Friday, May 29, 2009

The Colorado National Guard partners with the City of Fruita

Working together accomplishes good for both sides.

Gathered in the Council Room at the Fruita Civic Center on Thursday, May 28, two entities, City of Fruita staff, Council and the Colorado National Guard,  explained their partnership.

Captain Ryan Brock briefed the crowd on the history behind the project, namely for the 1-157th Infantry Battalion 947th Engineer Company to do their training on the site of Fruita’s Reservoir number one, nearly 20 miles south of the Glade Park Store, while meeting a pressing need of the City, that of fixing the dam on Fruita Reservoir number one.  State water officials had ordered Fruita to breech this dam when they found it a danger back in 2001.This limited the normally 198 acre feet of water capacity storage in the lake. 

Since the city owns the water storage rights, it stood to lose these rights unless the dam was fixed within ten years. With two years left, something had to be done. The Glade Park area, who maintains the water transportation pipes, uses the water from Fruita's reservoirs.

Fruita’s Mayor, Ken Henry, became aware of the National Guard’s IRT Program (Innovative Readiness Training). He made the city staff and the council aware of this program and the idea to facilitate the repair of the breeched dam was begun.

Fruita City Manager, Clint Kinney, was pleased at the prospect of the repair on the dam.

“This is a great opportunity for high quality training for the troops and a great benefit for Fruita in maintaining its water storage rights.”

It took 18 months to get all permissions and paper work in order. Clearance had to come from the State, the Pentagon and all levels for approval.

Captain Brock explained the Guard’s mission, that no later than August 9, 2009, the 947th would repair the reservoir for the City in order to reestablish watershed capabilities.

After equipment has been moved to the location, work begins June 23 with some 50 National Guard reserves from Ft. Carson, Durango and Grand Junction taking part in this training session as they complete phases one and two. Some 50 reserves will replace this group with an overlap of approximately a week as they complete phases three, four and five.

Being the first such project in the State of Colorado, the Guard and the City are proud to have formed this partnership.

According to Captain Brock, training benefits are great. He noted that the same type of project took place in various locations in Iraq, but there, live ammunition was whistling overhead as soldiers had to learn the process from scratch, with their lives in danger. At the reservoir, conditions will be safe, enabling a thorough training in this strategic endeavor.

The cost of fixing the dam would have been a million dollars. With the Guard completing the work, the city will save $350,000. This is the amount the Guard would have spent on any training they are mandated to do anyway. Thus the project is a win, win situation for both. The City saves that much money at a time when budgets are stretched due to the present condition of the economy, and the Guard would have spent that much money anyway, for the training they undergo once a year.

Training benefits include essential tasks in the performance of construction operations, which include roads, clearing of obstacles, soil stabilization, excavation grading and more, all crucial to whatever destinations the Guard may be sent throughout the world.

In order not to compete with the private sector, officials chose to work with non-profit organizations and other government agencies.

Thanks to two Blackhawk helicopters piloted by First Lt. Chris Fishell and 2nd Lt. Matt Jenkins, members of the Fruita City Council, Fruita City Staff and media were able to fly to the site of the dam.

Both pilots, who have served in Iraq, used these flights to refresh skills needed to transport troops in high elevations.

Red crosses on the nose of one helicopter marked it as a medevac craft used in Iraq.

 Media appreciated the opportunity to view the valley and National Monument from a sky view. The site of the dam repair was very clear from the crafts.

Hoping the partnership created with the Guard and Fruita will mark the beginning of ore such practical partnerships within the state, the representatives of both agencies are pleased. A few other states have already benefited from this type of partnership.

City Engineer, Ken Haley, noted  that he was happy to see things coming together.

The site will be transformed into a camp ground for all to enjoy.
Hiking and fishing, wildlife watching and photo ops are just a few of the benefits to the public. 
At present, the 16 some campgrounds are booked every season, mainly by out of state groups.
Black bear inhabit the area but if campers are good campers, no food scraps and such will be left where the bears can be tempted.

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