SMP Nuts and Bolts

Implement Priority Actions

Implement Actions Graphic

Implementing priority actions may require continued dialogue among key stakeholders, especially for large projects or ongoing management actions. Implementation plans developed in the previous step should be revisited, completed or revised to provide a clearer understanding of the action’s scope and scale.

Tips for Success

Take a (quick) breather

The planning process can be long and exhausting for everyone involved. Take the time to acknowledge all stakeholders’ contributions and celebrate the milestone of having a completed plan!

Have a champion for the plan

Accountability for the stream management plan is critical for success. Be realistic about the capacity of the lead entity and make sure they have adequate resources, funding, and authority to take on this task and manage the plan’s implementation. SMP-related responsibilities should be realistic and integrated into the entity’s long-term work plan, with an identified individual assuming responsibility for SMP tasks and follow through. For a plan to translate into action, someone needs to hold people accountable.

Ensure adequate funds

Project proponents will need to secure funding for capital investments or ongoing programs. There may be a need to build institutional capacity to sustain long-term efforts. Ongoing monitoring should be planned for and funded as part of this step as well.

Thoughtfully engage stakeholders

Acknowledge with stakeholders that their roles will likely change during implementation as compared to planning. Have conversations early in the implementation phase to determine their interests and roles, level of engagement, and expectations for reporting back progress. It may not make sense for the stakeholder group to stay together as it did during the planning process. If that’s the case, make sure there is acknowledgement of the contributions to date and clarity surrounding the structure moving forward.

Project Examples

Creative Fish Projects - Middle Colorado River

The Middle Colorado SMP calls for myriad actions that support native fish:

  1. developing regional best management practices for reclamation of gravel pits (to minimize favorable habitat for invasive fish);
  2. creating an app that will help anglers to identify and report the location of invasive fish to Colorado Parks and Wildlife;
  3. landowner outreach for fishery management best practices;
  4. installing fish screens to minimize entrainment of fish; and
  5. prioritizing watershed-scale structural modifications for fish passage through partnerships with private landowners, Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Trout Unlimited.

Stay up to date or be in touch with staff to discuss these projects via Middle Colorado Watershed Council’s website.

Sustainable Funding Solution - Yampa River Fund

SMP coalitions often identify that finding local funding to use as match for state and federal grant opportunities can be challenging. Securing funding for pre- and post-development including project design, monitoring, and maintenance also adds complexity. Learning from past project implementation experiences, stakeholders in the Yampa River basin identified a need for a durable, local funding source to address anticipated funding needs. Under the leadership of The Nature Conservancy, the City of Steamboat Springs, a diverse steering committee, and countless local businesses and donors, the Yampa River Fund was created to be the sustainable funding solution. The fund is based on a Water Fund model and has an annual grant cycle that awards to eligible organizations for activities that enhance river flows, restore riparian, in-channel, streambank, and aquatic habitat, and improve agricultural infrastructure. Six grants totaling $200,000 were awarded in 2021.

Reservoir Pool Optimization – Upper Colorado River

The Grand County SMP studied numerous river reaches, specifically identifying where additional water supply could help meet existing and future recommended flow targets. This work, complemented by an effort Northern Water, Denver Water, and the Colorado River District meeting weekly to collaboratively address low flows and rising temperatures, led to numerous flow-related operation changes. One of these changes involved Grand County exercising an option to pump 1,000 acre feet of water from Windy Gap for storage in Granby Reservoir. Released over a 25-day period in summer 2018, this action significantly enhanced Colorado River flows for aquatic and recreational benefits.

Conejos River Winter Flow Program

A partnership between Trout Unlimited and the Conejos Water Conservancy District, this project has been ongoing since 2014. The Conejos River SMP created flow targets for the program by quantifying the aquatic habitat flow needs for winter and summer, affirming the assumption that the baseline releases of 7 cfs during the winter were less than ideal to support wild trout. The SMP assessment, which used the R2Cross flow assessment method, validated the program and positioned it as a priority to maintain and enhance.

The program, further described by this Water Desk article, restores stream flows by incentivizing the re-timing irrigation water releases from upstream reservoirs, funded by businesses seeking to offset their water impacts. In water year 2021, the program added 1,855 acre feet of water to the Conejos River, which was delivered out of four on-channel reservoirs in the Upper Rio Grande and Conejos Rivers. Further information on this project was described in this article by Trout Unlimited.

Approach Examples

Project Cut Sheets

The Middle Colorado Watershed Council used a common format to outline each of their recommended IWMP projects. Referred to as “Cut Sheets,” these summaries helped the coalition to ensure that common information was available for each of their projects including descriptions, project sponsors, opportunities, challenges, schedule, cost estimates, and evaluation criteria. Additionally, each cut sheet directly links the project to the IWMP objectives that the project addresses. Viewing projects in this fashion can provide a manageable format for stakeholders to view and track projects as they progress. Examples of two draft cut sheets are provided here or view their full IWMP here.

Demonstrating Success “As They Go”

The Upper San Juan Watershed Enhancement Partnership utilized their demonstration project process as a way to spark community engagement in their IWMP process. The demonstration project was selected and designed with the goals of expanding the Steering Committee’s community outreach in mind. With multiple demonstration project ideas, the Steering Committee first vetted options to consider the type of project, benefits, and challenges. Once a project was selected, the group worked with project champions to identify funding to enlist a consultant to develop the concept level plan to address key components such as landslide bank stabilization, ditch diversion, flood conveyance, and habitat improvements, and river access and parking enhancements. Maps of project boundaries, expected work areas, and overall budgets were also drafted. Outreach materials, final designs, and this flyer were shared with local homeowners associations, area water users, and other members of the public. The Steering Committee was successful in garnering feedback from these groups and hosted several in-person presentations at board meetings to get input on how to refine the package of options that benefits multiple water user groups. The success of outreach and resulting community engagement in the demonstration project led to enhanced communication and further engagement of the community with the overall Watershed Enhancement’s goal development and project proposals. 


  1. Basin Roundtables are an excellent place to start in terms of funding SMP projects.
  2. The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) administers the State’s Water Plan Grants. Discuss projects with CWCB staff and apply as early as possible for these programs, even if plans are still under development, to ensure that action items can start shortly after planning is completed.
  3. Colorado Watershed Assembly hosts a website with updated funding opportunities relevant to SMPs.
  4. CWCB hosts the Colorado Water Funding Opportunity Navigator, which keeps up-to-date information on funding opportunities from state and federal sources that may be relevant to SMPs.
Colorado SMP Library