Grand Environmental Services

 

Helping people in the Colorado high country work around, in, and under water

Our Services

River Corridor Restoration, Sustainability

Agricultural lands and irrigation, due-diligence

Sustainability work plans

Fishery habitats, wetlands, beaver management

 Access, utilities including water and sanitation


Our Colorado River headwaters are under enormous stress. Urbanization, reduced stream flows, and pollution including high water temperatures impact landscape productivity and fishery health. And our risk increases as we lose resiliency – that natural ability to adjust and recover after catastrophic events such as drought, wildfire, and flooding. Grand Environmental Services helps landowners evaluate land and water resources, then develop cost-effective work plans to improve watershed health and resiliency. We take a long view in our work, with a softer approach nudging ecosystems back into that “sustainable sweet spot” where deliberate land management can balance natural processes to optimize landscape health. And yes, agricultural production can go hand in hand with great fisheries.


Environmental Assessment, Design, and Construction Team Support

Site assessment especially around waters and wetlands

Geotechnical design recommendations, project design, permitting

Stormwater management and environmental landscaping


Water improves most any setting, but it can also make a muddy mess of typical land clearing, excavation for foundations and utilities, access, and staging as well as day-to-day construction. In addition, sensitive shorelines, stream banks, and floodplains can be highly visible bringing increased scrutiny and project uncertainty Grand Environmental can help clarify geotechnical and environmental constraints associated with waterways and adjacent areas of shallow groundwater, then communicate findings and recommendations to project planners, engineers, permitting authorities, builders, and landscapers. We can help as needed during property transfer and project development to assure quality control, compliance, and help construction teams quickly respond to challenges.

Frequently Asked Questions

How would I know if my property might benefit from river-corridor restoration?

Much depends on your goals. How important is agricultural status? Are irrigation diversions giving good crop yields, or is it increasingly difficult to match historic yields? How’s the fishing? Traditional wisdom tells us waterway conditions reflect land management. Look for eroding streambanks cutting laterally into valuable uplands including hayfields, roads, and build-able sites; that erosion also puts chocking sediment into adjacent fisheries. Do you have substantial riparian buffers of willow and cottonwood that protect and nourish aquatic habitats while protecting adjacent uplands? Do irrigation diversions allow fish passage while delivering substantial water to hayfields? Do stream channels have a diversity of structures in dynamic equilibrium, or are they wide, shallow, and monotonous? Are weeds competing with native grasses, or choking pools?

Grand County can be a difficult place to work, with a short construction season, difficult weather and terrain, and highly visible aquatic settings.  Give us a call for a free consultation; we’ve been working here for 25 years and love to help with unsolved challenges.

What can we do to restore my land and waters?

Workplan specifics depend on property conditions, watershed setting, and your management goals but, in general, river corridor restoration aims to restore a dynamic equilibrium between stream channel and adjacent floodplains. Different flows need access to “nested channels” carrying low, medium, and high (flood) waters, and overbank flows (shallow flooding) are a key element of a healthy stream-riparian ecosystem. Modern, fish-friendly diversions can meet irrigation needs while raising adjacent riparian groundwater tables to sub-irrigate hay fields and riparian wildlife habitats. Agricultural return flows can benefit waterfowl while treating water quality. Healthy willow and cottonwood take the place of expensive boulder riprap, and property infrastructure can be located to avoid, rather than cause, conflicts. And beavers, when managed holistically, can indeed bring remarkable improvements to river-side land health, but not without some additional work.

What about water rights?

Water is naturally fundamental to the character of our river corridors, and water rights are fundamental to proper water uses including irrigation. Technically defensible due diligence, including exercising water rights and documenting results, will be ever more important as decreasing watershed flows lead to increased conflicts. We also need to make the most out of our wet water resources. A great first step is to collect and document site irrigation records, then develop a realistic maintenance workplan which can in turn set the stage for legal work as needed.

What about permitting?

Typical construction work such as buildings, access, and utilities remain subject to typical permitting with your local building department, your gatekeeper for permitting under other agencies like the Corps of Engineers. Additional permitting can be required for grant funding. On the other hand, traditional agricultural practices including some timber harvest can be considered exempt from Corps wetland permitting under Section 404(f). We always recommend informal, pre-application consultation with agencies to build those relationships and avoid costly SNAFU’s.

How will I know if I need special, water-related considerations for my project?

Waterfront projects are more obvious than more subtle sites with shallow groundwater, but both should be considered. Watch for lush vegetation growth such as willow and coarse grasses in low areas, also sediment and debris suggesting recent flooding. Your local building department will have a good sense of water-related problems in your area, so don’t hesitate to ask them, and your neighbors may be a wealth of local information especially where folks have run into unexpected complications and increased costs associated with water.

What are some design modifications typically recommended to deal with surface water and shallow groundwater?

Good, deliberate drainage is always important, especially in and around waterways. Construction plans should always include considerations for foundation drainage as well as stormwater management, even better to integrate stormwater “best management practices” (BMPs) final landscaping. We sometime recommend raising foundation elevations, sometime just a foot or more, to improve drainage away from and around structures. This can lead to different foundation type, such as piles or spread footer rather than simple slab. Docks and boathouses should always be adjustable to respond to settling and ice heave. Seasonal timing can be our most critical recommendation – dig and pour concrete in late Summer and Fall whenever possible, in order to take advantage of season dry conditions.

Profile (proud) Geoff Elliott

Geoff S. Elliott

Owner, Senior Project Scientist

Contact Us

Contact us by calling or texting 970-509-0199

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