The Town of Jamestown will be at less risk from wildfire because of funding provided by residents and business property owners in the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District. The Town and many local property owners agreed to work with over $127,000 of Water Conservancy District funding to begin planning a fire mitigation project that encompasses dozens of homes in the town limits. The area has been identified as a critical zone for wildfire mitigation treatments that will improve public safety across Jamestown as well as help protect the James Creek water supply in the event of a wildfire.
Many of the private property owners in the proposed area participated in an informational meeting on March 29 in Jamestown. Though property owners were not asked to fully commit to the proposal, many signed agreements allowing the project team access to their properties in order to assess conditions and develop a fire mitigation plan.
The Water Conservancy District provided the funding and sought the support of Left Hand Watershed Center to gather local experts to facilitate the work. This team is beginning work to assess the type of forest mitigation work necessary, and work with the landowners to achieve and implement a common vision. In addition to the District and the Watershed Center, the team includes the Boulder Valley and Longmont Conservation Districts, the Lefthand Fire Protection District, and the St. Vrain Forest Health Partnership (a larger collaborative seeking similar larger scale opportunities).
”The recent fires in Boulder County demonstrate the urgency we have to address community safety at this kind of scale,” said Allan Mueller, Town of Jamestown 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.” “We are incredibly grateful to the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District, whose mission is for the entirety of the creek, for this funding”.
Lefthand Fire Protection District Chief Chris O’Brien, whose crews will do the forest mitigation work this summer, was thrilled to have this generous 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. 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. Thank you to the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District and the Jamestown community for stepping up to meet the wildfire challenge we all face.”
The Left Hand Watershed Center will be the lead coordinating entity for the project, and helped secure the funding from the Water Conservancy District. Jessie Olson, Executive Director, stated, “Our communities, water supplies and forests are at risk if we do not begin scaling up forest restoration in the County. 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. This Jamestown project was identified as a priority through the partnership, and the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District stepped up to spear head this important project. This is an exciting moment for the community of Jamestown and all downstream communities.”
“It is a great collaboration in the Boulder County Fireshed whereby we have partners that are willing to fund work upstream from where they reside and with others are coming together to get a significant and strategic needed project done,” said Boulder County Commissioner Matt Jones. “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. 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.”
The St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District encompasses some 500 square miles along the St. Vrain and Left Hand creeks in Boulder, Weld and Larimer counties. In 2020, voters in the Water Conservancy District agreed to a mill levy increase from 0.156 mills to 1.25 mills through 2030. This was the first property tax increase sought by the District in its 50 year history. The tax will generate an additional $3.4 million in 2022, up from the $416,000 collected in 2020. The 1.25 mill on a $500,000 residential property is equal to $4.47 per month, and $36.25 per month on a $1,000,000 non-residential property.
Sean Cronin, Executive Director of the Water Conservancy District stated, “For years, our constituents said they wanted holistic, sensible, and apolitical leadership across the watershed. In response, the Board of Directors asked the voters in November 2020 if they would approve funding to implement a holistic and sensible water plan. Part of that plan included investments in protecting forests and water quality.” “We are really excited to partner with the Left Hand Watershed Center, the Fire District, the Longmont and Boulder Valley Conservation Districts, and the community of Jamestown to help protect forests and water quality.”
If you are a Jamestown resident and/or you would like to learn more about the proposed project please contact the Watershed Center’s Forest Program Manager, Chiara Forrester.