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Public Statements

Honoring the Blue River Restoration Project

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


HONORING THE BLUE RIVER RESTORATION PROJECT -- (Extensions of Remarks - May 14, 2004)

SPEECH OF
HON. MARK UDALL
OF COLORADO
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
THURSDAY, MAY 13, 2004

Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the coalition that has dedicated years of energy to restoring Colorado's Lower Blue River for the community, the economy and the environment.

One of the most cherished aspects of Colorado life is the access to pristine views and the wide variety of outdoor activities.
Summit County provides both, sitting in the heart of Colorado's mountain country. With scenic mountains, majestic forests, and wild rivers, this region is world-renowned for its remarkable vistas and outdoor activities.

For decades the Blue River was designated a Gold Medal fishery. However, in recent years the Blue River in Summit County has been impacted by nearby historic mining activities and other development, as well as years of drought. The river became so shallow below the Dillon Dam that native fish species were unable to live in this river's habitat. This not only damaged the various fish, it also hurt the local fishing industry which relies so heavily on vacationing anglers.

Facing a major environmental and financial problem, a diverse group of citizen groups united behind the idea of restoring the Blue River to its original state. Among these groups were Trout Unlimited, the Town of Silverthorne, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Summit County, the United States Forest Service, and the National Forest Foundation. These groups worked together to raise the money to return the river to its natural width, thus restoring the riparian habitat. Moreover these enhancements have helped bring the community together and have proven to be a model for similar restoration projects.

The restoration has been a tremendous success. Mr. Andy Gentry, president of the local Trout Unlimited chapter, received a national award recognizing his role in the project. The American Public Works Association selected the project as one of the most outstanding projects in the nation.

In addition to the national recognition and appreciation, the most rewarding aspect of the restoration project was returning the Blue River to its natural beauty. Anglers can now fish for trout in its sparkling waters. Hikers can walk the trails adjacent to the river and take in the wonderful views.

Mr. Speaker, the Blue River Restoration Project is a shining example of collaborative and successful outdoor public works projects. It is a model for future projects and proves that groups of concerned citizens can cooperate to improve the environment and enhance the quality of life in their communities. This is especially important as hunting and fishing activities significantly contribute to the health of Colorado's economy-as well as the health of the environment.

I have attached a newspaper story about this accomplishment.[From the Summit Daily, May 2, 2004]

RESTORATION NAMED 'EXEMPLARY PROJECT'

(By Christine McManus)

SILVERTHORNE.-After receiving a third award for their Blue River restoration efforts, local Trout Unlimited members are looking for other stream beds in the county to improve for fish habitat.

The most recent accolade for the Blue River project came April 17 when the Colorado Trout Unlimited (TU) honored the local Gore Range Anglers chapter of TU and its partners with the Exemplary Project Award.

"The one constant about trout is they like to live in beautiful places. Summit County fits that perfectly," said Andy Gentry, president of the local chapter.

Trout Unlimited and its partners worked together to narrow the channel of the Blue River.

With declining stream flows during the ongoing drought, and only minimal releases from the Dillon Reservoir Dam, the 120-foot wide channel below the dam provided water too shallow for fish to survive.

The restoration project generally narrowed the channel to 30 feet wide.

The project preserved the Gold Medal status of the fishery, as declared by the Colorado Division of Wildlife on 13 rivers in
the state.

The Exemplary Project Award from Colorado Trout Unlimited recognizes outstanding projects that have a significant impact on coldwater fisheries.

The award also recognizes successful partnerships between Trout Unlimited and other local and state groups, local governments and/or state and federal agencies.

Partners who worked on the Blue River restoration included the town of Silverthorne, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG), the National Forest Foundation, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service and Summit County.

Gentry said the project would not have been done without all the partners.

"The Blue River Restoration Project has made a significant impact on the county and the fishery," said Kevin Batchelder, Silverthorne town manager.

"This project really showed how many different government entities, nonprofit organizations and local organizations can work together to make a lasting impact on their community."

Trout Unlimited and NWCCOG hope to work with other local governments and nonprofit organizations on additional river restoration projects, said Gentry and Liz Finn, NWCCOG assistant executive director.

The chapter is putting together a list of river restoration projects they would like to explore this summer.

The Upper Blue River, the Tenmile Creek, Swan River drainage and Lower Blue River are being considered, Gentry said.

"Hopefully other Summit County governmental entities and groups find projects for Trout Unlimited to be involved in as well," Gentry said.

In January, the Colorado Chapter of the American Public Works Association selected the project for the Project of the Year Award in the Utility Drainage and Environmental in the Small Communities category.

In September 2003, Gentry won the National Trout Unlimited Distinguished Service Award for his efforts with the Blue River Restoration Project.

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