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What do the City of Loveland, a local nonprofit and three landowners have in common? A river restoration partnership in Loveland, CO

Post Date:03/01/2019 2:08 PM

Courtney Gutman, Project Manager, Big Thompson Watershed Coalition, 970.699.2906,

Private landowners are partnering with the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition and the City of Loveland for river restoration along the Big Thompson River in March 2019. But what exactly do private-public restoration partnerships look like in our area and whom do they benefit? The Wild Natural Area and Neighbors River Restoration Project, starting the first week of March, is just the project for you to learn more. 

This project was initiated in 2016 to assess and repair damages from the 2013 Big Thompson flood south of Glade Road. This area was one of the most altered by the flood, downstream of the Big Thompson canyon walls. So much water and sediment was received from upstream that a 10-foot-high wall of sediment filled the original river channel! The force of the water then created another pathway across one of the properties, damaging riverside properties and sweeping away mature cottonwood stands. These changes to the river ecosystem left the new channel exposed, vulnerable to major erosion and future flooding and lacking necessary habitat components that typically form over decades and centuries of water flow. 
Starting just after the flood in late 2013, concerned property owners, agencies and other stakeholders came together to form the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition. BTWC’s 2015 Big Thompson River Restoration Master Plan identified this section of river as a high priority for restoration. Together, these partners began the following course of action: 

2016 - BTWC raised funds and hired engineering firm for initial restoration design plans
2017 - BTWC applied for and received grant funding for the final design and project construction, hired contractors and received permits for in-river work
2019 - Wild Natural Area and Neighbors River Restoration Project will start and complete construction

Between March and May of this year the major construction aspects of this project will be completed to:

  • sustain water flow by creating a prominent low-flow channel and connecting the river to its floodplain for high-flow absorption;
  • realign the river closer to its historic flow path to increase curvature of the river to slow water and return it to a more stable pathway;
  • improve water conditions and diversify river habitat for birds, fish and insects;
  • and set the foundation for future recreation opportunities such as wildlife viewing, hiking and fishing on the City of Loveland’s Wild Natural Area (Wild Natural Area is not yet open for public access).   

Wild Natural Area River Flows Map

The Big Thompson Watershed Coalition will be leading the Wild Natural Area and Neighbors River Restoration Project along with collaboration from the City of Loveland and three local property owners. In order to return the river to a more stable alignment, some mature trees will be removed from the waterway. Many trees that are removed will be reused in the project to stabilize banks, slow water and provide aquatic wildlife habitat and nutrient supply to the water. As part of our planting plan for this project, over 500 new trees and shrubs will be planted, and seed mixes will be applied. Over time, these new additions will enhance habitat around the river while providing root stabilization and improving water absorption to the river banks.

Wild Natural Area post flood river conditions

Want to see the project for yourself? Visit Sweetheart Winery (5500 W US-34) and observe the river corridor work or join us for one of our fall workdays to care for newly planted native plants and to get a sneak preview of the project (Dates and times to be announced). 

Interested in river or forest restoration on your property? Contact Big Thompson Watershed Coalition to discuss your interest with our staff!  

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