BLM okays Gore Canyon whitewater park

August 31, 2014

Colorado River in Gore Canyon

Colorado River in Gore Canyon


From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

From above and below, it’s easy to imagine how the rapids known as “Fisherman’s Nightmare” got their nickname. The chaotic jumble of rocks and water (also known as “Applesauce”) that serves as sentinel to the Colorado River’s Gore Canyon drops precipitously from the placid, pastoral flats surrounding the Blue River confluence at Kremmling and marks the start of the steepest and most technically challenging whitewater of the entire Colorado River. An unwary angler drifting into the Class V canyon can expect a frightening wake-up call.

Beneath soaring cliffs up to 1,000 feet tall, the river’s gradient shifts radically from a flatwater nature float to an adrenaline-soaked plummet of some 115 feet per mile over the next 4 miles.

It’s a little-known secret that the remote ravine shrouds some of finest fishing along the Upper Colorado, since access is largely limited to the region’s most skilled whitewater boaters. But those in the know will occasionally make their way upstream along a rugged foot path that begins at the Bureau of Land Management’s Pumphouse Recreation Site at the southern edge of Gore Canyon and eventually fades away entirely.

The popular fishing and floating stretch downstream from the Pumphouse boat ramp is known to boast some of the highest fish statistics throughout the river originating in Rocky Mountain National Park, measuring more than 3,500 trout per mile between Pumphouse and the Radium boat ramp 4 miles downstream. While the wild character of the upstream canyon doesn’t lend itself to scientific fish counts, anecdotal evidence suggests that the fish lurking in deep pools below Gore’s steep drops have grown larger and face far less angling pressure than their downstream counterparts.

“I’ve got a photo of the mythological beast that lives below Tunnel Falls (the biggest drop in the canyon) we named ‘General Sherman’ hanging in my garage. He’s just a big, thick, brown trout,” said Ken Hoeve, a Reddington team angler and former pro kayaker who fishes Gore Canyon regularly. “There really are some brutes that live in there, and they’re not very smart because nobody ever fishes for them.”

That’s not to say the fish are entirely devoid of pressures, however.

For two years running now, the Upper Colorado River Basin has earned prominent rankings among the annual ” America’s Most Endangered Rivers” report published by the conservation organization American Rivers. Due to the combined effects of drought, overallocation and transmountain water diversions to meet growing Front Range demand, the Upper Colorado was named the nation’s most endangered river in 2013 and was second only to California’s San Joaquin River this year.

“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are at a critical tipping point,” said Carbondale resident Ken Neubecker of American Rivers. “We cannot afford more outdated, expensive and harmful water development schemes that drain and divert rivers and streams across the Upper Colorado Basin. If we want these rivers to continue to support fish, wildlife, agriculture and a multibillion-dollar tourism industry, we must ensure the rivers have enough water.”

A basin-wide drought now measuring 14 years has been exacerbated by increasing municipal, agricultural and industrial demands, all of which has led to the lowest 14-year inflow to Lake Powell since the downstream reservoir began filling in 1963.

American Rivers has seen support from conservation groups including Trout Unlimited, Western Resource Advocates, the Sierra Club and Conservation Colorado, among others, attempting to implement measures to maintain critical river flows for fish, wildlife and recreation in the upper basin. Denver Water and Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District are proposing significant increases in the amount of water pumped from Colorado River headwaters across the Continental Divide through Moffat Tunnel and the Colorado-Big Thompson Project at Windy Gap.

Denver Water’s Moffat collection system expansion ultimately spawned the 2012 Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, heralded as a new vision for cooperative water management between stakeholders on both sides of the Divide. Denver Water also entered into an agreement last spring with Trout Unlimited and Grand County known as the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan (MECP) for the proposed Moffat expansion that stakeholders believe can balance municipal needs and environmental health of Colorado River headwaters should it be included in the final federal permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

More recently, the Upper Colorado benefited from another layer of protection when the BLM signed a Decision Record on Aug. 15 authorizing the proposed Gore Canyon Whitewater Park at Pumphouse Recreation Site. Grand County applied to build a riverwide wave feature for recreational use near the boat launch area and was awarded historic water rights for constructing the water park. Construction is scheduled to begin in November.

