Has Durango sold its river, and its soul, to recreation? — High Country News

April 22, 2014
Design for the whitewater park at Smelter Rapids via the City of Durango

Design for the whitewater park at Smelter Rapids via the City of Durango

From the High Country News (Jonathan Thompson):

The City is building a park. On the river. With a boat ramp…

As upsetting to opponents as the development itself is what it will bring: More of the inner-tubing, paddle-boarding, river-rafting, beach-partying masses that have already colonized large swaths of the river during the warmer months of the year. But it’s also what the development represents. In its quest to be an amenity-rich, recreation-based town rather than the extraction based one it once was, critics say, Durango has finally gone too far.

The problem park — its name is Oxbow Preserve — consists of 44 acres of land just north of this town of 15,000 people. The City acquired the land from private owners back in 2012 with the help of $400,000 in statewide lottery funds that are doled out for such things. Generally speaking, the land acquisition itself wasn’t controversial: It would preserve a nice stretch of the river as open space with public access, benefit wildlife and allow the City to stretch the riverside bike path further afield.

After acquiring the land, the City announced that it would keep its hands off 38 acres, leaving it as open space and wildlife habitat. No worries there. Yet the remaining six acres would be developed as a park, with not only the bike path going through, but also a driveway, parking lot, restrooms and a boat ramp, accessible to commercial outfitters. This development — the ramp in particular — is what’s fueling the fight.

The Animas River has always been critical to this southwest Colorado town. Its cold waters come crashing violently out of the narrow, v-shaped gorge that slices through the San Juan Mountains. When it hits the flat-as-glass bottom of the glacially-carved Animas Valley, it slows suddenly, and its path becomes a lazy meander, almost twisting around and meeting itself at times. The sandy banks here are so soft that ranchers used to line them with crushed, old cars to prevent erosion…

Commercial river rafting got going here in the early 1980s, and has since grown into a decent-sized chunk of the local tourism trade. Back in 1990, commercial outfitters ferried some 10,000 folks down the town run. By 2005, the peak year so far, that had jumped to 52,000. In 2012 — a low water year — 38,000 paid to raft the river, making a $12 million economic impact on the community, according to a Colorado Rivers Outfitters Association Report…

At least as many people float the river without guides, including private rafters, kayakers, paddle boarders and inner-tubers. Drought actually draws more of these users, since the river is safer at low levels.

Around the river access points, cars crowd the streets on summer days and inner-tube- and Pabst Blue Ribbon-hefting, scantily-clad youngsters wander around lackadaisically among the exhaust-belching rafting company buses, crammed to the gills with tourists getting the safety talk while wearing oversized, bright-orange life jackets. Downriver, a nice slow-moving section morphs into a party zone, replete with blaring sound systems.

A large chunk of opposition to the Oxbow park plans — particularly the commercial boat ramp and developed parking lot — comes from nearby property owners, worried that the in-town riverside zoo will simply migrate upstream to their backyards. But the resistance is not all rooted in NIMBYism. Also of concern are the impacts the floating and beach-going masses will have on wildlife — the park is near a pair of great blue heron rookeries, elk habitat and bald eagle fishing areas. Still others see the inclusion of a commercial boat ramp as a subsidy for private enterprise, and as a violation of the terms of the state funds that paid for the parcel of land. The developed park has its supporters, too: Commercial river rafters would be able to stretch out their town run, as well as the rafting season (the sandy upper reaches of the river are navigable even in very low water). And they contribute to the economy — many of my friends paid their way through college and beyond as river guides.

More Animas River watershed coverage here.


Durango’s new whitewater park opened Friday for the season

April 20, 2014
Design for the whitewater park at Smelter Rapids via the City of Durango

Design for the whitewater park at Smelter Rapids via the City of Durango

From The Durango Herald:

Boaters and kayakers take their first runs through Durango’s new Whitewater Park on Friday. The $1 million project created a number of in-river features next to Santa Rita Park. The contractor is continuing to do work along the shoreline, which is not accessible adjacent to the wastewater-treatment plant.

More Animas River watershed coverage here.


The Grand Foundation’s 2014 Annual Grant Cycle deadline is Thursday, May 1 #ColoradoRiver

April 5, 2014
Gore Canyon rafting via Blogspot.com

Gore Canyon rafting via Blogspot.com

From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

The Grand Foundation announces its 2014 Annual Grant Cycle deadline as Thursday, May 1. Applications are available on the Grand Foundation’s website at http://www.grandfoundation.com. All 2013 grant recipients must have their 2013 Final Grant Reports submitted in order to be eligible for 2014 funding.

If you have any questions or would like to become more involved with the Grand Foundation, contact Megan Ledin, Executive Director, at megan@grandfoundation.com or by calling 970-887-3111.


The Pitkin County Healthy Rivers board approves development of whitewater park in Basalt

March 24, 2014
Proposed Basalt whitewater park via the Aspen Daily News

Proposed Basalt whitewater park via the Aspen Daily News

From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board on Thursday voted to seek approvals for, and build, a whitewater park in the Roaring Fork River across from the entrance to the Elk Run subdivision in Basalt.

The board agreed to develop a detailed proposal, gain approval from Pitkin County commissioners and the town of Basalt, and to fund the project.

It will cost about $750,000 to install two wave-producing concrete structures in the river and make improvements to a steep riverbank above the structures to allow for river access and viewing, according to whitewater park designer Jason Carey of River Restoration, Inc. A stripped-down version of the park, without amenities, could cost $550,000.

The five-year-old county river board is funded by a sales tax that brings in about $800,000 a year and it currently has $1.4 million set aside for future expenditures.

The county river board previously endorsed the project in 2010, but now that a water right for the whitewater park is nearly in hand, Pitkin County Attorney John Ely encouraged the board on Thursday to commit to actually getting the project built…

Carey, who designed the popular surf wave in the Colorado River in West Glenwood Springs, has been working on the “Pitkin County Whitewater Park” design since 2009…

Carey said the two concrete and rock structures would be placed in the river along a steep bank next to Two Rivers Road that had been eaten away by high water in 1995 and then crudely restored by CDOT…

The location has other good attributes, he said, including that the river is relatively deep in this reach, compared to the rocky and shallow stretches above and below it…

Most years, though, there will be plenty of water in the river to create surf waves in the park, and the county won’t have to exercise its water right and call for water, according to Lee Rozakalis, a consulting hydrologist with AMEC, who has been working on the park for the county.

More whitewater coverage here.


Buena Vista: Colorado Parks and Wildlife grant serves redesign of Silver Bullet Rapid

March 19, 2014
Silver Bullet Rapid via the Chaffee County Times

Silver Bullet Rapid via the Chaffee County Times

From The Mountain Mail (Kim Marquis):

If a redesign of the Silver Bullet rapid on the Arkansas River near Buena Vista works as planned, both boaters and fishermen could benefit. The rapid, known as the Dam, Boat Chute and Silver Bullet in boating circles, had previously been a Class IV rapid at certain water levels, which prevented some boaters and kayakers from making the run. The rapid is south of town and due east of the Buena Vista Correctional Center.

Wilderness Aware owner Joe Greiner, a longtime commercial rafting outfitter, called the former rapid “spicy” for its steep drop and consistent waves downstream. The rapid caused some private boaters to skip the section, starting trips at Greiner’s river put-in at his property in Johnson Village, instead of using the Buena Vista River Park in town.

The redesign completed in February changes the rapid into three smaller drops instead of one, possibly reducing its rating to Class II or Class III, Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area Park Manager Rob White said.

AHRA managed the $400,000 project, which was paid for by a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and contributions from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, the Arkansas River Outfitters Association and individual river outfitters.

The new design adds a drop both upstream and downstream of the original rapid, making the overall experience more gradual, White said. Construction included a fish ladder built into the smaller drops so that trout can conceivably travel upstream to spawn. The former 8-foot drop was likely too high for fish to navigate, creating a barrier to their movement upstream.
The rapid is located within a 102-mile stretch that was designated Gold Medal trout waters by Colorado Parks and Wildlife in January.

The Silver Bullet is a 1970s-era dam built to divert water for agriculture. A boat chute allowing rafters passage was changed several times, and a portage added on the right side of the river to enhance the experience. The new project could help more boaters stay on the water, rather than choosing the portage.

While the level of technical difficulty for boaters might drop due to the changes, the nature of the rest of the run from Buena Vista south to Johnson Village will remain the same. The section includes Beaver Falls, which grows to a Class III rapid at certain water levels, as well as significant drops created by the town’s river play park.

“It’ll still be too scary for rank amateurs,” Greiner said of the river section. “There will be a certain segment choosing it that was not able to do the boat chute in the past, but that’s not going to be a large number of people.”

River runners doing an afternoon run typically choose Fisherman’s Bridge or Ruby Mountain, both near Nathrop, to end their trips. Commercial trips and private boaters on an all-day excursion get off the river past Browns Canyon.

Outfitters have traditionally run the section including the Silver Bullet, so Greiner said he did not anticipate changes in commercial use because of the redesigned rapid.

The project included broader changes at the dam, also called the Helena diversion structure. Work that began in November included a replacement of the ditch’s concrete head gate, a larger concrete canal and a new bypass gate.

