Yampa landscape project

City, county to hear $10.7M proposal to preserve river corridor

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The Steamboat Springs City Council and Routt County commissioners will hear a proposal today for a $10.7 million project that could help protect the Yampa River corridor in Steamboat Springs and part of Emerald Mountain.

With the local governments' approval, a concept paper requesting $8 million in grants for the Yampa River Landscape Project could be sent to Great Outdoors Colorado, which is asking for project proposals by Wednesday.

The project would help preserve land along the Yampa River, in a general area starting south at the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area and going west past Steamboat II, said Linda Kakela, Steamboat Springs director of intergovernmental services. It also could help preserve part of Emerald Mountain.

Protecting key parcels along the Yampa River could help "protect the health of the river and appropriate opportunities for recreation and public access," Kakela said.

The two areas, she said, have significance at the community, state and even national levels.

Ben Beall, chairman of the Emerald Mountain Partnership and part of the Yampa River Legacy Project Committee, called the proposed project "visionary."

"What we're trying to do here is look at the whole west side of Steamboat Springs ... to make sure that whole landscape out there is preserved," Beall said.

Because the project is in a very conceptual stage, Kakela said she could not give specifics. She said the majority of the funds would be spent on protecting key parcels along the Yampa River, its riparian areas and agricultural lands.

A smaller portion of the funds, Kakela said, could be used to help accomplish the ongoing Emerald Mountain land swap, in which the Bureau of Land Management is trading some of its smaller land parcels in Routt County for a part of Emerald Mountain that is owned by the State Land Board to keep Emerald Mountain free of development. The swap is scheduled to take place by 2005 or 2006, said BLM realty specialist Phillis Bowers.

The proposed Yampa River Landscape Project would not involve buying water rights, Kakela said.

The $8 million in grants requested for the project would have to be matched with $2.5 million, which could come from other grants and partnerships, private cash, the city's Capital Improvement Plan, the county's Purchase of Development Rights program and others, according to a draft concept for the project.

The project's funding likely would be phased in over a three-year period, the draft said.

The project has the potential to involve various partners, such as the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the Yampa Valley Land Trust, the Emerald Mountain Partnership, Historic Routt County and others, the draft said.

GOCo has been important in the area for conservation efforts, Kakela said. This project would be building on those previous successes, she said.

"We anticipate that we could accomplish multiple community goals with grant funding from GOCo," Kakela said.

Routt County commissioners will consider approving the concept paper at 11:10 a.m. today, and the City Council will consider approving the concept paper at the council's meeting at 5 p.m. tonight.

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