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Fire mitigation in Jamestown will help protect local watersheds

Taxpayers in water conservancy district fund project planning
Pelican Squared
Pelicans in St. Vrain Creek (Photo by Matt Maenpaa)

Money from a local water conservancy district will help fund fire mitigation in Jamestown this summer.

Funding of $127,000 provided by residents and business property owners in the St. Vrain and Left Hand Creek Water Conservancy District, including Longmont, will help with planning for a fire mitigation project encompassing dozens of homes in Jamestown town limits.

The area has been identified as a critical zone for wildfire mitigation treatments to improve public safety across Jamestown as well as help protect the James Creek water supply in the event of a wildfire, according to the water conservancy district.

The district sought the support of the Left Hand Watershed Center to gather local experts to facilitate the work. The team is assessing the type of forest mitigation necessary and working with landowners.

Many private property owners in the proposed area participated in an informational meeting March 29 in Jamestown, and many signed agreements allowing the project team to access their properties in order to assess conditions and develop a fire mitigation plan.

The project team also includes the Boulder Valley and Longmont Conservation Districts, the Lefthand Fire Protection District and the St. Vrain Forest Health Partnership. The Left Hand Watershed Center will be the lead coordinating entity for the project and helped secure the funding from the water conservancy district. 

“Our communities, water supplies and forests are at risk if we do not begin scaling up forest restoration in the county,” Lefthand Watershed Center Executive Director Jessie Olson said in a release. “This is why we formed the St. Vrain Forest Health Partnership with over 100 agencies and community members, to begin implementing landscape scale cross-boundary restoration.”

The St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District encompasses about 500 square miles along the St. Vrain and Left Hand creeks in Boulder, Weld and Larimer counties.

In 2020, voters in the district agreed to a mill levy increase from 0.156 mills to 1.25 mills through 2030. The tax will generate an additional $3.4 million in 2022, up from the $416,000 collected in 2020, the district said, to implement a holistic water plan.

This includes investments in protecting forests and water quality, such as the Jamestown project.

“The recent fires in Boulder County demonstrate the urgency we have to address community safety at this kind of scale,” said Allan Mueller, a resident and project participant. “As a community that rests at the top of the watershed, we have a great appreciation for how our water resources connect us clear through Weld County.”

Lefthand Fire Protection District Chief Chris O’Brien, whose crews will do the forest mitigation work this summer, expressed his excitement to have this funding.

“We have been working one small piece of the puzzle at a time to help decrease the wildfire risk to the community and all up and down our watershed,” O’Brien said. “This funding allows us to get a lot done at one time, lowering the cost for each acre and making a bigger difference given the size of the wildfires we could potentially face.”

Boulder County Commissioner Matt Jones applauded the collaboration in the Boulder County fireshed.

“We all recognize that wildfires are getting worse and threaten our mountain residents — and we have also learned the hard way, since the Hayman Fire 20 years ago, that downstream water users can be impacted as well by wildfire,” Jones said. “Our forest is the main source of our drinking water in Boulder County and catastrophic wildfire ruins its ability to provide us that resource while post fire flood debris can devastate water supply infrastructure.”

Amy Golden

About the Author: Amy Golden

Amy Golden is a reporter for the Longmont Leader covering city and county issues, along with anything else that comes her way.
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