The Voice of Our Rivers

Spotlight with Eagle River Watershed Council

Our waterways create the valleys and peaks that we explore here in Colorado. As a nonprofit organization, Eagle River Watershed Council is comprised of dedicated water experts, passionate river enthusiasts and community leaders united by a shared goal: safeguarding the resources that define this region.

Spearheading initiatives ranging from comprehensive water quality monitoring programs to impactful restoration projects and educational workshops, the Watershed Council tackles pressing water challenges head-on.

Covered Bridge spoke to the organization’s team members to learn more about how they ensure a thriving future for the rivers and streams that we call home.

What is the Eagle River Watershed Council, and why is its work important to Colorado?

Eagle River west of Minturn, Eagle County, Colorado. Photos courtesy of TWP /

The Watershed Council is your nonprofit organization committed solely to the protection of local waterways. Made up of water experts, community leaders and river lovers of all kinds, this group advocates for the streams that make this place home. From longstanding, valley-wide water quality monitoring programs to restoration projects and workshops, we safeguard water resources through forward-thinking actions.

—Melanie Smith, Development Manager

What are the unique challenges rivers face today? How does the Eagle River Watershed Council work to protect those ecosystems?

Rivers are up against some enormous challenges — like climate change, population growth and diversions. These can lead to high river temperatures, compromised water quality, low flows and habitat loss here in this amazing headwaters region. We rise to these challenges by strategically leading restoration efforts, creating and deploying water efficiency programs, advocating for waterway protections and much more. This work is critical to ensure a thriving future for all.

—James Dilzell, Executive Director

What are some successes the organization has achieved? What challenges do you foresee? 

The Watershed Council began forming in the face of the Eagle Mine spill of the late 1980’s that stained the Eagle River orange for 10 miles. Ever since, we have focused on enabling this community to enact positive change. Collaboration allows us to take innovative steps forward to protect local rivers. One example is the in-stream restoration project we’ve been working on in collaboration with Eagle County Open Space along Brush Creek. Volunteer and community support helped increase in-stream habitat, improve floodplain connectivity, and improve riparian health. There is a continued need for projects like this in our valley and we will need to continue to increase our capacity to meet these needs. Luckily, we are already able to have an outsized impact in relation to our small but mighty staff of five because of volunteers and key partnerships.

—Anna Nakae, Projects Coordinator

What is the mission statement/vision for the Eagle River that the organization has?

eagle river watershed

Early Winter Snow, Homestake Valley, White River NF, Colorado.

We make a difference for rivers and streams in the headwaters, and protect these resources for wildlife, locals, visitors, businesses and the lifestyle that makes this place home. You see our vision, leadership and collaborative work every time you enjoy a sunny float, an afternoon with family near Gore Creek or even simply turn on the tap.

—Rose Sandell, Education Coordinator

How can readers help?

You can boost our efforts to provide conservation education opportunities, coordinate restoration projects that improve water quality and protect flows, and ensure that this critical mission receives support by making a tax-deductible donation today. Whether you join as a donor, volunteer, sponsor, or participant, you’re making a real difference for local waterways. If you have questions about the Watershed Council, our mission or our work, please reach out. We welcome the opportunity to chat with you.

— Melanie Smith, Development Manager

To learn more or give now, visit

This spotlight is a sponsored partnership.