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Former Colorado Conservation Board chair Alan Hamel, left, and Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District General Manager Terry Scanga enjoy a moment of levity after Hamel was honored for his work at the CWCB (photo by Joe Stone).

The Colorado Water Conservation Board holds its monthly meeting at 8:30 a.m. today, Wednesday May 23, and at 8:45 a.m. Thursday, May 24, at the SteamPlant theater, 220 W. Sackett Ave., in Salida.

The CWCB was created over 75 years ago with a mission “to conserve, develop, protect and manage Colorado’s water for present and future generations.” With broad expertise in Colorado water issues and challenges, the CWCB is Colorado’s most comprehensive water information resource and provides policy direction on state water issues.

The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District hosted a reception for CWCB staff and board members at the Scout Hut and organized a bicycle tour of the Arkansas River in Salida Tuesday, May 22.

During the reception, CWCB staff members honored Alan Hamel, former CWCB chair, with a special bottle of bourbon because “we didn’t think he needed a plaque. … We wanted to get him something he would actually use.”

Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District Projects Manager Chelsey Nutter discusses the district’s work with the U.S. Forest Service (photo by Joe Stone).

In addition to chairing the CWCB, Hamel has played key roles in Arkansas River basin water management and education throughout his 52-year career with the Pueblo Board of Water Works and his work as a board member of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education.

The reception also featured two presentations, including one by Chelsey Nutter, Upper Ark district projects manager, about the district’s underground water storage project at Trout Creek Park near Johnson Village.

Another presentation provided an overview of the Monarch Pass Forest and Watershed Health Project. Spearheaded by the U.S. Forest Service, the project is addressing the recent spruce-beetle infestation and subsequent die-off of trees in the Monarch Pass area.

As outlined by U.S. Forest Service Silviculturist Alex Rudney, the project is intended to:

• Reduce beetle infestation.
• Improve forest resiliency to infestation.
• Reduce fuel loading to minimize the potential for and impacts of forest fire.
• Provide for firefighter and public safety.
• Improve watershed health.
• Protect infrastructure, including power transmission lines.
• Improve aquatic ecosystem health.

Phase 1 of the project included preventative spraying of select trees beginning in 2013, removal of dead trees posing threats to power lines and public safety, and contracting with Monarch Mountain resort for beetle-kill remediation.

U.S. Forest Service Silviculturist Alex Rudney describes the Monarch Pass Forest and Watershed Health Project (photo by Joe Stone).

Rudney said the plan for Phase 2 is to utilize new equipment designed to operate on slopes up to 60 percent. Other alternatives for logging on slopes greater than 40 percent are financially infeasible, given the limited value of the timber.

Additionally, Rudney said, this “cut-to-length technology” reduces the need for roads, reduces soil disturbance, reduces visual impacts and improves worker safety.

Since this equipment has never been used in Colorado, the project will provide a demonstration of technology that can benefit Colorado businesses.

From a watershed perspective, Rudney said the project will demonstrate a cost-effective method for addressing threats posed by fuel loading on steep slopes while revenue from timber sales will help fund watershed health projects.