The mission of the Lefthand Watershed Oversight Group is to assess, protect, and restore the quality of the Lefthand Creek watershed, and to serve as a hub for watershed issues through the fostering of stakeholder collaboration.
LWOG was originally formed as a watershed protection group in response to the need to clean up abandoned mines in the watershed. In 1999 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approached the Towns of Ward and Jamestown about the possibility of large areas near or in the towns being added to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) to fund and implement necessary mine cleanup activities. Many area residents had serious concerns about having such a large area near their homes declared a Superfund site. To address this concern, a community-based task force was created to explore alternatives to listing the large area. An important recommendation by the task force was for the formation of a continuing grass-roots watershed protection group, the Left Hand Watershed Oversight Group (LWOG). The group obtained tax-exempt 501(C)(3) status in 2005.
One of the first activities of LWOG was to develop a watershed plan, published in August 2005, to direct future efforts at cleaning up mine wastes. Since then, LWOG has collected regular water quality sampling and analysis as part of the State's River Watch citizen monitoring program to support healthy aquatic life.
In September 2013, a major flood occurred in Left Hand Creek watershed. Damage caused by heavy rainfall for an extended duration resulted in dramatic changes to the creek corridor. High peak flow and sediment/debris inputs caused the creek to migrate and experience deposition, erosion, and loss of riparian vegetation. Numerous buildings, roadways, and other infrastructure sustained extensive damage or were washed away. A coalition of stakeholders was assembled on a temporary basis during 2014 under the leadership of Boulder County to oversee the development of a Master Plan for long-term flood recovery. The contractor for the project was AMEC, Inc. The planning effort was supported by a Colorado Water Conservation Board planning grant and Boulder County. AMEC completed the master plan in November 2014.
As a watershed group already in existence in Left Hand Creek, LWOG was selected to continue work started by Boulder County and the coalition of stakeholders that was formed while developing the watershed master plan. In early 2015, LWOG obtained funding from a Colorado Division of Local Affairs Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) to increase staff capacity and engage in restoring Left Hand Creek Watershed, primarily based on the recommendations of the Watershed Master Plan. At the same time, LWOG also expanded its Board to include additional stakeholders and residents, and began obtaining grants to help fund restoration projects and hire additional staff to oversee restoration projects.
In 2016 and 2017 LWOG successfully secured 100% of the funds needed to design and implement 12 restoration projects. Our funding sources for these projects include the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Colorado Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP), Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), Colorado Division of Local Affairs Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR), and Left Hand Water District. These projects are designed to reduce future flood risks, stabilize the streambed and banks that were heavily damaged during the 2013 flood, restore the ecological health of the watershed, and improve the human health and safety for landowners living along Left Hand Creek and its tributaries.
"We feel that LWOG has done a good job bringing the appropriate stakeholders to the table. Completion of this project is vital to our community moving towards long term stream restoration recovery from the September 2013 flood." -- Mark Schueneman, President, Lower Lefthand Creek Flood Recovery, Inc.
"The enhanced creek corridor contributes to the natural landscape atmosphere highly valued by the community." -- Tara Schoedinger, Mayor of Jamestown
"The (Left Hand Water) District's Board of Directors has been impressed with the way that this organization has met the challenge in implementing necessary projects identified in the Left Hand Creek Master Plan (AMEC, 2014)" -- Chris Smith, General Manager, Left Hand Water District