Both White and Greiner cautioned boaters that the Silver Bullet’s new rating will be unknown until higher flows can be observed on the river this spring and summer…

River Ratings

These ratings are published by Colorado River Outfitters Association, in accordance with the International Scale of River Difficulty.

Class I: Fast-moving water with riffles and small waves. Few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. Risk to swimmers is slight.

Class II: Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels that are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium-sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers.

Class III: Rapids with moderate, irregular waves that may be difficult to avoid. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. Scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties.

Class IV: Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. A fast, reliable eddy turn may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids or rest. Rapids may require “must” moves above dangerous hazards. Scouting may be necessary the first time down.

Class V: Extremely long, obstructed or very violent rapids that expose a paddler to added risk. Drops may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. What eddies exist may be small, turbulent or difficult to reach. At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined. Scouting is recommended but may be difficult.

Class VI: These runs have almost never been attempted and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. The consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible. For teams of experts only.

More whitewater coverage here.


Here’s hoping that deep snow and short memories don’t add up to problems for Colorado’s water future — Scott Willoughby #COWaterPlan

March 9, 2014
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

Here’s hoping that deep snow and short memories don’t add up to problems for Colorado’s water future. With the March 1 mountain snowpack measuring at 116 percent of average and 161 percent compared with last year, it’s easy to take the lifeblood of the state’s outdoor recreation industry for granted.

Hopefully that won’t be the case between now and March 19, when the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) is scheduled to report on the public’s expectations for the Colorado Water Plan initiated by Gov. John Hickenlooper last year in an attempt to address the anticipated gap between statewide water supply and demand. With a directive from the governor that “Colorado’s water plan must reflect what our water values are,” time is running short for Coloradans to define those values through public input.

Just don’t forget the two-year drought the state has been dealing with up until now.

With a gloomy forecast predicting water demands outpacing available supplies as soon as 2022, everything from agriculture to angling could be threatened even in a normal water year, along with several other aspects of Colorado’s multibillion-dollar recreation industry that relies on water from healthy rivers and streams. But it’s not just food prices and fishing that hang in the balance, it’s our very identity, the unique traits that define Colorado and many Coloradans.

Above and beyond the basic necessities, water has long defined Colorado’s character, be it an Arkansas River rafting trip or the icy snowmelt portrayed in a Coors beer commercial. Our streams support wildlife for watching, hunting and fishing, entice campers and kayakers and provide the landscapes that inspire hikers and bikers. They provide the water for snowmaking at ski areas and built the halfpipe that hosted the U.S. Open snowboarding championships at Vail this weekend.

Those are just a few examples of what the world has come to think of when it hears the name Colorado. And coupled with the executive order that the Colorado Water Plan needs to focus on “a strong environment that includes healthy watersheds, rivers and streams, and wildlife,” they should provide incentive enough to ensure measures are included in the plan that protect and restore flowing rivers and the tourism and recreation opportunities they provide.

Just in case they don’t, though, Colorado’s outdoors community of boaters, fishermen, hunters, skiers, campers, backpackers, bikers, bird-watchers and the rest should take this opportunity to further the incentive by making their collective voice heard.

The CWCB has established a process for receiving formal input to Colorado’s Water Plan, including a process for specific stakeholder groups such as those vested in “Environment and Recreation.” Information can be found at http://coloradowaterplan.com and e-mails sent to cowaterplan@state.co.us.

The most effective route may be through submitting input to specific “basin roundtables” established to present perspectives and values of citizens living in each of the state’s eight major river basins and the Denver metropolitan area. The nine roundtables are in the process of developing Basin Implementation Plans that will identify solutions to meet water needs inside the various basins and statewide. A specific page dedicated to the roundtable process has been established on the CWCB website, cwcb.state.co.us, under the “Water Management” tab.

The final Colorado Water Plan incorporating the individual basin plans will be completed by December 2015.

From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Hickenlooper and former Gov. Bill Owens gave a pep talk to water experts at a statewide summit Thursday to advance work on the state water plan, which is supposed to lay out a strategy for preserving the environment, promoting agriculture and allowing the population to double.

During Owens’ tenure, the state created roundtables in each major river basin to begin thinking about a statewide consensus on water. Since then, the groups have had some 780 meetings around the state, Hickenlooper said.

“This really is the right way to go about things, to go down in the grass roots and make sure everyone’s voice is heard,” he said…

…Hickenlooper said Colorado’s water plan, and similar plans in other Western states, could form the basis of a regional plan for the country’s dry Western states. He and other governors promoted the idea to Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a meeting at the White House two weeks ago, he said.

Obama and Vilsack said they liked the idea, and they would pay for the logistics around developing the plan, but they would let states take the lead.

“There were several senior Washington officials in that room, and they said it was the first time they’d seen the governors come in organized enough that we could hold our own against the federal agencies,” Hickenlooper said…

Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway reminded Hickenlooper that Republican presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona caused a ruckus during the 2008 campaign when he suggested the Colorado River Compact needed to be renegotiated.

“We obviously would fight that tooth and nail,” Hickenlooper said. “But the best way to avoid that … is to have a relationship with the other states, and we can put ourselves in their shoes and have them put themselves in our shoes.”

[Sen. Ellen Roberts] said she is worried about Colorado’s negotiating strength if the Western states start working on a regional water agreement.

“I’m not sure I’m on board with that. I think it’s a very ambitious task just to get a state water plan,” Roberts said.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Colorado River Outfitters Association: Commercial rafting on the Arkansas River = $55 million

March 8, 2014

raftingarkriver

From The Mountain Mail (Nick Jumey):

Commercial rafting on the Arkansas River brought an economic impact of more than $55 million from 179,535 user days in 2013, according to an end-of-year report by Colorado River Outfitters Association.

The association defines a “user day” as “a paying guest on a river for any part of a day.”

To calculate economic impact, the association multiplies user days by “direct expenditures” and the “economic multiplier.”

Direct expenditures are the total cash outlay for rafting, food, lodging, etc., spent in the local area by one river rafting customer in one day. The economic multiplier is the number of times a dollar is spent in the local area before being spent outside that area – 2.56 times, according to the Colorado Tourism Board.

Overall, the report showed rivers in Colorado had an economic impact of more than $145 million in 2013, an increase of 13.5 percent from 2012’s $127 million. In addition, rafters spent nearly 50,000 more user days on Colorado rivers in 2013, including an increase of 10,000 user days on the Arkansas River alone.

The Arkansas River accounted for 38.89 percent of the market share of river rafting impact in 2013, the largest share by a wide margin. The next closest rivers in terms of market shares were the Colorado River (23 percent combined) and Clear Creek River (13.2 percent), according to the report.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) recently cited the association report as a reason to cosponsor S. 1794, also known as the Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Act of 2013.

In a press release, Bennet cited the report’s findings, including the $55 million economic impact, and noted that the Arkansas River is particularly popular for whitewater rafters.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), aims to protect the Browns Canyon region as “an invaluable economic and natural resource for Chaffee County and the state” and would preserve 22,000 acres along the Arkansas River as a national monument.

“The rugged and unique beauty of Browns Canyon attracts outdoor enthusiasts from around the world who come to hike, camp, climb and raft,” Bennet said in a press release. “This generates millions of dollars of revenue for our local economies.
“Designating Browns Canyon as a national monument will not only allow future generations to enjoy the whitewater rapids in the heart of the Rockies, but it will also ensure that the area remains an economic driver and job creator for the region.”
Keith Baker, Buena Vista, executive director of Friends of Browns Canyon and a retired Navy commander, said he was pleased to hear Bennet’s decision to cosponsor the bill.

“We’re pleased and honored to have Sen. Bennet on board with this important legislation, which not only protects one of Colorado’s world-class recreational destinations, but was built from the ground up by local people who do business, recreate and make their homes in this part of the state,” Baker said.

More whitewater coverage here.


Glenwood Springs RICD application draws 13 statements of opposition #ColoradoRiver

March 7, 2014
City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

One of the 13 formal “statements of opposition” filed in the case as of Thursday comes from another of Glenwood Springs’ major recreational attractions, the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool.

The Hot Springs, in a Feb. 27 water court filing, renewed its long-standing concerns that any whitewater park features constructed in and along the river near the springs’ aquifer could potentially harm the springs.

“Operation of the [proposed] Two Rivers Whitewater Park facilities may inundate and damage portions of the Colorado River riverbed and adjacent river banks,” which could in turn damage the Hot Springs Pool facilities, according to the filing by Hot Springs attorney Scott Balcomb.

At issue would be a proposed location for a potential new whitewater park at the east end of Two Rivers Park, just above the confluence with the Roaring Fork River. It’s one of three possible locations identified in the city of Glenwood Springs’ request filed late last year for a recreational in-channel diversion, or RICD. The others are near the No Name rest area on I-70 in Glenwood Canyon, and in the Horseshoe Bend section of the river just east of town, by the No Name Tunnels…

The city now hopes to build on the economic success of the whitewater sports boom by building a second play park. To accomplish that, however, it will have to negotiate with the various entities that have filed as opposers to make sure their concerns are satisfied. That could take several years, said Mark Hamilton, a water attorney who is representing the city of Glenwood Springs in ushering the case through Colorado’s water court.

