The Gunnison River is viewed as a major asset in an economic recovery plan developed by Better City. The consultant has been working with the City of Delta, Region 10 and Delta County Economic Development to identify ways to enhance Delta County's economic resiliency in the wake of coal mine layoffs.
The effort also has the support of the Department of Local Affairs, which recently awarded a $100,000 grant to the city for a preliminary engineering study of a two-mile stretch of the Gunnison River. At the April 19 meeting of the Delta City Council, a contract was awarded to RiverRestoration Inc. of Carbondale for that project.
Community development director Glen Black said the intent is to "help activate the river corridor as a recreational asset and attract private investment along the riverfront and adjacent acreage."
The study will focus on the stretch of river from Cottonwood, formerly home to the city's nine-hole golf course, east to the confluence of the Gunnison and the Uncompahgre rivers.
A letter of interest submitted by RiverRestoration says all projects are designed "from the river out." Ecological, environmental and hydraulic concerns are balanced with the needs of the community to create a high functioning, sustainable project the city can be proud of.
Early in the process, RiverRestoration will meet with city staff and stakeholders. As a conceptual design comes together, a public meeting will be held to receive feedback and garner support.
"The study won't complete the process; we're just laying the groundwork," said city manager David Torgler. He clarified the contract is for 60 percent completion. While the city won't have a final design in hand, it will have state and federal permit documentation, floodplain analysis and suggestions for revitalizing the river corridor.
The DOLA grant must be spent by the end of June, so RiverRestoration will be dedicating eight full-time employees to the project to meet the June 27 grant deadline.
Community development director Glen Black said the river corridor project is a piece of a much bigger vision known as the Delta gateway project, which could include a high-end hotel and conference center.