Ohana Needs Your Help in Restoring its Beautiful Lake

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Rachel Herrera | Ohana Mountain Ranch Wildlife & Community
Your support and partnership in restoring an important ecosystem in the Buckhorn Canyon are needed.
Ohana Lake is in the foothills west of Fort Collins and has been around since the 1950s. Over time, it has played a significant role in well water supply, flood alleviation, watering livestock and wildlife, fish production, pollinator support, climate change mitigation, and firefighting efforts.
Ohana Lake supported biodiversity and habitats that sustained many aquatic animals, such as frogs, fish, and crawdads. Alongside aquatic species, many land species, including insect pollinators, birds, bats, bears, moose, deer, minks, and other mammals, relied on the lake for water, food, and habitat.
It became the heart of the community by providing a space for community bonding, physical activity, and relaxation. It has hosted weddings, Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department picnics/fundraisers, camping, a dog play area, and celebrations of all kinds. The lake area also hosts the starting point for the Equinox Fall Marathon.
Firefighters used Ohana’s lake to dip buckets from helicopters to suppress several major fires in our community, saving nearby homes and property.
Kids from all over the mountain would come and play, swim and spend the time of their lives in nature. It cultivated an appreciation for biodiversity and nature conservation in our kids.
As a result of the Cameron Peak fire in 2020, the burn scar could not handle heavy rains.
The area was overlooked and underdiagnosed for aerial mulching after the fire, and “nuisance” flooding ensued for two years. Road work was being done upstream, to the tune of 7 million dollars, to repair County Road 44h from major flooding in 2013. They had just finished when the biggest flood of the two years hit in July of 2022.
People lost their lives. Properties were severely damaged and destroyed. The new road from 44h washed downstream and the un-mulched burn-scar hillside, where it settled into the lake. This led into many things.
The lake was filled with mud and ash, which changed the temperature of the water, killed the fish and other aquatic life, created an algae bloom, and made the lake unsafe as it created quicksand-like mud that trapped animals, wildlife, and humans.
This made it no longer suitable for wildlife, recreation, or firefighting efforts. It can no longer handle any more flood water overflow from Buckhorn Creek. The lack of water and influx of mud caused our well to run dry.
Volunteers spent months pumping water and building siphons to get the water out, to make it safe. That’s when it was discovered it was filled with 4-6 feet of ash, mud, and silt. You couldn’t see the extent of the devastation until all the water was gone.
FEMA responded, “No disasters declared for Individual Assistance were found for this address.”
Larimer County’s response was, “…without being able to show a direct impact to Buckhorn Road because of the pond, we aren’t able to provide that work at this time….The pond was not designed to provide flood control and, therefore, dredging or improvements would be the responsibility of the landowner.” “…this does not appear to pose a threat to downstream public infrastructure.”
An area resident was quoted $50,000+ (on the low end) from local excavators to dredge the lake. I have spent over $10,000 just to get it emptied and a perimeter dug to allow water to drain out from the middle and dry enough to start digging it out.
I also lost my ability to do business that was focused on recreation and a private dog park, specifically in the lake area. I had just started the business in the spring of 2022. So, this has been a double whammy for me, financially and emotionally.
We are humbly asking for your help with Phase 2. This includes: Pumping the groundwater and spring runoff out of the lake that has accumulated. Renting heavy equipment and hiring professional operators to remove silt, dirt, and rocks. Placing dirt/silt in locations that will not affect the floodplain. Removing large piles of driftwood, trees, and brush debris. Damaged culvert removal and replacement. The long-term effects of fires and floods are sometimes the worst parts, long-lasting, and easily forgotten about. It’s a big project. It’s an important project. Please, contribute what you can; even small amounts create ripples!
Much love and gratitude from Ohana!
All donors will be invited to an epic celebration gathering at Ohana Lake upon completion!
Approximate Costs and estimates include:
Renting heavy equipment: 3,000-5,000/week. At least 4 weeks of heavy equipment needed
Labor: $25-$150/hr for 4 weeks. Total: 160 hours
Diesel: $5-6/gallon. (most machines have 50-gallon tanks)
Culverts: $400-$700, a total of 4 needed
Road base to fix road down to the lake, access for Heavy equipment: $500/load
Trash pumps and hoses.: $500
Gasoline to run the pump and dump truck: $4/gallon
Dump Truck: $11,000
Admin costs: 25/hour
Unknown costs: Restocking with fish Re-vegetation. Debris Removal
We will also accept donations of materials, resources, and volunteers!
Rachel Herrera and the Ohana Mountain Ranch Wildlife & Community