“For a case like this, that’s not unexpected,” he said of the number of entities that have taken the formal step of opposing the city’s RICD request.

Just because an entity files a statement of opposition doesn’t necessarily mean that they will ultimately object to the request, Hamilton explained. It just means that they want to be party to the negotiations so that any current or future concerns are heard as the plans take shape, he said.

Hamilton said he believes the proposed Two Rivers Park location would be far enough downstream from the hot springs that it should not be a concern.

“Obviously, everybody acknowledges that the Hot Springs Pool is and will continue to be an important part of Glenwood Springs’ economy, and their concerns are something that will have to be a part of this discussion,” Hamilton said…

Other heavy hitters that have filed to be part of the discussions include the Denver Water Board, the state’s largest water utility which owns significant water rights on the Colorado River, plus the city of Colorado Springs, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and several upstream and downstream water users.

Denver Water would not have been able to oppose the request by Glenwood Springs under the recent new Colorado River Cooperative Agreement it signed with Western Slope water interests, except that the request is for more water during certain times of the year than Denver had agreed to in that deal, Hamilton also said.

The city’s request seeks a “shoulder season” base flow of 1,250 cubic feet per second during the month of April each year and again from July 24 through Sept. 30. That is less than the 1,280 cfs Denver Water agreed it would not object to. However, Glenwood also requests a maximum flow rate not to exceed 4,000 cfs for up to five days between May 11 and July 6 each year, and 2,500 cfs for as many as 46 days between April 30 and May 10 and July 7-23.

The extra amount during those times could impair Denver Water’s ability to divert water under the separate Shoshone relaxation agreement, according to the utility’s statement of opposition filed Feb. 28. Further, the request could also affect Denver Water’s ability to implement its agreement with Grand County for municipal, snowmaking and environmental purposes, the utility claims.

Grand County, which recently had its own RICD request OK’d, filed a formal statement of support for the Glenwood Springs request.

“Grand County has been actively involved in efforts to preserve, protect, restore, and improve streams in the headwaters of the Colorado River and its tributaries and resolve various controversies with Denver Water,” the county stated in support of Glenwood’s application. “The [RICD] that this application seeks is consistent with Grand County’s efforts.”

Hamilton said the case has been assigned to a water referee in Glenwood Springs to oversee the initial negotiations. There will also be an administrative hearing before the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which will make a recommendation on the request.

He noted that the Grand County case is nearing completion after about 3-1/2 years, while a similar request recently granted to the town of Carbondale for a RICD on the Roaring Fork River took multiple years to process as well.

From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

Three of the objectors are municipal water providers on the Front Range — Denver Water, Aurora Water, and Colorado Springs Utilities. They depend on water from the Colorado River basin and are concerned about new recreational water rights limiting their future water management options.

Three entities — the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the BLM and the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge and Pool — are concerned about the proposed locations of the whitewater parks.

The Colorado River District, which represents 15 counties on the Western Slope, is generally supportive of Glenwood’s application, according to the district’s attorney Peter Fleming, but like the Front Range entities, it also has concerns about limiting the amount of water available for future junior water rights upstream of the proposed whitewater parks.

The West Divide Water Conservancy District, based in Rifle, simply told the court it “is the owner of vested water rights that may be injured by the granting of this application.”

Another four entities say they just want to monitor the case: the town of Gypsum; the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District in Palisade; the Ute Water Conservancy District and the Grand Valley Water Users Association, both in Grand Junction.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) also filed a statement, as it routinely does for applications of a new “recreational in-channel diversion right,” or RICD. The state agency is charged with reviewing such proposals and sending findings to water court.

And Grand County has filed a document perhaps unique to water court — a “statement in opposition in support of application.” This means Grand County supports Glenwood’s applications, but wants to be involved in the case via the filing of a required statement of opposition…

Technically, there were 13 statements of opposition filed in the case. The three Grand Valley water users, however, filed a joint application, so there are a total of 15 objecting entities. And Aurora and Colorado Springs, in addition to each filing a statement, also filed together as the Homestake Steering Committee. The two cities are partners in the Homestake Reservoir on the headwaters of the Eagle River, which flows into the Colorado River at Dotsero, which is located above the three proposed whitewater parks…

He said he expected that Denver Water would file an objection, as Glenwood has asked for the rights to more than 1,250 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water. That rate of flow is the same as the senior water right held by Xcel Energy for the Shoshone hydro plant, which also is above the three proposed whitewater parks…

And that’s the amount of water for a Glenwood whitewater park that Denver Water said it could support in the recently finalized Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which was signed by Denver Water and 17 other entities.

“One of the provisions for support was that the recreational in-channel diversion wouldn’t exceed 1,250 cfs at the Dotsero gage,” said Travis Thompson, a media coordinator with Denver Water. “This is the amount of water needed to mimic the senior Shoshone call.”[...]

Hamilton, Glenwood’s water attorney, said the requested water rights sought above 1,250 cfs are “purely based on kayakers and boaters saying it sure would be great to have that much flow.”

He said he’s in discussions with Denver Water about Glenwood’s application and will soon be talking with all the objectors in the case…

And the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge and Pool is concerned that wave-creating structures built in the river near the hot springs pool could harm the underground aquifer that supplies hot water to the pool. Kjell Mitchell, the president and CEO of the Hot Springs Lodge and Pool, said engineering studies have shown the boundary of the underground aquifer extends from above the pool to below Two Rivers Park. The city has proposed that one of its whitewater parks be built just above Two Rivers Park.

“The primary issue of our concern is the potential scouring of the river which could create a hole in the bottom of the river and damage the aquifer,” Mitchell said.

More whitewater coverage here.


Glewood Springs: RICD application will draw many opposers #ColoradoRiver

February 24, 2014
City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The city of Glenwood Springs is looking to build on the popularity of its whitewater attractions, both natural and man-made. In doing so, it may have to navigate potential obstacles including another popular local attraction, the Glenwood Hot Springs, not to mention the state’s largest water utility, Denver Water.

A new agreement between Denver Water and Western Slope entities doesn’t prevent the state’s largest water utility from opposing Glenwood Springs’ proposed new recreational in-channel diversion, or RICD, water right on the Colorado River. That’s because Glenwood is seeking more water under its proposal than Denver Water agreed to go along with under the new water deal.

Meanwhile, Glenwood also has revived the idea of a downtown whitewater park, which has revived the hot springs’ concerns about potential impacts on the springs’ aquifer.

City officials are hopeful of being able to deal with any concerns from either Denver Water or the hot springs, and building on the success of the park already constructed on the Colorado River near the Interstate 70 interchange on the western edge of town.

“My perception is it has been very successful,” said City Manager Jeff Hecksel.

The big wave that forms at the park during spring runoff draws whitewater enthusiasts from all over the country, he notes.

“It has its own following,” Hecksel said.

Whitewater boating is a major part of the city’s tourism industry, with several outfitters offering guided trips in Glenwood Canyon. The city has identified several proposed locations for a new whitewater park, including the downtown location just upstream of the Roaring Fork River, the Horseshoe Bend area just west of the No Name Tunnels of I-70, and at the No Name I-70 rest area east of Glenwood Springs.

“This is already a very actively used (river) corridor,” said Mark Hamilton, a water attorney representing the city. “I think additional whitewater features will just enhance that.”

The city’s current park has no associated water rights. Flow there is aided year-round because it’s downstream of the Roaring Fork River and benefits from the senior water right of the Shoshone hydroelectric power plant in Glenwood Canyon.

The city is requesting a base flow of 1,250 cubic feet per second for the warmer months of the year. That’s consistent with the Shoshone right, and is an amount Denver Water specifically agreed not to oppose as part of the new water deal with the Western Slope.

That deal was announced in 2011 and took effect last fall after resolution of some final issues. It involves more than 30 Western Slope entities, and includes provisions including the Western Slope assenting to certain Denver Water projects involving Colorado River water, and Denver Water committing to develop any further such projects only with Western Slope approval, and also committing more than $25 million to Western Slope projects.

What complicates Glenwood Springs’ water application is that it also is seeking a higher flow of 2,500 cfs during 46 days coinciding with spring runoff, with flows of 4,000 cfs for five days within that period.

“I think some folks may see it as not contemplated by the cooperative agreement but it doesn’t run counter to the letter of the agreement,” said Peter Fleming, who as an attorney with the Colorado River Water Conservation District was involved in negotiating that agreement. Rather, he said, it simply means Denver Water can oppose the RICD filing. He said it just will come down to negotiations, which also will entail convincing the Colorado Water Conservation Board it’s a reasonable request and won’t interfere with things such as water compact requirements.

“I don’t think it’s going to be an enormous problem. I think there’s going to be some negotiations and some restrictions on the exercise of the RICD but there normally are,” he said.

Consultation process

Importantly, Fleming doesn’t consider Glenwood’s request a violation of the deal with Denver Water that could jeopardize terms such as the monetary commitment Denver Water has made to the Western Slope. That deal didn’t limit how much water the city could seek, but simply set a limit to the size of a diversion Denver Water would consent to without being able to object in water court.

