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The construction phase of the Environmental Flow Restoration Project is complete.  Ongoing site revegetation and adaptive management will continue to improve river health.

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Children wading in the Poudre River.

The City of Fort Collins, in partnership with Colorado State University, has replaced a damaged diversion structure at the Colorado State University Environmental Learning Center (ELC) to keep water flowing through a small side channel of the Cache la Poudre River. This work is critical for maintaining a water right that keeps flows in the Poudre River for fish, wildlife, and recreation at the ELC.

The video below shows the completed project.

Purpose of the Project#

The ELC Flow Restoration Project was necessary to maintain the City’s ability to keep water in the river at this location. Protecting this water right ensures the ELC continues to provide outstanding environmental education opportunities and that there is high-quality habitat for wildlife and native plants in the heart of Fort Collins.

Map showing design elements of ELC Flow Restoration Project.

Map showing design elements of the ELC Flow Restoration Project.

Project Update: Construction Complete and ELC Open!#

Project team standing on large wood structure installed for habitat improvement.

Project team standing on large wood structure installed for habitat improvement.

The City and its partners have completed the construction phase of the project. .

The entire ELC and Running Deer Natural Area is now open for visitors. Thank you for your patience during construction. Come check out the project and enjoy the newly connected floodplain. Interpretive signs on site will help visitors understand the main design components of the project. Starting in summer 2023, the project team will monitor the site post-construction to ensure it successfully meets the City's goals.

Benefits to the Cache la Poudre River#

Volunteer at ELC Earth Day willow planting. Photo by Kevin Borchert.

Volunteer at ELC Earth Day willow planting.

The City is committed to responsible stewardship of the beloved Cache la Poudre River.

Protecting instream river flows is a top priority for City Council and this project ensures that water remains in the Poudre River and the small ELC side channel. This project supports higher flows in the ELC reach, which previously experienced very low flows in the fall and winter.

Close up photo of Plains Topminnow.

Credit: CPW- Andrew Treble

The ELC Project benefits native fish.

The City of Fort Collins Natural Areas received a $199,879 grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife to improve habitat for the Plains Topminnow in conjunction with the ELC Flow Restoration Project. The Plains Topminnow is declining locally and throughout the state and is considered a Tier 1 Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Natural Areas staff, along with support from Colorado State University and Colorado Parks and Wildlife fish biologist, will reintroduce the native Plains Topminnow into the small, constructed pools at the ELC. Look for the pools on your right as you exit the pedestrian bridge to enter the site.

Project Update: ADA Access Completed!#

ADA accessible parking and river viewing platform

Mobility device consultant assesses trail accessibility.

Come check out the new ADA parking stall and grading at the ELC! Visitors in mobility devices can now park in a paved parking spot and connect to the paved Poudre Trail or the newly graded soft-surface ELC trail system. Funding for this project was provided by Nature in the City.

Project Timeline#

  • September 2020: Initial repair work removed approximately 20 cubic yards of material from the mouth of the side channel. The mouth of the channel contains cobble, gravel, and a patch of non-native reed canary grass. All work was done when the channel was dry to avoid impacts to fish, macroinvertebrates, and water quality. 
  • 2022: The City and its partners have completed a draft 100% design for the project.
  • 2022-23: Construction of the new diversion structure was completed in spring 2023.
  • 2023-Beyond: The City will operate the new diversion structure to maintain the water right.

Learn More#

For project specific questions, call 970-416-4348 or email Bernadette Kuhn at

To learn more about the ELC, visit their website.

Learn more about another project to increase flows in the Poudre River.