“The project will provide a unique recreational experience for the 60,000 to 70,000 people that visit the area each year,” said BLM Kremmling field manager Stephanie Odell. “It will also provide permanent protection for water flows supporting fishing and recreational float-boating.”

“This area has the potential to be ‘loved to death.’ We are close,” said Thomas Schneider, the owner of Sunrise Anglers fishing guide service in Littleton. “My clients love the remoteness at Pumphouse. It’s such a unique place. Will the added pressure from folks be a detriment to the environs?”

Others see it as a dream come true.

“These whitewater parks work. Not only do they create the best habitat for kayakers and paddlers, but also for the fish that benefit from aerated water and big pools,” Hoeve said. “It’s not like we’re diverting the water. It’s like, ‘Hey, while it runs through here, we’re going to do something good with it that encourages people to come here and fish and paddle.’ It’s another reason to keep water in the river.”

More whitewater coverage here.


Uncompahgre River: Float Highlights River Improvements, Future Visions — The Watch

August 28, 2014

From The Watch (William Woody):

Last Sunday [August 17, 2014], under beautiful sunny skies, members of the Friends of the River Uncompahgre (FORU) hosted a tour of the river from boats launched at an access point behind Chipeta Lake to a take-out near Taviwach Park on the city’s north side.

The tour was developed to give local officials and residents a first-hand experience of the river since improvements were made along its banks earlier this year; the improvements will continue in 2015 as part of the city’s continuing Uncompahgre River Master Plan, completed in 2011.

Along with local boaters, officials from the city, county, Bureau of Land Management, Parks and Wildlife and the Montrose Recreation District clambered into rafts and kayaks for the three-hour float.

Along the way, wooden markers on the river’s banks highlighted both public and private property boundaries bordering the water. Officials and residents are continuing to brainstorm ideas for possible public-property development. With a trained eye, one could see the next phases of the river master plan, which includes the addition of a whitewater park set for construction next year.

The whitewater park will be located between the pedestrian bridge in Baldridge Park and the West Main Street Bridge.

Due to the rising popularity of river sports, the trend in adding whitewater parks has continued in recent years in sites across the country as a way to draw more visitors.

“We wanted to get some ideas on how we make the river safe for families,” said Montrose City Manager Bill Bell. “We’re really trying to give locals who like the fishing or the outdoor recreation a chance to come and do that in a family friendly environment. But we also want to attract visitors and tourists.”[...]

Durango added its “watermark” years ago, incorporating its downtown with the Animas River through boardwalks and a variety of businesses. Unlike Durango, the Uncompahgre River is fed with water from the Ridgway Reservoir and the Gunnison Tunnel. This means water levels can be more sustainable throughout the year, whereas the Animas runs very low later in the summer.

The sustainable water flow offers the potential for Montrose to become a destination for whitewater companies and guides, allowing them to teach and float later in the season.

Another reason for the whitewater park is to give boaters a safer place to have fun in the rapids. With local knowledge, boaters can learn to ride the famed “M-Wave,” a large, continuous whitewater wave located on the south canal, east of Montrose. Using the park – at least at first – and avoiding the M-Wave will reduce the risk of injury, lawsuits and fatalities, according to officials…

In February, heavy equipment and surveyors with Evergreen-based Ecological Resources Consultants, Inc., spent weeks digging out a 1,500-foot stretch of the river to improve fishing habitat. The work took place directly south of the fishing bridge in Baldridge Park behind the park’s softball fields.

Re-shaping the river’s channel will not only improve the fishing habitat but also riparian wildlife areas along with entire river corridor, according to Renzo DelPiccolo of Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Montrose…

Through grants, lottery funds and city contributions, the cost of renovating the river corridor has amounted to about $900,000 so far, according to Bell.

More Uncompahgre River watershed coverage here.