“I don’t think it imperils the cooperative agreement at all,” he said.

Denver Water spokesman Travis Thompson confirmed that view Friday.

“The filing of the RICD is not a violation of the (agreement). Because the filing does not meet the provisions in the (agreement), Denver Water is not required to support it as filed,” he said.

As part of the agreement, the city agreed to consult with Denver Water regarding its application, “and through our discussions, they are aware that we will file a statement of opposition,” Thompson said.

But he said the utility is committed to working with the city on the issue.

Opposition statements aren’t uncommon in water cases, and aren’t necessarily intended to outright prevent approval of a water right. Rather, they can represent an attempt by an entity to be able to have a say as an application is considered in court.

Said Thompson, “This RICD is not uncommon, as these filings often involve multiple parties who object, and then these issues are resolved during the court process.”

The river district itself has decided to file an opposition statement.

“From the river district’s perspective we look at the RICD both with a concern to make sure they don’t imperil water usage in the river district but also as a legitimate use,” Fleming said. “We want to make sure the Western Slope recreational economy is supported so it’s sort of a tug and pull there.”

Hamilton said the city engaged in discussions with Denver Water for the water rights filing and those conversations continue.

“This was not an intent to surprise anyone,” he said.

He said the total claims are intended not to exceed half the volume of water typically available in that part of the river.

“Presumably that leaves quite a bit of additional water in the river that could be appropriated for other purposes,” he said.

He said most if not all of Denver’s water rights would be senior to the rights being sought.

“If Denver already has water rights, they’re unaffected,” he said.

Hot Springs’ aquifers

Communities are increasingly seeking such rights in order to create whitewater parks as added recreational and tourism amenities. Carbondale recently was granted such a right and Pitkin County is seeking one. Grand County is seeking Bureau of Land Management approval related to a proposed park on the upper Colorado River in Gore Canyon, after obtaining water rights for it.

Glenwood’s efforts over the years have been a bit more complicated by the Glenwood Hot Springs’ interests. Proponents wanted to build the first park downtown but were thwarted by the concerns raised by the springs, the city’s central tourism attraction. Kjell Mitchell, the attraction’s president and chief executive officer, said the concern is that a park could cause river-bottom scouring that could puncture shallow aquifers and affect the springs. Another concern is that a park could contribute to flooding and harm the springs. He believes the first park site turned out to be a great location for the city, and hopes it will look to the possible locations being considered farther east rather than downtown.

“I hope if the city wants to do something that they would hopefully see the big picture and it would be a win-win situation,” he said.

The pool sent a letter to the city outlining its concerns last year. Asked about the potential of the issue ending up in court if the city pursues the downtown location, Mitchell said, “I hope it doesn’t get to that point.”

Hamilton and Hecksel said the proposed location is downstream of the hot springs.

Said Hecksel, “I think it’s a matter of perception. I don’t think anybody’s going to dismiss what the concerns of the pool are, but (the proposed location) is farther downstream.”

He said the city continues to discuss the matter with the pool.

“The city acknowledges their concerns,” he said.

More whitewater coverage here.


Say hello to High Desert Dories: ‘Dories are the inverse of rafts’ — Andy Hutchinson

February 23, 2014
Photo via High Desert Dories

Photo via High Desert Dories

From the Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

An eclectic gang of river runners, Grand Canyon guides, and boating purists take refuge in Dolores during the winter off-season.The amicable group never strays too far from their coveted rivers, skiing backcountry powder that will soon transform into whitewater rapids, and then quaffing pints of craft beer made from the same water at the Dolores River Brewery.

In between, they gather for thousands of hours to talk rivers, play bluegrass, and build custom boats in the shop of local legend Andy Hutchinson, owner of High Desert Dories.

A master craftsman and Grand Canyon guide, Hutchinson’s humble and casual demeanor masks his enthusiastic life passion for building custom dories and piloting them through river country.

“In 1982, I was on a beach at Nankoweap Canyon when I first saw a flotilla of these classic boats coming down the Colorado River,” Hutchinson, 57, recalls. “It was like the heavens called down to me, and I’ve been obsessed ever since.”

Dories are wooden oar boats originally used on the great rivers of the West by pioneers including Civil war veteran John Wesley Powell, who completed the first-ever trip down the rapid-choked Grand Canyon rowing a dory in 1869.

Replaced by less aesthetic plastic and rubber rafts that are more forgiving against river rocks, but also more cumbersome, dories fell out of mainstream favor in the 1970s.

But the dory’s classic rocker shape, turn-on-a-dime maneuverability, and ample waterproof storage compartments always stayed popular for the old-school crowd, and today they are attracting more converts.

“Dories are the inverse of rafts, so they turn easily with a stroke of the oar, but they do not bounce of rocks very well, so you carry a good-size repair kit, or better yet miss the rocks!” Hutchinson said. “What’s nice too is that they’re like giant coolers with lots of compartments to take everything along.”

More whitewater coverage here.


Glenwood Springs proposed RICD application is drawing the attention of other #ColoradoRiver users

February 17, 2014
City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

From the Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The West Divide Water Conservancy District of Rifle filed a “statement of opposition” with District Court, Water Division No. 5 on Jan. 27.

West Divide said it is “the owner of vested water rights that may be injured by the granting of this application” to Glenwood Springs.

Other such filings are expected from Denver Water, the Colorado River District and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

A “statement of opposition” is typically formulaic and opaque. The filer’s true intent can be hard to discern. It may be genuine opposition, curiosity, or an easy way to monitor a case.

In most cases, parties eventually agree to limits on the proposed water right, which are ultimately reflected in a decree from the water court.

“It’s a long process,” attorney Mark Hamilton of Holland and Hart in Aspen told the Glenwood Springs City Council on Dec. 19. “It can be a slow process. There’s a lot of opportunities for issues to be raised and resolved.”

On Dec. 31, Glenwood Springs applied to secure a steady flow of water in its proposed whitewater parks. It is seeking a base flow of 1,250 cubic feet per second (cfs), from April 1 to Sept. 30. It is also claiming the right to 2,500 cfs of water for 46 days between April 30 and July 23.

And it wants the right to 4,000 cfs of water for five days of big-water boating during peak flows between May 11 and July 6.

The rights would be dependent upon rock structures being anchored in the river to create play waves at No Name, Horseshoe Bend and on the stretch of river between the Grand Avenue Bridge and Two Rivers Park, just below downtown Glenwood.

Given the size of the water rights being requested, and because they are on the heavily managed Colorado River, Glenwood’s application is likely to draw interest…

Glenwood’s “non-consumptive” rights would be legally tied to the eventual building of six rock structures in the river, creating two play waves in each of the three parks.

The water would stay in the river, but would run over boulders secured in the riverbed to form waves at high, medium and low flows…

The whitewater park at No Name, about two miles upriver from downtown Glenwood, would use the existing parking lot and restrooms at the CDOT rest stop on Interstate 70. The structures would be just upriver of the rest stop and Glenwood Canyon Resort.

Horseshoe Bend is about a mile above Glenwood, where the existing bike path crosses over the highway and runs by a picnic shelter on BLM land, in a narrow and deep part of Glenwood Canyon.

The third park would be on a wide stretch of river below the Grand Avenue Bridge, but above the confluence of the Colorado and the Roaring Fork rivers, where a pedestrian bridge crosses the Colorado at Two Rivers Park.

The three new parks would be upriver of the existing “Glenwood Wave” in the Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park, in West Glenwood…

The River District board voted in January to file a statement in the case, citing protection of its water rights and interstate water agreements.

It also wants to maintain the recently approved Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which speaks to managing the upper Colorado River…

A January memo from Peter Fleming, the general counsel of the River District, said Denver Water “might assert that the claimed flow rates do not follow the strict language of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement.”

As such, Fleming said, Denver Water “likely will oppose” Glenwood’s application.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


The BLM is accepting comments for the the proposed Gore Canyon Whitewater Park

February 11, 2014

Gore Canyon rafting via Blogspot.com

Gore Canyon rafting via Blogspot.com


From the Glenwood Springs Independent:

The Bureau of Land Management is seeking public comment on its environmental assessment of the proposed Gore Canyon Whitewater Park at the Pumphouse Recreation Site on the upper Colorado River.

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

The feature consists of engineered boulders and block-like concrete objects placed across the stream channel that are not visible at normal flows and allow for fish passage at all flow rates. Construction is scheduled to begin this fall.

“The project would 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 would also provide permanent protection for water flows supporting 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 BLM is writing an environmental assessment of the proposal that addresses multiple alternatives for the waterpark’s location and construction.

A copy of the preliminary environmental assessment, including maps, is available at http://www.blm.gov/CO/KFO. BLM will accept written public comments through Feb. 28.

Comments should be addressed to Annie Sperandio, Realty Specialist, Kremmling Field Office, P.O. Box 68, Kremmling, CO 80459.

More whitewater coverage here.


