Photo of large piles of rocks in a former river valley damaged by mining.

Swan River Restoration Project Blog

Updates on construction and project milestones.

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May 19

Swan River Restoration Project - BOCC Update and Plans for 2021

Posted on May 19, 2021 at 1:14 PM by Jordan Mead

Greetings Swan River Restoration Blog subscribers and readers. My name is Jordan Mead and I am the new resource specialist with Summit County Open Space and Trails who has taken over staffing of the Swan River Restoration Project from Jason Lederer. I am so excited to be a part of this important and ongoing restoration effort. 2020 was a uniquely challenging year with COVID-19 restrictions and everything that accompanied the global pandemic. None the less, work continues on the Swan River Restoration Project. It has been a busy winter and spring so far and we wanted to provide you with a few updates as we look forward to next stages of this project in 2021:

Annual Update to the Summit County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC): One of the conditions of Summit County’s gravel milling permit (Conditional Use Permit) requires annual project updates to the BOCC. The Summit County Open Space and Trails Department (OST) will be providing its fifth annual update to the BOCC at a work session scheduled for Tuesday, June 1st at 9:45 a.m. Due to ongoing COVID-19 public health orders and ongoing physical distancing efforts, this meeting will be conducted virtually. Please refer to the BOCC published agenda for meeting access information. Open Space and Trails staff will review accomplishments from 2019 and discuss plans for the 2020, including continued gravel removal from the valley. As always, your attendance at these meetings is welcomed. Please do not hesitate to contact OST with any questions or comments about this meeting. 

you are invited

Reach A Updates: In the fall of 2019, Summit County opened the Reach A site to the public. We have been excited to see the new trail from Brown’s Gulch to Rock Island Road being utilized by anglers, hikers, bikers, and skiers over the past few seasons. I had an opportunity to get out to the site last week and the trail is nearly dry and almost ready for summer uses. Please be mindful that the site is still in a fragile condition, so please continue to tread gently and stay on the trail when possible.

Reach A monitoring is ongoing. A third year of post-construction monitoring of several site parameters, including the new channel, soil, and plant, and habitat development continues to yield positive results. Recent results indicate that the all parameters are performing extremely well, with the new channel responding appropriately to new flows, soils and plant materials becoming well-established, and stream habitat (e.g., riffles, pools, stream bed substrate) functioning as intended. Additionally, a fall 2020 fishery survey by CPW aquatic biologist, Jon Ewert indicates a very healthy fishery continues to evolve in the new Swan River channel! Mottled Sculpin were found in the stream again this year in greater numbers than past years and the diversity of fish sizes and species continues to increase.


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Mottled Sculpin has been found in Reach A.

Reach B Progress: Milling operations have been completed for Reach B and almost 57,000 tons of gravel were removed from the site in 2020, generating over $140,000 in funds to aid in the restoration of this stretch of the Swan. Gravel stockpiles of about 100,000 cubic yards are still present onsite and are currently being removed by Schofield Excavating. All gravel removal operations are to be completed by May 2022 and it is our hope that these stockpiles will be removed by this fall. With the crushing operations completed and final removal ongoing, much of the site is now prepped for the next stage of the restoration process, channel construction and habitat creation!


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Gravel Stockpiles on the upstream end of Reach B in late winter. 03/18/21.

This winter and spring, we have worked with our partners at Ecological Resource Consultants to update draft design plans for Reach B, incorporating many of the lessons learned from Reach A, as well as suggestions from our partners at Trout Unlimited and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Overall, the design includes 4700’ of new stream channel which will cover 2.7 acres, 12 acres of riparian habitat, and 5 acres of upland habitat. The floodplain on Reach B will be flatter and broader to allow for more seasonal flooding and greater diversity in the riparian areas surrounding the channel. Planting pockets will also be a key feature in the Reach B build and will result in planted thickets where sedimentation will occur in the riparian area. The stream will also have more variability in width and depth along the channel to mimic natural morphology. In order to create more in-stream habitat, woody debris will be used to stabilize several of the banks along Reach B. These stabilization methods have been shown to support larger fish populations on other restored sites in Colorado, as well. 

We plan for the channel construction crews to be on site in early July through October, completing channel construction, grading, and initial seeding before winter. Planting of shrubs and trees is slated to occur in 2022.

This will be a very active year on the Reach B site and for the Swan River Restoration Project. Stay posted and look for updates on the construction this summer!

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 Jordan Mead, or call 970.668.4065.

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.
Bridge  
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.
IMG_20200722_100332
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!
Angler
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!
Kiosk

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.
Jul 06

Swan River Restoration Reach B RFP & Next Steps

Posted on July 6, 2020 at 11:31 AM by Jason Lederer

As we pass the halfway point in 2020, a year which so far has been very difficult for people around the globe, throughout the US, and here in Summit County, we are grateful for some of the good things happening here locally. Despite these uncertain and turbulent times, we have continued to make headway on the Swan River Restoration Project. So on with the good!

Swan River Restoration Reach B RFP 
At the end of June, Summit County released a Request for Proposals soliciting responses from design-build teams with specific expertise in stream assessment, design, restoration, and construction to complete the final design, permitting, and construction for Reach B. Following a similar approach to the successful Reach A restoration, we are optimistic that once a design-build team is onboard, the remaining work will go forward smoothly and swiftly. 

Reach B Gravel Removal
With less than a year remaining on Summit County's Conditional Use Permit to crush gravel on the Reach B site, and less than two years remaining on the County's gravel removal contractor, Schofield Excavation's lease agreement, Schofield is working diligently to complete the ongoing mass excavation. The Contractor is performing gravel removal operations in such a manner so as to facilitate the final restoration construction by rough grading in specific site features (e.g., wetland areas, riparian floodplain, etc.), as well as adjusting operations so that the restoration construction can occur simultaneous with any ongoing gravel removal work. 

Community Support
The Swan River Restoration Project is only possible because of the ongoing coordination with, and support from, diverse partners and stakeholders. Like all projects of this scale and complexity, there have been numerous bumps in the road and lessons learned along the way. However, throughout the more than a decade of planning and implementation completed thus far, we have been overwhelmed by the support of a community that cares so much about this project and place. Comments like the following mean a lot to us:

"I visited the Swan River Restoration site this weekend for the first time since before the project was started.  My initial perspective on the project was one of skepticism.  However, after seeing the amazing transformation, I am now a true believer.  We fished it for brookies, and were impressed by the diversity of trout habitat that was created." - Carol Northcut, Keystone, CO 

New Trailhead Signage
A huge thank you to the Summit County Open Space and Trails seasonal trail crew for doing an amazing job installing some new trailhead kiosks and signage! An important aspect of this project is to help visitors better understand what happened and is happening at the Swan River restoration site. We hope these new installations help better share this project information.  
Swan Kiosk
Keep in touch; exciting things are in store for the Swan River Restoration Project! Additional information about Swan River Restoration Project is available 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 Senior Resource Specialist Jason Lederer, or call 970.668.4060.