George Osborn of Montrose, a member of the local Gunnison Gorge Anglers sport fishing organization, has been awarded the Jimmy Nelson Volunteer of the Year Award for coordination of the Relief Ditch dam reconstruction project.
The award is named in honor of the late Jimmy Nelson, a member of the Gunnison Gorge Anglers, and was presented to Osborn in April by Marshall Pendergrass, president of Gunnison Gorge Anglers.
Members of the Gunnison Gorge Anglers, along with others, were instrumental in recognizing the need for reconstruction of the Relief Ditch diversion dam. Members of the Gunnison Gorge Anglers have also advocated for and participated in other important reclamation projects in this region.
The dam structure posed a danger to recreational boaters on the river and was also an impediment to sport fishing activities.
The group advocated for a total redesign and rebuild of the dam and the construction work was begun a year ago. It was completed in time for irrigation water to begin flowing into the Relief Ditch this season. Osborn served as a project coordinator, contributing to grant funding opportunities and to construction liaison work. Other individuals credited with making the project possible are Cary Denison of Trout Unlimited, who served as project manager, and Jeff Crane of Paonia whose contributions to design and advocacy began with the project's earliest concept.
The project was a multi-agency effort with contributions in funding and other elements coming from the Colorado River District, the BLM Uncompahgre Field Office, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Grand Valley Anglers, and the International Federation of Fly Fishermen.
Without the full cooperation and support of the Relief Ditch Company board of directors and shareholders the project would have been impossible to complete. The Relief Ditch Company has pledged financial support for maintenance of the new facilities.
In an online posting hosted by the GGA website, Osborn recounts specific funding contributions to the project:
"With the help of Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) biologist Dan Kowalski, a grant application to the Fishing is Fun program was submitted. After a formal presentation before their board in Denver, an award of $80,000 was made to the project.
"The required environmental assessment was provided by the BLM (Uncompahgre Field Office) at no charge to the project which amounted to an in-kind donation of $35,000.
"An application and presentations to the Colorado River Water Conservation District (CRWCD) were made with $90,000 being awarded for construction.
"Following the assistance by GGA with their annual River Awareness Float, the Conservation Center based in Paonia contributed half of the revenue from the float to the project.
"An application and written presentations were submitted to the Species Conservation Trust Fund which is another component of the CWCB. Given the presence of three native species of fish (roundtail chub, flannelmouth sucker, bluehead sucker) which inhabit this reach of river and which are of concern for protection, the project was awarded a grant of $500,000.
"A recent award of $25,000 has been made by the CWCB to help with monitoring and adaptive management of the diversion structure. The Relief Ditch has pledged two years' worth of their annual diversion construction budget to the project."
Total of all those contributions comes to more than $730,000.
The project makes safety improvements for river users, improves fish habitat for various species including trout, and provides vastly improved facilities for Relief Ditch irrigators to receive their allotments of agricultural water from the Gunnison.
The dam structure is an innovative design that has been constructed below water line and channels river flows to desired points. Performance of the dam will be closely monitored for evaluation of its effectiveness.
The Relief Ditch Company will have an automated headgate installed at its river takeout that will allow remote operation according to changing river slows, project managers said.
The Gunnison Gorge Anglers is an independent organization with hundreds of local sport fishermen members who live primarily in Montrose and Delta counties. The Gunnison Gorge Anglers is affiliated with the national Trout Unlimited organization which helped provide major funding for the Relief Ditch project.blog comments powered by Disqus