Water court approves new RICD for Carbondale

February 10, 2014
Roaring Fork River in winter

Roaring Fork River in winter

From the Aspen Daily News (Nelson Harvey):

Colorado District Five Water Court Judge James Boyd signed a decree on Feb. 3 granting Carbondale the recreational, in-channel water right necessary to built a whitewater park consisting of five obstructions — rocks or concrete barriers that would create waves of varying sizes — placed in the river over a 1,425-foot span between the Highway 133 bridge and the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Crystal Rivers.

The new water right is non-consumptive, meaning Carbondale can use the water for its kayak park so long as it leaves that water in the river and doesn’t divert it for irrigation, municipal use or other purposes.

Judge Boyd’s decree entitles Carbondale to varying amounts of water throughout the year, which would translate into waves that changed with the seasons.

Between March 15 and April 14, Carbondale could run 230 cubic feet per second (cfs) through its kayak park between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. That same rate would apply in the late fall, between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30.

During periods of historically high runoff, such as between May 15 and July 14, the flow rate would be boosted to 1,000 cfs. Carbondale would also have the right to as much as 1,600 cfs for two special events such as kayak competitions lasting up to four days apiece in June, and to as much as 1,160 cfs for another special event between May 15 and May 31. During the June events, water could be used until midnight to facilitate the possibility of nighttime competition.

Although Carbondale has long contemplated building a kayak park to boost recreational opportunities for locals and tourists alike, there are no active plans to do so at this point. Placing obstructions in the river to create the park would require permits from other government agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and perhaps Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Still, the recent water decree provides the town with the legal foundation necessary to proceed with the project sometime over the next six years if desired…

Over the last eight years, Hamilton has been negotiating to placate several local and Front Range water interests who registered objections to Carbondale’s application for the new water right, including the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the State and Division Engineers, Colorado Springs Utilities, the Southeastern Water Conservancy District, the Basalt Water Conservancy District, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, and Stanley and Valerie Koziel, who used to own Gateway Park near the intersection of Highway 82 and Highway 133.

More whitewater coverage here.


CWCB finds that Pitkin County’s proposed RICD meets requirements to go forward

January 30, 2014
Roaring Fork River in winter

Roaring Fork River in winter

From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The CWCB is required by state law to determine if a proposed recreational in-channel diversion, or “RICD,” meets certain requirements. Having found that the county’s proposed water right for the Basalt kayak park passes the test, its written finding will now be sent to District 5 water court, which is reviewing the county’s water right application.

If the water court ultimately issues a decree for the new in-channel water right, it will form the basis of what will be known as the “Pitkin County River Park.”

The kayak park will include two surf waves created by placing two rock structures in the Roaring Fork River. The waves are designed to be accessible for beginner and intermediate kayakers, and would be rated at “green” and “blue” levels of difficulty, akin to the rating of ski trails.

The section of river is just below the Basalt bypass bridge on Highway 82 and above the confluence of the Roaring Fork and the Fryingpan rivers near downtown Basalt…

If the water right is decreed as presently configured, it would allow the county to call for differing levels of water to be sent down the Roaring Fork River to the Basalt kayak park.

From April 15 to May 17, the county could call for 240 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water to flow through the park. By comparison, the Roaring Fork River below Maroon Creek has been flowing at about 100 cfs in January.

Then, from May 18 to June 10, the county could call for 380 cfs. And during peak runoff, from June 11 to June 25, it could call for 1,350 cfs of water to flow through the kayak park and create the biggest surf waves of the season.

After June 25, the water right steps back down to 380 cfs until Aug. 20, and then back to 240 cfs until Labor Day…

The new water right would be “non-consumptive,” meaning the water would stay in the river and not be diverted for a “consumptive” use, such as irrigation.

The county applied for the new water right in water court in December 2010. If it is approved, the water right would have an appropriation date of 2010, making it a “junior” water right, compared to “senior” water rights dating back to the early 1900s or late 1880s, as many water rights in the region do.

As part of the water court process, the county has negotiated settlement agreements with over a dozen other water rights holders in the Roaring Fork River basin. As such, the scope of the county’s proposed water right has been narrowed.

For example, the length of the season when the new water right would be in effect was reduced by 25 days to a period between April 15 and Labor Day, and the county can only call for water from upstream junior water rights holders to flow through the park during daylight hours.

And the county agreed to a “carve out” provision that allows up to 3,000 acre-feet of new water rights to be developed upstream of the kayak park over the next 15 years, without being subject to the local government’s new water right.

Those provisions, and others, were enough to convince the CWCB board on Monday to rule in favor of the in-channel diversion water right.

There is, however, still one party objecting to the water right in state water court, the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co.

Twin Lakes diverts about 50,000 acre-feet of water each year off the top of the Roaring Fork river basin, primarily for municipal use in Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Pueblo West and Aurora.

Twin Lakes is concerned the water right for the kayak park will limit its ability to develop other new water rights in the Roaring Fork River basin in the future.

However, at the CWCB meeting, the water attorney for Twin Lakes sounded OK with new language approved by the board that was designed to address Twin Lakes’ concerns.

“It sounded positive,” [Pitkin County Attorney John Ely] said of Twin Lakes’ evolving position. “They have to go back to their board, and so, we’ll see.”

More whitewater coverage here.


Colorado River Gains Recreational Flow Rights for Whitewater Parks

January 24, 2014

kayaker

From email from White & Jankowski, L.L.P. (Melanie Cabral):

The Grand County Board of County Commissioners was awarded historic water rights for two whitewater parks on the Colorado River in a recent water decree entered by Judge Boyd in Division 5 Water Court. The Hot Sulphur Springs Whitewater Park was granted water rights for flows ranging from 250 to 850 cfs. The Gore Canyon Whitewater Park was granted water rights for flows ranging from 860 to 1500 cfs. Uniquely, the decree also protects deliveries of water up to 2,500 cfs to the Gore Canyon Whitewater Park.

“This decree represents a significant investment by Grand County to gain water rights for recreational use by river rafters and kayakers, which is a huge economic driver in the area,” Commissioner Gary Bumgarner said. These water rights were part of an agreement reached in the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement with Denver Water and the Windy Gap Firming Project Intergovernmental Agreement with the Municipal Subdistrict of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “Although there was a lot of pushing and shoving to get these water rights through water court, the decree represents a good balance of the multiple uses that are made of water in our state” said Commissioner Merrit Linke. “We had 25 objectors in our case, but were able to reach a settlement with everyone,” Commissioner James Newberry said.

Recreational in-channel diversions (RICDs) have had a controversial history due to concerns that RICDs “tie-up” stream systems and impede more traditional, consumptive uses of water. As a result, the Colorado General Assembly substantially revamped the law in 2006 to require the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) provide findings that RICDs: 1) will not impair Colorado’s ability to develop water under its compacts: 2) will promote maximum utilization of waters of the State; and 3) will not injure CWCB’s instream flow water rights. The CWCB made favorable findings on the Grand County RICDs in March 2012.

“This is the first RICD decree entered under the new statutes,” noted David Taussig, an attorney with White & Jankowski, LLP in Denver who represents Grand County on water matters. “It is the largest RICD water right decreed in Colorado and the only one on the Colorado River mainstem to date,” he said. “The beauty of Colorado water law is its ability to accommodate new uses of water and to fit them into the prior appropriation system,” Taussig said.

Grand County is presently planning construction of the Gore Canyon Whitewater Park, with hopes to begin construction as early as this fall. Grand County has secured a grant from the CWCB for $500,000. Eagle County has pledged to contribute $340,000, and the County is raising the remainder of funds for the $1.2M project. Contributions to complete the project may be made to the Grand Foundation at http://www.grandfoundation.com/page/49/gore-canyon-whitewater-park/.

For more information, contact Lurline Underbrink Curran (970) 725-3347, or David Taussig or Mitra Pemberton (303) 595-9441.

More whitewater coverage here and here.


Glenwood Springs city councilors green light RICD application

December 27, 2013
The Glenwood Wave

The Glenwood Wave

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

Creating the whitewater park would involve placing structures in the river to create flow patterns to make the area more fun for kayaking and other whitewater recreation craft. The exact location of the planned park has not yet been determined. The city already has one whitewater “wave” park in West Glenwood.

According to the article, the city’s application seeks a maximum flow rate of 4,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) for up to five days between May 11 and July 6, and 2,500 cfs for up to 46 days in the periods from April 30 to May 10 and July 7-23. In addition, the application seeks “shoulder season” flow rates of 1,250 cfs between April 1-29 and from July 24 – Sept. 30. The right would be limited to between 6-9 p.m., except for special events when it could be extended to midnight.

This demonstrates both how detailed and focused a water right can be, and the recognition that keeping water in the river for recreational boaters can be a “beneficial use” that brings tourism revenues to riverside communities. Demonstrating a “beneficial use” is necessary to obtain a water right under Colorado water law.

The Colorado Legislature established a procedure for the adjudication of water rights for recreational purposes in 2001, which was amended in 2006. The legislation limited the circumstances under which such a water right, formally called a “Recreational In-Channel Diversion” (RICD), can be granted. A key condition is that the proposed right must not impair the state’s ability to develop the full amount of water the state is entitled to under interstate water compacts.

