Craig diversion dam

Transitioning a local economy

About the Project

The Yampa River, a tributary of the Green River, is a key part of the Colorado River system, flowing through northwestern Colorado and Dinosaur National Monument. Like many rivers in Colorado, the Yampa River is well known for its recreational uses but faces growing water scarcity and a decline in riparian habitat as temperatures increase and drought becomes commonplace.

The City of Craig draws its municipal water from the Yampa River. The city’s diversion dam, built in 1991, is a hazard for boaters, blocks fish passage for four federally listed endangered species, and is in disrepair. Located in Moffat County, the city is in the heart of coal country with some of the largest coal mines and coal fired power plants in Colorado. Over the last decade, the county has experienced falling median incomes, rising poverty levels, and net population outmigration. With the coal mines and powerplants scheduled for closure by 2030, the city and county are taking steps to diversify its economy.

A key part of Craig’s economic transition is replacing the city’s current municipal water diversion dam with a nature-like channel structure that will enhance  municipal water distribution, create a fish-passable multi-use whitewater park, and open 17 river miles. The project will transform the Yampa River Corridor into a healthy natural amenity, turning it into a foundational economic asset. The whitewater park will increase recreation opportunities and river access with a new trail system providing easy access to the whitewater park from downtown Craig. The project is also a part of the Yampa Integrated Water Management Plan (IWMP), a basin wide stakeholder-led restoration effort to address water scarcity and improve recreation and river health.

FACTS AT A GLANCE
Owner: City of Craig
Size: 100 feet long, 200 feet wide, 10 feet high
Project Cost: $4,359,638
ORF Investment: Project design and engineering plans
Miles Opened: 17 miles
Fish: ESA listed Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, bonytail chub, and humpback chub, as well as rainbow trout, channel catfish, bluegill & green sunfish
Status: Dam removal/replacement expected in 2022 or 2023


RESOURCES
OUTCOMES
  • Open 17 miles of river for endangered fish species
  • Increase nursery and spawning habitat and stabilize the stream bank
  • Modernize and update the municipal water distribution system
  • Create a new, destination quality whitewater park that is connected to downtown Craig and will anchor the city’s economic and community revitalization
  • Build on the growing interest in outdoor river recreation to create business opportunities locally and create a new natural amenity easily accessible by pathways from downtown
  • Replace aging infrastructure with multi-benefit structure, building local support for river restoration
  • Support Yampa River Integrated Water Management Plan, a basin wide restoration effort
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Project Partners

City of Craig

Moffat County

Northwest Colorado Chapter of Parrotheads

Friends of the Yampa

Trapper Mine

Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable

Colorado Water Conservation Board

U.S. Economic Development Administration

Yampa Valley Community Foundation

Gates Family Foundation

Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade