris, and subsequent injuries from the 2003 breach than it would under natural conditions. The breach has resulted in highly unnatural conditions within the project area as a large amount of excess sediment has been deposited into the system and remains in an unstable, erodible state. The estimated 47,600 cubic-yard debris flow from the 2003 breach resulted in channel morphologic changes, deposition of a large debris fan, increased sedimentation along the Colorado River, altered aesthetics of a wilderness area, and tree mortality and scarring. These impacts have degraded the aquatic, riparian, and upland ecosystems, in addition to the wetland communities that support a unique array of species in comparison to other habitat types in the park.      

The Grand Ditch Breach Restoration DEIS analyzes five alternatives to guide restoration of the area within Rocky Mountain National Park impacted by the 2003 Grand Ditch breach.                     

Alternative A, the alternative of no action / continue current management, would continue current management of the impacted area, following existing management policies and NPS guidance. This alternative serves as a basis of comparison for evaluating the action alternatives.                     

Alternative B, minimal restoration, would emphasize a smaller scale of management activity, compared with the other action alternatives, to restore portions of the impacted area. This alternative would focus actions on areas that are unstable and present a high potential of continued degradation of existing ecosystem resources and services. Management activities would be conducted using hand tools to reduce impact on wilderness character. This alternative would include stabilization of the road-cut hillside immediately below the Grand Ditch under one of two stabilization options.                   

Alternative C, high restoration, would involve more intensive management actions over large portions of the impacted area. This alternative would focus actions on unstable areas that present a high to moderate potential of continued degradation of existing ecosystem resources and services. Restoration methods would be used to stabilize banks, slopes, and disturbed areas, and to lessen the availability of breach debris and sediments to the system over a larger portion of the project area. This alternative would involve the use of heavy equipment and possibly reusing excavated debris for restoration and stabilization actions both within and between zones. This alternative would include stabilization of the road-cut hillside immediately below the Grand Ditch under one of two stabilization options.                    

Alternative D is the preferred alternative. This alternative would emphasize the removal of large debris deposits in the alluvial fan area and in the Lulu City wetland. Actions would be conducted to stabilize limited areas of unstable slopes and banks throughout the upper portions of the restoration area. Hydrology through the Lulu City wetland would be restored in the historical central channel through removal of large deposits of debris, relying on the historical channel to transport river flow. Small-scale motorized equipment would be employed for stabilization and revegetation activities, while larger equipment would be employed for excavation of large debris deposits and reconfiguration of the Colorado River through the Lulu City wetland. This alternative would include stabilization of the road-cut hillside immediately below the Grand Ditch under the preferred option, option 1.                    

Alternative E, maximum restoration, would involve extensive management activity and use of motorized equipment over large portions of the impacted area to restore the project area to reflect both pre-breach and desired historical conditions. Extensive recontouring and stabilization of 2003 debris deposits along banks and slopes would be conducted to approximate pre-breach contours and to reduce transport of sediments over a larger portion of the impacted area. Extensive changes would be made to both the existing and historical Colorado River channels to route the river to its historical alignment through the center of the Lulu City wetland. To facilitate movement of heavy mechanized equipment and excavated debris from the wetland to upland disposal areas, a temporary haul road would be constructed. This alternative would include stabilization of the road-cut hillside immediately below the Grand Ditch under one of two stabilization options.      

The potential environmental consequences of the actions are evaluated for each alternative. Short-term, adverse impacts on natural soundscape, wilderness, water resources, wetlands, visitor use and experience, and wildlife that range up to major would result from restoration activities and the use of mechanized equipment. Up to long-term, major benefits would accrue for all impact topics under alternatives C, D, and E as a result of a high level of restoration of ecological reference conditions within a 100-year period.      

A copy of the DEIS is available for public review online at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/romo Printed copies may be obtained from Rocky Mountain National Park, 1000 US Highway 36, Estes Park, Colorado 80517-8397, 970-586-1206.  The DEIS will also be available at the Boulder Public Library in Boulder, the Estes Valley Library in Estes Park, the Juniper Library in Grand Lake, and at the Poudre River Public Library in Fort Collins.      

The National Park Service will accept comments until May 25, 2012. If you wish to comment on the Grand Ditch Breach Restoration DEIS, you may submit your comments by any one of several methods. You may mail comments to: Superintendent, Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, CO 80517-8397. You may also comment via the Internet at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/romo You can e-mail comments to e-mail us.  Finally, you may hand deliver comments to: Rocky Mountain National Park Headquarters, 1000 US Highway 36, Estes Park or to the Kawuneeche Visitor Center, Rocky Mountain National Park, 16018 Highway 34, Grand Lake.      

Please be aware that names and addresses of respondents may be released if requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Individual respondents may request that their home address be withheld from the record, which will be honored to the extent allowable by law. There also may be circumstances in which a respondent's identity may be withheld from the record, as allowable by law. If you wish to withhold your name and/or address, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your comment.  All submissions from organizations, or businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses are available for public inspection in their entirety.  Anonymous comments may be included in the public record.  However, the NPS is not legally required to consider or respond to anonymous comments.    



Last updated: February 24, 2015

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