A New Collaboration: EVLT and the Estes Valley Watershed Coalition
For the past eighteen months Estes Valley Land Trust has played a significant role in assisting the Estes Valley in its ongoing recovery from the devastating September 2013 floods. EVLT acquired grant funding to provide owners of flood-damaged properties with native seeds and trees. EVLT organized volunteer workdays for flood debris removal and revegetation projects. Also EVLT has contributed to the River Resiliency Master Planning process for Fish Creek and Fall River since it began in early 2014.
Now, recognizing the need to continue its efforts to support flood recovery and river sustainability, EVLT has been assisting with the formation of a new non-profit Estes Valley Watershed Coalition (EVWC), and has agreed to serve as the Fiscal Sponsor for the organization. In addition, EVLT will be participating on EVWC’s Advisory Group, which is made up of stakeholder organizations within the Estes Valley.
What Is the Estes Valley Watershed Coalition?
EVWC is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “promote an ecologically healthy watershed that also seeks to maximize public benefits and minimize public risk, through community engagement and sound science.” It is comprised of citizens of the Estes Valley serving voluntarily to support a safe and environmentally sound watershed for the community.
During the post-flood River Resiliency Master Planning process for Fish Creek and Fall River, two River Advisory Committees were formed to give citizen input to the process. As the master planning process wound down, these two groups joined with parties representing the Upper Big Thompson River and Black Canyon Creek, forming EVWC to begin the implementation process for the Master Plans and to secure funding for projects necessary to maintain all four river corridors in a healthy and safe condition for people and wildlife into the future.
EVWC’s Board of Directors includes two representatives each from the four stream corridors (Fall River, Fish Creek, Upper Big Thompson, and Black Canyon) as well as three at-large members.
Why Was EVWC Formed?
The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) has been a primary impetus for the formation of this new organization in the Estes Valley as well as comparable watershed organizations throughout the flood-impacted Front Range area. The CWCB and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs are encouraging the development of these coalitions as a mechanism for distributing funding from the federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program.
How Will Funding Be Used?
Initial grant funding for these coalitions will be in the form of capacity grants to support paid staff positions for the coalitions and planning grants to help determine the most effective way to prioritize and begin implementation projects from the Master Plans. These planning grants are a necessary pre-curser to implementation projects, as they will bring together landowners and other stakeholders to assure full understandings of the plans and alternatives for a project area. Landowner consensus is required before implementation funding can be obtained.
Future grant opportunities from federal and state sources as well as from private foundations and donors will be pursued by EVWC to fund planning, design, and construction of watershed resiliency projects.
Why Is a Fiscal Sponsor Needed?
There are several reasons for the need for a Fiscal Sponsor. First, organizational approval for tax-exempt status by the IRS is a lengthy process. Tax-exempt status is a requirement of many grant applications. By aligning with a non-profit Fiscal Sponsor, EVWC can take advantage of diverse fundraising opportunities and avoid project funding delays.
Also, having a Fiscal Sponsor to handle EVWC’s back-office operations enables the Coalition Board and Staff to focus their time and energy on the work of project planning and implementation. Similarly, this allows the Coalition to hire a Watershed Coordinator whose skills can be specific to river resiliency rather than accounting and administrative functions.
What Is Estes Valley Land Trust’s Role as Fiscal Sponsor?
EVLT will provide administrative and financial services to the Coalition, including accepting grant and donor funding on behalf of the Coalition, while leaving all programmatic control in the hands of the EVWC directors. The Land Trust will receive a nominal fee from EVWC for its services as Fiscal Sponsor.
What Is Estes Valley Land Trust’s Role on the Advisory Group?
The Advisory Group, which is currently being formed, will include potential stakeholders for many of the projects, including representatives from the Town, the Sanitation Districts, the Recreation and Parks District, the Land Trust, and similar organizations. In this role, EVLT will advise the Coalition on the use of conservation easements as a tool to protect stream corridors, open space, and riparian wildlife habitat while benefiting the property owners.
What Are the Next Steps?
The search for a Watershed Coordinator by the EVWC Board of Directors is currently underway. For the near future, the Coordinator will share space in the Estes Valley Land Trust offices. This will aid in effectively establishing the various, and often separate, administrative, financial, and operational functions while decreasing overhead costs to EVWC.
How Can I Stay Informed about EVWC’s Projects?
A website and social media presence will be established and more information will be distributed through various media outlets. Coalition meetings are held every other Wednesday evening at the Estes Valley Library. The meeting schedule will be on the Coalition website or at http://estesvalleylibrary.evanced.info/signup/eventcalendar.aspx. Anyone interested in supporting the activities of the Estes Valley Watershed Coalition is welcome to attend.