Upper Clear Creek Watershed Pre-Fire Planning for Risk Mitigation & Post-Fire Response

Matrix assessed the Upper Clear Creek Watershed Association’s (UCCWA) critical infrastructure and developed a pre-wildfire mitigation plan that prioritizes hazards and identifies activities that UCCWA members and other stakeholders can engage in to increase resiliency before a potential catastrophic wildfire in the watershed.

Matrix collected and synthesized large amounts of existing data to identify and address critical gaps and fully leverage available information. Our team also identified the subwatersheds at greatest risk of suffering a catastrophic wildfire and prioritized those most likely to threaten water supplies if impacted by wildfire. The assessment further involved the identification and prioritization of water supply diversions, water and wastewater treatment facilities, high hazard dams, and roadway crossings at high-risk locations where pre-disaster mitigation efforts will have significant effect.

This project was the first to use a Relative Elevation Model (REM) to find sections of creek reaches that are disconnected from their floodplains and would benefit from restoration in both pre-fire and post-fire scenarios. The REM was also used to identify other project types, such as stream preservation for well-connected floodplains and post-fire debris basins that provide a wide range of mitigation strategies. creating the REM, our team used a selected reach to develop analytical techniques that use stream power to identify at risk areas not readily visible in aerials or using just the REM. The seminal analysis allowed our team to identify the exact locations where stream restoration would be most effective. Finally, the study prioritized potential mitigation projects through an extensive technical scoring process, coupled with a stakeholder-driven decision matrix that accounted for local concerns.

The work meets four critical goals:

  • Provide UCCWA inventories of watershed infrastructure and related information that are key to informed planning and mitigation and that will support future funding applications
  • Increase cooperation among UCCWA members in the implementation of projects before catastrophic wildfire and foster the strong relationships that support coordinated post-wildfire responses
  • Promote and guide collaborative mitigation efforts with the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado State Forest Service to address UCCWA priorities

Ultimately, the study facilitated the strategic spending of funds and execution of mitigation projects that enhance resiliency and reduce community risk.