Cities that obtained decrees for RICDs prior to the 2001 legislation were not subject to these conditions. Aspen, Breckenridge, Fort Collins, Golden, Littleton and Vail obtained their rights before 2001. Avon, Chaffee County, Durango, Longmont, Pueblo, Silverthorne, Steamboat Springs, and the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District have all received water-rights decrees for RICDs since the legislation was passed.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board website on RICDs lists applications from the following entities as “pending:” Grand County, for whitewater parks at Hot Sulphur Springs and Gore Canyon; Pitkin County; and the Town of Carbondale. It can take several years for an RICD to obtain final approval.

To learn more about these water rights and how RICDs are decreed, go to the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s RICD page: http://cwcb.state.co.us/ENVIRONMENT/RECREATIONAL-IN-CHANNEL-DIVERSIONS/Pages/PendingandDecreedRICDs.aspx.

More whitewater coverage here.


Glenwood Springs: The city council green lights RICD application for the #ColoradoRiver

December 23, 2013
The Glenwood Wave

The Glenwood Wave

From the Glenwood Spring Post Independent (John Stroud):

A unanimous City Council, at its Dec. 19 meeting, supported filing an application in Colorado Water Court to secure what’s known as a Recreational In-Channel Diversion (RICD) surface right on the Colorado during peak spring and summer months for a second whitewater park. The application seeks a protected junior water right to be granted under the same priority system as other types of water rights, attorney Mark Hamilton explained…

If successful, the new park would be in addition to the city’s existing West Glenwood whitewater “wave” park.

Consultants narrowed down potential sites to a stretch of river upstream from the No Name Rest Area at the west end of Glenwood Canyon, another at west side of Horseshoe Bend downstream from No Name, and a third just upstream from the confluence with the Roaring Fork River. Each location provides direct access from bike paths, and exhibit in-stream features that would make them ideal for developing a whitewater park for kayaks, stand-up boards and other types of recreational water craft, according to the consultants.

Glenwood Springs is unique compared to other parts of the state, Hamilton said, because the Colorado River has flows that could accommodate a whitewater event after the usual mid-June peak runoff, into early July.

The application requests a maximum flow rate not to exceed 4,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) for up to five days between May 11 and July 6 each year, and 2,500 cfs for as many as 46 days between April 30 and May 10 and July 7-23. “Shoulder season” flow rates of 1,250 cfs are sought between April 1-29 and from July 24 through Sept. 30. The in-stream claim would be limited to the hours of 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day, “except during competitive events when these hours may be extended to midnight each day,” according to the application.

Hamilton cautioned that it can be a long, drawn-out process to secure a legal RICD, including opportunities for other affected water users to comment on the request. Recent efforts by Pitkin and Grand counties to secure an RICD have taken about three years, he said…

As a conditional water right, the city would need to have whitewater park structures in place in order to enforce the right, he said…

Glenwood Springs resident Lori Chase cautioned against the Horseshoe Bend location for a future whitewater park.

“I don’t believe that is a viable location, mainly because the bighorn sheep access the water there,” she said of the sheep herd that lives in that area of the canyon. “And, to put more and more stress on our natural features might not be a good idea.”

Councilman Dave Sturges said the RICD is an opportunity for the city to build on the success of the existing whitewater park to attract more recreation tourism.

More whitewater coverage here.


Colorado Foundation for Water Education: An Epic Ride Through the Grand Canyon: Reception and Lecture by Author Kevin Fedarko

December 21, 2013

More education coverage here.


Funding Opportunity Available to Increase Water Conservation or Improve Water Supply Sustainability

December 9, 2013
Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

The Bureau of Reclamation is making funding available through its WaterSMART program to support new Water and Energy Efficiency Grant projects. Proposals are being sought from states, Indian tribes, irrigation districts, water districts and other organizations with water or power delivery authority to partner with Reclamation on projects that increase water conservation or result in other improvements that address water supply sustainability in the West.

The funding opportunity announcement is available at http://www.grants.gov using funding opportunity number R14AS00001.

Applications may be submitted to one of two funding groups:

  • Funding Group I: Up to $300,000 will be available for smaller projects that may take up to two years to complete. It is expected that a majority of awards will be made in this funding group.
  • Funding Group II: Up to $1,000,000 will be available for larger, phased projects that will take up to three years to complete. No more than $500,000 in federal funds will be provided within a given fiscal year to complete each phase. This will provide an opportunity for larger, multiple-year projects to receive some funding in the first year without having to compete for funding in the second and third years.
  • Proposals must seek to conserve and use water more efficiently, increase the use of renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, benefit endangered and threatened species, facilitate water markets, carry out activities to address climate-related impacts on water or prevent any water-related crisis or conflict. To view examples of previous successful applications, including projects with a wide-range of eligible activities, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/weeg.

    In 2013, Reclamation awarded more than $20 million for 44 Water and Energy Efficiency Grants. These projects were estimated to save about 100,000 acre-feet of water per year — enough water to serve a population of about 400,000 people.

    The WaterSMART Program focuses on improving water conservation, sustainability and helping water resource managers make sound decisions about water use. It identifies strategies to ensure that this and future generations will have sufficient supplies of clean water for drinking, economic activities, recreation and ecosystem health. The program also identifies adaptive measures to address climate change and its impact on future water demands.

    Proposals must be submitted as indicated on http://www.grants.gov by 4 p.m., Mountain Standard Time, Jan. 23, 2014. It is anticipated that awards will be made this spring.

    To learn more about WaterSMART please visit http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART.

    More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.


    Text of the Colorado Basin Roundtable white paper for the IBCC and Colorado Water Plan

    December 3, 2013
    New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

    New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

    Here’s the text from the recently approved draft of the white paper:

    Introduction
    The Colorado River Basin is the “heart” of Colorado. The basin holds the headwaters of the Colorado River that form the mainstem of the river, some of the state’s most significant agriculture, the largest West Slope city and a large, expanding energy industry. The Colorado Basin is home to the most-visited national forest and much of Colorado’s recreation-based economy, including significant river-based recreation.

    Colorado’s population is projected by the State Demographer’s Office to nearly double by 2050, from the five million people we have today to nearly ten million. Most of the growth is expected to be along the Front Range urban corridor; however the fastest growth is expected to occur along the I-70 corridor within the Colorado Basin.

    Read the rest of this entry »


    ‘Don’t goddamn come here [#ColoradoRiver Basin] any more’ — Lurline Curran

    December 3, 2013
    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

    Here’s an article about the white paper approved last week by the Colorado Basin Roundtable, from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for Aspen Journalism. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    “Don’t goddamn come here any more,” was the way Lurline Curran, county manager of Grand County, summed up the roundtable’s position just before the group voted to approve a white paper it has been working on for months.

    “We’re trying to tell you, Front Range: Don’t count on us,” Curran said. “Don’t be counting on us to make up all the shortages.”

    The actual paper crafted by the Colorado roundtable states its case in a more diplomatic fashion, but it is still blunt.

    “The notion that increasing demands on the Front Range can always be met with a new supply from the Colorado River, or any other river, (is) no longer valid,” the position paper states…

    “There is going to have to be a discussion and plan for developing a new West Slope water supply,” the South Platte roundtable stated in a June memo directed to Committee.

    Together, the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas roundtables are pushing that discussion. They’re asking the state to preserve the option to build “several” 100,000 to 250,000 acre-foot projects on the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the lower Yampa River, and/or the Gunnison River at Blue Mesa Reservoir…

    On Nov. 25, the members of the Colorado River roundtable clearly wanted to inform the Committee that they don’t support the idea of new Western Slope projects.

    Jim Pokrandt, a communications executive at the Colorado River District who chairs the Colorado roundtable, said the group’s paper, directed to the Committee, was “an answer to position statements put out by other basin roundtables.”

    The Committee’s eventual analysis is expected to shape a draft statewide Colorado Water Plan, which is supposed to be on the governor’s desk via the Committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board in 12 months.

    And while there has been a decades-long discussion in Colorado about the merits of moving water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, the language in the position papers, and the roundtable meetings, is getting sharper as the state water plan now takes shape.

    “It’s not ‘don’t take one more drop,’ but it is as close as we can get,” said Ken Neubecker, the environmental representative on the Colorado roundtable, about the group’s current position.

    The paper itself advises, “the scenic nature and recreational uses of our rivers are as important to the West Slope as suburban development and service industry businesses are to the Front Range. They are not and should not be seen as second-class water rights, which Colorado can preserve the option of removing at the behest of Front Range indulgences.”

    That’s certainly in contrast to the vision of the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas basin roundtables, which in a draft joint statement in July said that the way to meet the “east slope municipal supply gap” is to develop “state water projects using Colorado River water for municipal uses on the East and West slopes.”[...]

    The white paper from the Colorado roundtable states that “new supply” is a euphemism for “a new transmountain diversion from the Colorado River system.”

    “This option must be the last option,” the paper notes.

    Instead of new expensive Western Slope water projects, the paper calls for more water conservation and “intelligent land use” on the Front Range.

    It goes on to note that Front Range interests are actively pursuing the expansion of existing transmountain diversions — many of which are likely to be blessed by the Committee because they are already in the works.

