DENVER — Officials have revealed details of plans to revitalize a 40-mile urban stretch of the South Platte River with plenty of water and healthy fish.
Denver Water and Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials said they’ve obtained 2,100 acre-feet of water that they will use strictly for environmental purposes. They plan to release the water at the Chatfield Reservoir choke point — a supply equal to what 4,200 households typically use in a year.
The goal according to The Denver Post (http://tinyurl.com/jv2er68 ) is to restore the river to a condition in which trout can reproduce.
“We’re trying to make the South Platte the best it can be for this city. . It’s not going to be like a Danube,” Denver Water manager Jim Lochhead said. “We can make it what it is, which is a Plains river that creates an appreciation of the connection to water in this city. The city would not exist without that water supply.”
The idea is that putting more water into the Platte at the southwestern edge of metro Denver will mimic long-lost natural flows, to the extent possible given the channelization of the Platte after the 1965 flood that destroyed buildings in the flood plain. More water also would help a fish hatchery where state wildlife workers breed rainbow trout.
For more than two decades, Denver conservationists have worked at reviving the Platte corridor, building cycling paths and riverside parks.
But just beyond Denver, farmers await every drop of the treated wastewater metro users put back in the Platte. There’s so much demand for South Platte water across booming northeastern Colorado that parts of the river run dry.
By 2018, project leaders say, new environmental flows from Chatfield will keep that from happening — and create curves and pools favoring aquatic bugs and fish.
This push to put more clean water in the Platte through Denver coincides with broader environmental efforts. Federal, state and city engineers have been mulling possibilities for restoring other metro waterways, for which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has dangled possible funding.
“Once we get things in place and start this on the South Platte, there will be people who will make a play for anything that will make the river look and act better,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife senior aquatic biologist Ken Kehmeier.
Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com