BLM signs decision approving whitewater park at Pumphouse #ColoradoRiver

August 22, 2014
Pumphouse, Radium campgrounds via the Bureau of Land Management

Pumphouse, Radium campgrounds via the Bureau of Land Management

From the Bureau of Land Management:

The Bureau of Land Management signed a Decision Record Aug. 15 authorizing the proposed Gore Canyon Whitewater Park at the Pumphouse Recreation Site on the upper Colorado River.

Grand County submitted a right-of-way application to build the feature across the full width of the river upstream of the Pumphouse boat launch 2. The county was recently awarded historic water rights for constructing this waterpark.

The feature consists of engineer-designed boulders and block-like concrete objects placed across the stream channel that would not be visible at normal flows and would allow for fish passage at all flow rates. Construction is scheduled to begin in November.

“The project will provide a unique recreational experience for the 60,000-70,000 people that visit the area each year,” said BLM Kremmling Field Manager Stephanie Odell. “It will also provide permanent protection for water flows supporting fishing and recreational floatboating.”

Developing a recreational in-channel diversion below Gore Canyon implements part of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement among Denver Water and more than 30 Western Slope entities.

The Decision Record, Finding of No Significant Impact and Environmental Assessment are available on-line at: http://www.blm.gov/co/kfo.

More whitewater coverage here.


BLM okays new Colorado River whitewater park #ColoradoRiver

August 21, 2014

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

kayakPumphouse site to get new play feature for boaters

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with the incredible natural terrain of the Colorado River through Gore Canyon, boaters will soon also have an artificial place to play. The Kremmling Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management this week announced approval of the proposed Gore Canyon whitewater park at the Pumphouse Recreation area, west of Kremmling in the Upper Colorado River Valley.

View original 197 more words


Water court case for Glenwood whitewater parks gets two new players — Aspen Journalism #ColoradoRiver

August 14, 2014
City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

Click through for the graphics. From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

American Whitewater and Western Resource Advocates have joined a long list of other parties in state water court now scrutinizing an application from Glenwood Springs to create water rights for three new whitewater parks on the Colorado River.

The two conservation groups were allowed on June 6 by water court judge James Boyd to intervene in the case, even though they had missed the original deadline to do so.

Glenwood Springs applied for a new water right on Dec. 31, 2013. The 60-day deadline to file a “statement of opposition” in the case was Feb. 28.

The court received 13 such statements, which despite their name, also can be a way for other parties to conveniently monitor a case or actually be in support of an application.

Both American Whitewater and Western Resource Advocates support Glenwood’s application, which would secure a right to a “recreational in-channel diversion,” or RICD, in which river water is diverted through concrete structures embedded in a river channel, but otherwise not diverted or consumed.

The conservation groups said they should be allowed to join the case because they were concerned, in part, about Glenwood’s resolve in water court “to pursue a full suite of flows” after seeing statements of opposition come in from Aurora, Colorado Springs and other powerful water interests.

“We were a little surprised by how much opposition there was, especially from some of the heavy hitters on the Front Range,” said Rob Harris, a staff attorney with Colorado Resource Advocates who was the lead attorney for both his organization and American Whitewater. “We just wanted to make sure that the city had some allies and that voices in support of recreation were heard.”

Three parks, six waves

Each of the three whitewater parks Glenwood Springs is proposing to build on the Colorado River would have two concrete control structures embedded into the river to create ridable waves — as well as clear passage — for everything from commercial rafts to pool toys.

The uppermost park on the river would be at the No Name rest stop on I-70, at exit 121. The rest stop area includes both CDOT property and private land along the river.

The next spot downstream is at Horseshoe Bend, where I-70 goes into a short tunnel. The location can be accessed off of exit 118 at No Name, or from the bike path that runs along the river.

“The city of Glenwood Springs owns the land along both banks of, and under, the river where the RICD control structures would be constructed,” says a report by S2o Design & Engineering about the Horseshoe Bend site. “Immediately upstream, the Bureau of Land Management manages the property and has developed a covered picnic area and boulder weir to produce a large river eddy.”

