Frequently Asked Questions: Partnership with U.S. Forest Service for Watershed Management

  • What type of work will take place and where?

    More than 48,000 acres of National Forest System lands have been treated so far accomplishing important fuels reduction, restoration and prevention activities, including areas of the South Platte, St. Vrain, Colorado River and Blue River watersheds.

    Locations for forest restoration and wildfire fuels reduction projects under the new MOU include watersheds for Dillon, Strontia Springs, Gross, Antero, Eleven Mile Canyon, Cheesman and Williams Fork reservoirs. The projects will reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires upstream of Denver Water’s reservoirs and other water delivery infrastructure.

  • Who is doing the work?

    The U.S. Forest Service will oversee and administer all of the work, with most of the on-the-ground work being conducted by private contractors.

    Colorado State Forest Service will manage all of the operations and work on private lands.

  • What problems does this work address?

    Forest restoration work, such as the thinning, clearing and creating fuel breaks, influence how quickly and intensely a wildfire can burn. Smaller, less severe fires also reduce the amount of soil erosion and other impacts to the watershed. Restoration will also help the forests become more resilient and resistant to future insect and disease epidemics, reduce wildfire risks for communities, and improve habitat for fish and wildlife species. More resilient forests also will be more adaptive to the impacts of a changing climate.

  • Who is paying for this and how much will it cost?

    Denver Water will invest $16.5 million in forest and watershed health projects within Denver Water’s critical watersheds. The U.S. Forest Service will receive $11.5 million of the total Denver Water investment. CSFS will receive $3 million and NRCS will receive $2 million. Denver Water’s funding will be matched dollar for dollar by each agency for a total value of the partnership of approximately $33 million.

  • Why are you doing the work now?

    Denver Water has been conducting forest treatments on its lands for a decade, and the Colorado State Forest Service has partnered with the U.S. Forest Service, on a smaller scale, to treat adjacent lands. Recent watershed assessments have identified the highest impact areas within Denver Water’s water collection system if a wildfire were to occur.

    Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service have discussed forest health treatments on a large scale and have come to an agreement to accelerate these efforts in the areas of critical concern for Denver Water’s water supply. In addition, Denver Water is making a significant effort to regain capacity and water treatment operational flexibility for water quality. Denver Water is being proactive to protect this investment in the future. This effort protects wildlife and the environment from a catastrophic fire within these areas.

  • How were these "priority watersheds" identified?

    The priority watersheds — the Upper South Platte River, South Platte River Headwaters, St. Vrain River, Colorado River Headwaters and Blue River watersheds — are the primary water supply source areas for Denver Water’s 1.4 million customers.

    The Denver Water-funded treatments will be focused in specific “Zones of Concern” areas within these larger watersheds that were identified on federal lands through an assessment that analyzed and ranked wildfire hazards, flooding or debris risks, soil erodibility and water uses. This methodology was developed in 2009 in a collaborative effort by Front Range water providers, the United States Forest Service, Colorado State Forest Service, United States Geological Survey, United State Bureau of Land Management, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the United States Natural Resources Conservation Service. This has become the accepted methodology by all agencies to identify and prioritize “at risk” watersheds for hazard reduction treatments and other watershed protection measures.

    Action plans will also be developed by Colorado State Forest Service and NRCS each year to identify private properties that fit within priority watersheds for Denver Water.

  • What will be the cost to Denver Water ratepayers?

    In 2011, the average residential household will pay $1.65 in the course of a year ($0.14 per bill) related to this work. Over the course of five years, the average residential household will pay a total of $27 to cover the proposed cost of $16.5 million.

  • Will there be opportunities for public comment?

    Most of the projects included in this agreement have already completed the public comment period as part of the U.S. Forest Service’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. NEPA requires that potential impacts to the environment, including any impacts to soil, water, cultural or biological resources, be carefully analyzed and disclosed to the public. For more information on how to comment on any of the remaining projects, visit the U.S. Forest Service website’s Schedule of Proposed Actions.