    It says the Western Slope has its own water gap, as the growing demands of agriculture, energy development, population growth and river ecosystems are coming together in the face of climate change.

    It calls for reform to the state’s water laws, so it is easier to leave water in Western Slope rivers for environmental reasons, and it rejects the Front Range’s call to streamline the review process for new water projects.

    “Streamlining as a means of forcing West Slope acquiescence to any new supply project ‘for the good of the state’ is unacceptable,” the paper states.

    Finally, the document advises the state not to endorse or get behind a Western Slope water project unless it “has been agreed to by the impacted counties, conservancy districts and conservation districts from which water would be diverted.”

    More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    ‘Keeping the last wild river in the [#ColoradoRiver] Basin intact is important to a healthy environment’ — Susan Bruce

    December 2, 2013
    Yampa River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

    Yampa River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

    Here’s a post arguing to keep the Yampa River riparian system as a baseline for a healthy river from Susan Bruce writing for the Earth Island Journal. Here’s an excerpt:

    Governor John Hickenlooper’s directive to the Colorado Water Conservation Board earlier this year to create a Colorado Water Plan by 2015 has put the Yampa, which has the second largest watershed in the state, under the spotlight.

    Efforts to dam the Yampa go back to the proposed construction of Echo Park Dam, which Congress vetoed in 1952, bowing to a groundswell of public outcry led by David Brower, then with the Sierra Club. But in a compromise he later regretted, Brower supported the construction of two other dams: Glen Canyon on the Colorado River and Flaming Gorge on the Green River. The Green and Yampa rivers used to have similar flows and ecosystems. The construction of the Flaming Gorge Dam in 1962 modified the Green’s hydrograph, reducing sediment flow by half and tapering its seasonal fluctuations to a slower, more consistent flow, opening the way for invasive species like the tamarisk tree to crowd out native ones.

    More recently, in 2006, there was a proposal to build a reservoir near Maybell, CO, and pump water from the Yampa to a reservoir about 230 miles away for municipal and agricultural use on the Front Range. But the plan was scrapped due to environmental and cost concerns; the reservoir would have cost between $3 billion and $5 billion.

    The oil and gas industry is also eyeing the Yampa. Shell Oil had plans to pump about 8 percent of the Yampa’s high-water flow to fill a 1,000-acre reservoir, but it shelved the proposal in 2010, citing a slowdown of its oil-shale development program. Still, oil production in Colorado is at its highest level since 1957 and gas production at an all-time high. While industrial and municipal water needs are projected to increase with population growth, the largest water user, agriculture, will continue to divert the lion’s share of Colorado’s water, around 80 percent. All of which mean the pressure to suck up Yampa’s water is only going to grow.

    The most unique characteristic of the Yampa is its wild and unimpeded flow, in particular the extensive spring flooding that washes away sediment, giving the river its brownish hue. This “river dance” helps establish new streamside forests, wetlands, and sandy beaches, as well as shallows that support species like the endangered Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker. By late fall, the water barely covers the riverbed in some stretches…

    The rafting industry, which contributes more than $150 million to Colorado’s economy, has a strong voice when it comes to the Yampa’s future. Although damming the Yampa would provide a more consistent flow over a longer season, George Wendt – founder of OARS, the largest rafting company in the world – speaks for most outfitters when he says he would rather see the Yampa retain its natural state.

    Conservationists also argue that the Yampa’s full flow helps meet Colorado’s legal obligation to provide water to the seven states within the Colorado Basin and Mexico. Measures being considered to protect the Yampa include an instream flow appropriation by the Colorado Water Conservation Board that would reserve Yampa’s water for the natural function of rivers, and a Wild and Scenic River designation by Congress.

    Many proponents of keeping the Yampa wild point to its value as a baseline – an ecosystem naturally in balance. “If things go awry on dammed rivers, which they do, we have a control river, so to speak,” says Kent Vertrees of The Friends of the Yampa. “Keeping the last wild river in the Colorado Basin intact is important to a healthy environment and so future generations can experience in situ millions of years of history little changed by man.”

    More Yampa River Basin coverage here and here.


    Durango: City Parks and Recreation is proposing a new plan to rope in tubers below Oxbow Park

    November 26, 2013
    Proposed management plan area -- City of Durango via The Durango Herald

    Proposed management plan area — City of Durango via The Durango Herald

    From The Durango Herald (Chuck Slothower):

    A management plan under discussion by city of Durango officials would bar inner-tubers from launching from Oxbow Park in north Durango and require river floaters there to use paddles and wear life vests. The proposed restrictions come in response to a rising chorus of complaints from riverfront property owners who say they’re tired of tubers trespassing on their property, often urinating and leaving trash along the way. The restrictions would apply to a 1.2-mile stretch of the Animas north of the 33rd Street put-in to Oxbow Park and Preserve.

    One provision under consideration states that “all river craft shall be propelled in this section by a paddle.” Another says, “downstream tube float trips shall not be permitted to launch from the (Oxbow) property.”

    The provisions appear to leave tourism-driven commercial raft guides largely unaffected while targeting inner-tubers, who, in many cases, are local high school or college students…

    Two volunteer advisory boards, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the Natural Lands Preservation Advisory Board, are considering the rules. They will meet again in December before forwarding recommendations to the City Council sometime in early 2014…

    Tubers, along with rafters and paddle-boarders, often put in to the river north of 33rd Street. It’s a languid stretch of river, leading some bored or tired tubers to find landfall on the river’s banks before they arrive at the 33rd Street put-in. The problem is the stretch of river from Oxbow Park to 33rd Street is entirely lined by private land…

    Residents can email public comments at rec@durangogov.org.

    More whitewater coverage here.


    Durango: Construction has begun on improvements to the whitewater park as Smelter Rapids

    November 20, 2013
    Planned improvements for the whitewater park at Smelter Rapids via the City of Durango

    Design for the whitewater park at Smelter Rapids via the City of Durango

    From The Durango Herald (Vanessa Guthrie):

    The construction at Santa Rita Park near Durango’s wastewater-treatment plant will result in a temporary diversion of the river trail while a crew restructures the riverbed, which will allow for more control over the intensity of the rapid.

    The in-stream work is slated to be completed by March, just in time for the spring runoff.

    Scott McClain, landscape architect for the city of Durango, said the riverbed will be grouted and rocks will be moved to maintain river-flow consistency. During major water runoffs, the rocks can move, changing the rapids, he said, and every so often, the rocks have to be rearranged. This structure is intended to be more permanent, he said…

    After a long process of applying for a recreational in-channel diversion right through the water courts, a conditional water right was given in 2007. The water right will not be permanent until the boating park is complete, she said.

    Protecting the public’s recreational access to the river was a long process, Metz said. The Animas River Task Force, a group of residents who wanted to obtain the water rights for recreation, were the initial spark commencing the project in 2005, she said…

    The initial estimate for Whitewater Park was about $1.3 million, but Metz said that might be high. She said the project is contracted for about $850,000, with additional money available as a safety net in case of any unforeseen financial hiccups…

    Scott Shipley, the engineer and mastermind behind the current project, is looking forward to bringing Durango back on the map as a major river-running location. This type of project is not a first for Shipley, whose company developed the hydraulic features in the whitewater course for the London Olympics. An avid competitive kayaker, Shipley is thrilled to be working on the project even though he’s far away from his home in Lyons…

    Phase 1 of the project will be completed in the spring, and the river then will be open to the public. The entirety of the fully developed park with amenities will not be completed until the end of 2014, Metz said.

    More whitewater coverage here and here.


    Cañon City: Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival Friday and Saturday

    June 19, 2013

    canoncity

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

    From adventurers who like to build their own boat to those who prefer to show off in one ready-made, the Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival will offer a race tailor-made for all river rats.

    The Whitewater Kayak and Recreation Park, affectionately dubbed, “WKRP-Canon City” at Centennial Park will be the site for the Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival Friday and Saturday “A big addition this year is the USA Rafting National competition. This will be the first time they have brought the nationals to Canon City,” said Kyle Horne, an organizer.

    “There will be four events and the top team advances to the World Championships in New Zealand. It will be a wonderful opportunity for everyone to see some of the best men’s and women’s rafting teams in the country,” Horne said.

    Enthusiasm for the festival is strong. With the Royal Gorge Fire 100 percent contained Sunday, organizers remind participants and spectators that 90 percent of the Arkansas River is open for the race. The only portion closedwas fire-involved.

    The nationals kick off with a time trial at 2 p.m. Friday which will start at the First Street bridge and finish at the Whitewater Park. Viewing areas will be available along the Arkansas Riverwalk Trail and on both sides of the river at the finish.

    From the Cañon City Daily Record (Brandon Hopper):

    If ever an event existed that put competitors through a little bit of everything before the finish line, this might just be it. The Whitewater Adventure Race at the Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival presents racers with pipes to climb, fire to jump , mud to crawl through and an ice bath to soak in. And that’s just to name a few.

    An adventure it surely is.

    The event — which has 5K and and three-quarter mile options — will happen at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on the second day of the RGWF. The cost is $30 and includes free entry to RGWF and a New Belgium shirt. The race, for people 12 and older, begins at Veterans Park and ends at Centennial Park, where the majority of RGWF happens…

    To register or for more information, visit royalgorgewhitewaterfestival.com.