Expressions of concern

The concerns of the parties in the case that had filed statements of opposition were shared in a case management conference in late April. The water court referee, Holly Kirsner Strablizky, filed minutes from the conference call with the court on April 24.

The attorney for the Homestake Steering Committee, which is an entity jointly controlled by the Front Range cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs, “stated that it is an upstream water rights owner,” according to Strablizky’s minutes. “It is [involved in case] to ensure that there are appropriate terms and conditions to address impacts on compact and compact carve-outs.”

Such “carve-outs” allow for flexibility in the face of a “compact call” or a demand from downriver states for more water, while another type of “carve-out” allows for some future level of new water development by upstream parties outside of any new restrictions created by a proposed RICD. Such carve-outs were agreed to in the decrees for recently completed RICDs in Basalt, Carbondale and Grand County.

“It was an approach to settle those cases short of litigation,” said Chris Thorne, an attorney with Holland and Hart, which is representing Glenwood Springs in the water court application and also represented Carbondale in its RICD case. “The carve-outs preserve the ability for some reasonable additional water development upstream of the proposed boating parks. And to address concerns of upstream municipal water suppliers about protection of future water supply.”

Thorne added that he wasn’t suggesting that such a carve-out would be necessary or appropriate in the case of the Glenwood RICD.

On April 30, American Whitewater and Western Resource advocates filed a joint statement of opposition and a motion to intervene.

The two nonprofits, referring to themselves as “the conservation groups,” told the court they “should be afforded the opportunity to defend this important proposed RICD.”

Under state law, only certain governmental entities, such as cities and counties, can apply for a RICD, which means that conservation groups cannot do so on their own.

The two groups told the court they “cannot rely on the city of Glenwood Springs to adequately represent their interests in this litigation” and that it “is feasible that changes in policy or administration may cause the city of Glenwood Springs to shift away from a zealous defense of the full suite of flows.”

Harris, the attorney for the conservation groups, said it was important in the motion to draw a distinction between the interests of the city and the conservation groups, but that he currently doesn’t doubt Glenwood’s resolve in the case.

All the other parties in the case consented to the effort by American Whitewater and Western Resource Advocates to join the case. However, in consenting, Aurora and Colorado Springs also went on record stating legal reasons why the motion to intervene should be denied.

The two Front Range cities said the conservation groups role in the case should be “limited accordingly” and that they would “monitor the participation” of the conservation groups to make sure they didn’t “take over” the case.

Over 1,250 cfs

Denver Water, another powerful Front Range water entity, also consented to the groups joining the case, but it did so without formal comment.

At the April 24 case management conference, an attorney for Denver Water “stated that it is OK with 1,250 cubic feet per second (cfs) and it is not sure about the larger flow claims,” the referee wrote in her minutes.

The reference to 1,250 cfs is a reference to the proposed base flow of the three whitewater parks, and, not coincidentally, also to the 1,250 cfs water right that has been exercised by the Shoshone hydropower plant, six miles up river of the proposed parks, since 1907.

A base-level instream flow right of 1,250 cfs is proposed for all three of the whitewater parks, and that flow would be in effect from April 1 to Sept. 30.

A secondary flow right of 2,500 cfs would be in place for 46 days, between April 30 and July 23. And a flow of 4,000 cfs would be in place for five days between May 11 and July 6.

“Based upon interviews with the boating community, the response was a desire to maintain a flow of 2,500 cfs as long as possible and to have a late season event around the Fourth of July when other whitewater parks do not have reliable flows,” says a report from Wright Water Engineers.

The proposed 183-day water-right season includes 46 days at levels above the base flow of 1,250 cfs, and it’s not clear if that will be acceptable to Denver Water, which agreed to the 1,250 cfs level for a new Glenwood RICD in the recently signed Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, but not to new water rights above that level.

