Windy Gap’s Colorado River Connectivity Project

Grand County, CO

The Windy Gap Colorado River Connectivity Project (Grand County, CO) was funded by numerous sources, including the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). It will build a natural stream channel around Windy Gap Reservoir, reconnecting the river and thereby reducing the dam’s impacts on the river’s aquatic habitat and species.

Built to supply water to the booming communities of Northern Colorado in the 1980s, the Windy Gap Reservoir collects water from the Colorado River, pumps it to nearby Lake Granby, and then delivers the water to the Front Range via the Adams Tunnel underneath Rocky Mountain National Park.   

Although the project has helped with the water supply demands of these growing communities, it has also done considerable damage to the river’s fish populations and water quality, leading Trout Unlimited (TU) to champion a solution: Build a natural stream channel around the reservoir to improve the quality of this Gold Medal trout fishery and nearly 30 miles of the Colorado River. The project, which received a significant amount of funding from different sources, totaled about $33 million and a ribbon cutting is expected Fall 2024.

“At a time when the Colorado River Basin is experiencing a historic drought, people are looking for significant wins to show we can work together to meet multiple needs, combat the impacts of climate change, and make our waterways more resilient. The Windy Gap Connectivity Channel is just that.”

Officials posing with shovels at the groundbreaking of the Windy Gap Connectivity Channel
Groundbreaking on the Windy Gap CC alongside Senator Michael Bennet (Photo: Trout Unlimited)

The project received funding and support from a variety of sources, including municipal organizations, state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, and even corporate sponsors. It also received an $8.4 million investment from the Natural Resources Conservation Service following significant interest from Colorado Senator Michael Bennet. 

A ribbon cutting on the project is expected in October 2024.

Windy Gap in the Press

Windy Gap Reservoir, built in 1985, blocks the Colorado River and inhibits a healthy fishery.

It took 10 years to plan a channel around a Colorado River reservoir. Collaboration went well, but urgency was lacking.

Colorado kicks off construction for the Windy Gap river channel, which bypasses the river-blocking, fish killing reservoir
A lone fisher casts a fly into the river, sunlight dappling through the golden leaves of towering cottonwoods.

Colorado River connectivity channel gets go-ahead after environmental assessment

Ten years after plans for a diversion route for the Colorado River around Windy Gap Reservoir outside of Granby was finalized, the project is a go.