KUSA - It's one of America's iconic rivers, but the strength of the Colorado River has been taxed over the years. Now, though, there is a chance to reverse course.

“This is just a huge victory for the Colorado River and for the future health of the Colorado River," said Randy Scholfield, communications director for Trout Unlimited in the Southwest, which is involved in the grant process and project.

The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded a nearly $8 million grant to the Colorado River Headwaters Project. It will help improve a 30-mile stretch of the river near Kremmling.

"One thing it's going to do, which is huge, is restore and reconnect the river at Windy Gap Reservoir, which was built decades ago, kind of plunked in the middle of the river,” Scholfield said. “That kind of interrupted the natural hydrograph of the river and flushing flows and things like that, things that helped keep the river healthy."

The river has taken a beating over the years, in part because of trans-mountain diversions, which move water from the western slope over to the more populated east side of the state.

"About 60-percent of the native flows of the upper Colorado River have been diverted and are diverted to meet Front Range water needs,” Scholfield said. “That has a big impact on the river."

The project – which involves conservation groups, ranchers and local government agencies -- would help reduce that diversion impact by creating ripples and pools, and even raising the river in spots, to provide the best possible water flows.

"Everyone in Colorado will benefit from this,” Scholfield said. “This will keep an iconic river healthy into the future."

Work on the project is expected to start next year. It is scheduled to be finished by the year 2020.