No threat to water developers

The report also concluded that “there are numerous existing transmountain diversion projects upstream of the Glenwood Spring’s RICD that are senior to 2013. Ongoing efforts to firm up the yield of these projects would not be adversely affected by the city’s RCID claims.”

And it concluded that the RICD “has no effect on the ability to develop additional water supplies on the lower Colorado River, including the Roaring Fork River, the White River, the Yampa River, or the Gunnison River.”

In the April 24 case management conference, an attorney for CDOT said “it needs to ensure that proper channels are pursued in obtaining right to access,” according to the water referee.

An updated report on the design and engineering of the parks, submitted to the court by S2o Design & Engineering on May 30, noted that “a collaborative process with CDOT has been initiated to identify cooperative management opportunities at the rest area to provide for parking, access and site facilities use.”

There is another agency that is concerned about the Horseshoe Bend proposal.

An attorney representing the Bureau of Land Management said “it is [involved in] the case to ensure that the applicant obtains access properly,” according to the water referee.

The location of the third whitewater park is at the upper end of Two Rivers Park, just above the confluence with the Roaring Fork River, which flows into the Colorado a few blocks west of downtown Glenwood.

In all, the three parks are located across 3.25 miles of the Colorado River. The “Glenwood wave,” an existing whitewater park in West Glenwood, is downstream of the three proposed parks.

The parties in the water court case now have until Sept. 12 to provide comments to Glenwood Springs on the new reports about the proposed parks. The Colorado Water Conservation Board has been granted until Feb. 2015 to submit its required findings on the city’s application.

And, perhaps optimistically, the water referee’s April 24 minutes state that “all parties believe the case can remain in front of the referee” and not require the involvement of James Boyd, the water court judge in Division 5.

“We’re optimistic that when folks sit down at the table, they can see that they can protect their own interests with little impact on the application,” said Harris of Western Resource Advocates. “And we’re certainly open to hearing any good faith concerns the opposers might have.”

More whitewater coverage here.


Allen Best on the evolution of FIBArk

June 28, 2014

Hooligan Race 2009

Hooligan Race 2009


Click through for Allen’s photos. From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

FIBArk, which calls itself America’s oldest and boldest whitewater festival, was held in mid-June in the central-Colorado river town of Salida. The festival name consists of the acronym, first in boating, as well as the short-hand name for the river: the Arkansas.

It was launched in 1949 as a contest to see who among the 23 entrants could boat the runoff-swollen Arkansas from Salida through the frothy, sharp-edged Royal Gorge. Just two entrants, both from Switzerland, completed the 50-mile journey.

Since then, much has changed. FIBArk has grown to include 10 different river events, including one to test the retrieving abilities of dogs in water. There are also land events, including a parade. It calls itself America’s oldest and boldest whitewater festival.

Equipment and skills have changed. In 2004, a Salida boater named Brad Goettemoeller explained the changes in kayaks and competition for Colorado Central Magazine. Despite increasing competition from other whitewater festivals, he noted, FIBArk at that time was still rated No. 2 among the nation’s boating festivals by Kayak Magazine.

The river has changed, too. It has more water, courtesy of diversions from the Aspen area delivered via tunnels from under the Continental Divide.

The bed of the river has also been altered. In 1966, a bulldozer pushed boulders around to create a more difficult slalom course. In 1988, more tinkering yielded a kayak playhole near downtown Salida. There is also a standing wave used to much merriment by stand-up surfers and stand-up paddleboarders.

A railroad town, streets were predicated not on an east-west grid, but instead a perpendicular layout from the depot. The depot is gone now, and trains stopped running over the transcontinental route through Salida, Leadville, and Avon in 1997.

Instead, like so many of the old mining towns of the Rockies, Salida is a place for Tevas, GoPro, and Patagonia. You might be able to buy steel-toed work boots at the Wal-Mart, but don’t count on it. This is no longer a blue-collar town. If you like organic food, it’s a good place to be.

More whitewater coverage here.


