Cache la Poudre River ecosystem topic of May 21 open house

Recognizing the central importance of the Cache la Poudre River to the community, the City of Fort Collins has many initiatives underway to support the vitality of the river ecosystem. The Natural Areas Department and Utilities are collaborating on the creation of an assessment tool for supporting and sustaining the health of the Poudre River. The River Health Assessment Framework articulates the city’s vision for a healthy and resilient river by setting recommended ranges and an A-F grading system for the key physical, chemical and biological indicators of the river.

The framework will be used to create a State of the River Report in 2016 and to evaluate the river’s health impacts of internal and external projects. Everyone is invited to learn more at an open house on Thursday, May 21, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 215 N. Mason St. in the Community Room. Overview presentations will be held at 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 6:30 p.m. Learn more at fcgov.com/riverhealth.

Many City of Fort Collins’ plans and projects are focused on “a healthy and resilient river,” but the city has lacked a common definition of what that means and how it would be measured. The River Health Assessment Framework has two main elements: A-F grading system for key indicators and recommended ranges for each indicator. An initial pilot use of the assessment tool has been completed for the few indicators that have data. More data will be collected for the 2016 State of the River Report. Information will be released this summer that summarizes the project.

Rather than aspiring to return the river to native conditions, the recommended ranges, if attained, would ensure the river meets critical water quality and ecological thresholds without being further compromised. The River Health Assessment Framework incorporates existing monitoring programs, data, and ecological studies and considers the entire Poudre River, from its headwaters to Windsor. Greater detail is focused on the reach from the city’s water supply intake in the lower Poudre Canyon to near I-25.

The team developing the framework considered the full spectrum of the city’s river interests such as a reliable water supply, floodplain management, clean water, recreation and community health. The team also considered the broader context of historic land use and ecological changes, as well as the economic, administrative and legal frameworks influencing the contemporary Poudre River.

The indicators, recommended ranges and letter grades will help the city evaluate, align and prioritize its river management efforts as well as external projects and proposals. This project supports efforts across city departments to assess current conditions, monitor future conditions, and manage adaptively.

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