County to help fund recreation

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Routt County will contribute $5,000 to help build recreational amenities at Elkhead Reservoir when the reservoir is enlarged.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners agreed Tuesday to set aside funds from the county's 2006 budget for the project. Those funds could supplement two $200,000 Great Outdoors Colorado grants for which the city of Craig is applying.

Dave Pike, parks and recreation director for Craig, said the county's support could help secure the grants.

"I think it would make the grant a lot more competitive ... if we have a lot of partners that concur that it truly is a regional facility," Pike said.

Applying for the grants is timely; matching funds are available because of the expansion, Pike said.

Elkhead, which spans the Routt-Moffat county line, is the only warm-water reservoir in the area and is suitable for summer recreation starting in spring, he said. About 75,000 visitors a year use the reservoir. More are expected when the reservoir is enlarged.

The GOCo grants could pay for new campgrounds and roads, boat ramps, grills and shade shelters, toilets, beaches, playgrounds and some trails.

Existing recreational facilities will be submerged when the reservoir expansion is completed.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said that, as a user of the reservoir, he knows the reservoir is important to many people.

"I do believe this is a very good project for Routt and Moffat counties," Monger said.

The Elkhead Reservoir is being enlarged from 13,200 acre-feet to about 25,000 acre-feet. Of the new water, 5,000 acre-feet will supplement Yampa River flows to help endangered fish species. Another 2,000 acre-feet can be used for fish flows in times of drought during the next 20 years. The remaining water will be available for sale to water users.

The project has an estimated cost of $23 million and could be mostly finished by the fall of 2006, said Ray Tenney, senior water resources engineer with the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

The project is funded by the water conservation district and the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. Other partners in the project include the city of Craig, Colorado State Parks and the Craig Station Power Plant.

The water conservation district has promised to replace recreational amenities that are flooded when the reservoir is enlarged, Tenney said. Also, Colorado State Parks could commit as much as $1 million of additional recreational services.

The $400,000 GOCo grants would be matched with funds from the state parks and the water river district. The city of Craig has dedicated $10,000 to the project, and Routt County has dedicated $5,000. Moffat County, the city of Steamboat Springs and the town of Hayden also will be asked to contribute.

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