FIBArk good for business

June 21, 2014
Hooligan Race 2009

Hooligan Race 2009

From The Mountain Mail (Allison Dyer Bluemel):

While downtown business owners saw increased foot traffic during FIBArk and said the festival went well overall, FIBArk board members said attendance was relatively steady and see room for improvements for next year. Festival attendance increased for Friday night’s music and throughout the weekend at the carnival, FIBArk Board President Christopher Kolomitz said.

“Part of the increased traffic (Friday) was due to the draw of The (Infamous) Stringdusters’ performance and great weather,” he said.

The popularity of the carnival was partly due to sales of more than 500 presale tickets before the festival and the vendor’s knowledge of the space available to him this year, which enabled him to feature two new rides, Kolomitz said.

Locals and parents seemed to really appreciate being able to get the carnival tickets ahead of time, said Lori Roberts, Heart of the Rockies Chamber of Commerce executive director.
She said festival programs were distributed earlier than usual, which enabled the chamber to convince visitors who came to town early to stay through the festival and extend their time in town.

“I think it’s important that we send people downtown,” Roberts said.

Additionally, Chaffee County’s information line, operated by the chamber, began to get heavy call volumes about 3 weeks before FIBArk from visitors looking for suggestions on what to do in the area, Roberts said.

Kolomitz said exact attendance numbers are hard to compare to previous years because FIBArk is a free, nonticketed event, but “all 4 days were jam-packed with something for everyone.”
FIBArk volunteers kept track of the number of competition participants throughout the weekend, which showed participation in land events increased while the freestyle river events decreased from previous years, Kolomitz said.

Though Kolomitz said no one event stood out from the rest, he was particularly impressed with Andy Corra’s 10th win of the Downriver Classic Sunday.

“It’s really a testament to his strength, athleticism and commitment to the sport. We’re really proud he came this year,” he said.

While most events were a success, Kolomotiz said the board and volunteers recognized that some elements of the festival could be improved upon.

“We had some issues with the timing of river events,” he said, “They were not as smooth as we would have liked.”

Next year, the board hopes to develop a better system for recording the race times and results in order to get the competitors their awards more efficiently, particularly for the downriver races, he said.

“The board member who put the results together for the Downriver has been receiving undeserved ridicule. It’s important to remember that we’re all volunteers here,” Kolomitz said.

The festival also saw a slight increase in the number of food and retail vendors, both in the park and on the Coors Boat Ramp. This year, the board decided to separate the whitewater sports booths from the others and place them closer to the boat ramp, he said.

“Overall, the music lineup was great, the vendors were tasteful, and the people at the parade seemed safe,” Roberts said.

Community members and attendees can fill out a 10-question survey to give feedback to the FIBArk board about the quality of events, music, vendors and carnival during the festival at surveymonkey.com/s/FIBArk.

Downtown retail business owners said they saw heavy traffic during FIBArk and immediately following the festival. Ruby Blues owner Michael Almeida said the store saw about a 20-percent increase in sales compared to last year. Businesses that sold merchandise catering to vacationing tourists, such as Salida Mountain Sports, Fat-Tees T-Shirt Shop and the F Street Five & Dime, saw foot traffic increase as well during the festival.

“A lot of people came in to buy things they forgot for vacation or just can’t live without,” Salida Mountain Sports employee Jen Walters said.

Colorado-specific T-shirts and anything with the Colorado flag were also big sellers, said Fat-Tees owner Duke Sheppard, who had a record-setting FIBArk this year.

However, Su Casa Furniture, Accents & Gifts co-owner Jim Balaun said business picked up following FIBArk since the store is more popular with locals and homeowners.

Downtown restaurant owners also reported increased traffic during the festival.

For Shallots, Saturday evening and Sunday brunch were particularly busy. However, the town seemed abnormally empty on Friday, co-owner Amy Potts said.

Despite the draw of music in the park, Currents co-owner Chris Tracy said the bands Current booked throughout the weekend drew in a full house of about half locals and half tourists.

“Overall, the feel from the community was that things were up and things were going well,” Kolomitz said.

More whitewater coverage here.


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