    More whitewater coverage here and here.


    Salida: FIBArk recap — Andy Corra wins the Downriver race for the ninth time

    June 18, 2013

    fibark2013themountainmail.jpg

    From The Mountain Mail (Calley McDermott):

    For the ninth time, Andy Corra, 52, Durango, crossed the finish line first in the 26-mile FIBArk Classic Downriver Race, with a time of 2 hours, 20 minutes, 55 seconds. The seasoned racer won his first Downriver in 1985.

    Racers in the Classic Downriver Race travel from the Salida Whitewater Park to Cotopaxi.

    Despite flows that had “dropped a bunch” since Thursday, Corra said, “It was a nice flow, with good clean lines in the rapids. It sure was a treat over last year.” He said the medium flow of about 1,500 cubic feet per second resulted in a “medium time.” Corra finished the race in 1:58:07 in 2009, the fastest recorded time since 1995.

    With nine wins under his belt, he admitted he would like to win at least one more because “there is something perversely satisfying about the number 10.” However, he said he plans to “pass it on to Wiley.” Wiley Corra, 10, took third place in the 10-mile Cadet Downriver Race.

    Jeremy Rodgers, Boulder, finished second overall with a time of 2:26:50. Rodgers flipped in the Cottonwood Rapid, east of Coaldale, and struggled to resurface.

    Ben Morton, a safety boater, assisted in turning him back over. “At this water level you have to be decisive, and I hesitated. Cottonwood punishes. It’s great when the water level is lower and higher, but it’s tricky at 1,500 (cfs),” Rodgers said.

    Last year Rodgers finished fourth.

    About Corra, he said, “Andy sure shows up every year. He shows us younger paddlers what experience does for you.”

    Steve Holmes, Salida, finished third overall with a time of 2:29:04.

    First woman finisher was Lisa Adams, Durango, in a C2 boat. Adams finished fourth overall. Her teammate was not listed.

    Some of the later downriver competitors paddled through rain, thunder and some lightening in Bighorn Sheep Canyon.

    For the first time, organizers had the rafts leave 1½ hours before the classic race started, to allow the rafters to run the course without slowing the other boaters. Volunteer June Gober, Salida, said the early raft start “worked out well.”

    “Mark Mattson’s Crew” from Salida won with a time of 1:40:27.

    “Holly Harz and Crew” from Buena Vista entered two rafts; one finished second with a time of 1:42:37.

    The other raft, with two more people than paddles, finished third with a time of 1:59:47.

    Watching the race from the sidelines, Larry Zuk, 90, said it was his first time watching “from the road.” He competed in the race 10 times and was a slalom race champion in both K1 and C2 in 1976. “I’m writing a book about early canoeing in the Rockies,” Zuk added. Zuk was inducted into the FIBArk Hall of Fame this year.

    Corra said, “It’s good to keep the tradition (of the Downriver Race) alive.”

    From The Mountain Mail (Calley McDermott):

    The 65th FIBArk Whitewater Festival kicked off with induction of Larry Zuk and Steve and Eric Frazee into the FIBArk Hall of Fame during Business After Hours Wednesday at Salida SteamPlant.

    FIBArk board member Christopher Kolomitz introduced FIBArk Hall of Fame inductee Eric Frazee, who also accepted the award on behalf of his late father, Steve Frazee. Steve Frazee was born in Salida in 1909 and served as the 1959 FIBArk commodore. His son Eric, a longtime paddler, represented the United States in the 1954 International Slalom Competition in Germany. “I think it’s a great honor. I’m happy to accept it. I’m also happy to accept for my father, who is long gone now, who worked his rear-end off to make kayak competitions in the United States a success here in Salida,” Eric Frazee said.

    “Right here in Salida we have the top international kayakers come from around the world. All I had to do was get in my little truck and drive my boat down to the river and compete. That was pretty cool.”

    Kolomitz said Larry Zuk, another 2013 FIBArk Hall of Fame inductee, was unable to attend the event. Zuk first raced in FIBArk in 1954, earned the national championship in the K1 slalom race at FIBArk in 1956 and competed in the 1976 Olympics. Zuk is also the founder of the Colorado Whitewater Association. He recently published the book “Stories of a Century of Canoeing and Canoes” and is in the process of writing a second book titled “Early White Water Canoeing and Kayaking in the Rocky Mountains 1949-1969.”

    Kolomitz introduced 2013 FIBArk Commodore Ed Loeffel, who congratulated FIBArk organizers for the success of FIBArk over its past 65 years. “FIBArk and I both qualify for Medicare this year,” Loeffel joked. “I’m now looking forward to my next duty as commodore – no public speaking is going to be required – only drinking the first pour of Eddyline beer tomorrow afternoon at 4. Hope to see you all there.”

    Loeffel also cast the winning bid in a live auction for a signed print of this year’s FIBArk poster, designed by Lindsay Sutton. He bid $630.

    “We’ve got great weather, great water, and we’re looking forward to a great FIBArk,” Kolomitz said.

    More whitewater coverage here.


    Stand up paddling is catching on

    June 14, 2013

    yampariverfestival05282011standuppaddling.jpg

    From The Telluride Daily Planet (Heather Sackett):

    While whitewater kayaking can be limiting because of its difficulty, stand up paddling is accessible to anyone. If you can stand up, you can SUP.

    “It’s so appealing to so many demographics,” head buyer for Paragon/Bootdoctors and water sports enthusiast Galena Gleason said. “It’s for everyone really.”

    Paddlers stand up on a large, hard foam surfboard and use a long-handled paddle (usually about 6-10 inches taller than the paddler for the best leverage) to propel themselves through the water. Between one and three removable fins jut out from the underside of the board, depending on whether paddlers want better tracking or better maneuvering. The body position is similar to skiing with eyes, knees and toes aligned forward…

    Andy Bagnall, manager of Telluride’s Four Corners Whitewater, said SUP’s popularity has spiked, particularly over the last two years. Four Corners bought just one board for the guides to use four years ago, and is now up to a fleet of 14. In addition to tours of local waterways, the company also offers multi-day trips on the Gunnison River and the Ruby-Horsethief section of the Colorado River.

    One of the most appealing parts of SUP is the sense of freedom that comes from paddling. Unlike rafting or kayaking, there are relatively few rules and little equipment. You can kneel, sit down, lay down, practice yoga poses or take your dog along on a SUP adventure. And it offers a new perspective. The scenery looks different from a standing vantage point than it does from water level in a boat.

    “The one rule about paddle boarding is there are no rules,” Bagnall said. “You can’t just hop out of a kayak but you can with a paddle board. It’s a great way to go swimming.”

    More whitewater coverage here.


    Arkansas River: ‘We’ll supply 10,000 acre-feet for rafting and the fishery’ — Roy Vaughan

    May 18, 2013

    kayaker.jpg

    From The Mountain Mail (Casey Kelly):

    Arkansas River boaters can expect to see flows bolstered this summer by 10,000 acre-feet of water from the Voluntary Flow Management Program. Roy Vaughan, facility manager for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Pueblo Field Office, confirmed Monday that water will be available for the Voluntary Flow Management Program. “We’ll supply 10,000 acre-feet for rafting and the fishery,” Vaughan said.

    The program will supply enough water to keep flows at the Wellsville station at 700 cubic feet per second from July 1 through Aug. 15 this year, according to Vaughan.

    He said the bureau’s April 1 forecast called for bringing more than 24,700 acre-feet of water over from the Western Slope. Its May 1 forecast called for 47,230 acre-feet. “That’s almost double what we were forecasting,” Vaughan said. He said recent moisture “changed the outlook for us.”

    Rob White, Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area park manager, told a May 7 Salida City Council work session that outfitters were worried about another low water season and had been told a few months ago that water may not be available this summer for the Voluntary Flow Management Program. “Luckily we were saved by the late-season storms in both March and April,” White said. “As a matter of fact, I got a call from the Bureau of Reclamation (May 6), and they believe they’ll be able to deliver the full 10,000 acre-feet of water for us for the summer flow program.”

    Rafting outfitter Mark Hammer, owner of The Adventure Company in Johnson Village, said he does about 75 percent of his summer business during the 6 weeks that augmentation flows will be available. “(The Voluntary Flow Management Program) is extremely helpful,” Hammer said. “The bell curve of river flows doesn’t necessarily coincide with our peak tourism, so this ensures we have enough water in the Arkansas during the later period of our season.”

    He said a more average water flow season this year will help outfitters predict when river flows will peak, how high they will be and how long they will last. “We certainly appreciate the collaborative effort of the flow program,” Hammer said. “It’s a benefit to the public, outfitting companies and the whole area’s economy which relies on the river.”

    Greg Felt, co-owner of ArkAnglers, said this year is shaping up to be a good year for the fishery. “We’ve been able to see some good hatches and good aquatic insect activity,” Felt said. “Looking ahead, it’s great to see snowpack improve as it has.”

    Kara Lamb, Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman, said, “What makes this program possible is the cooperation, understanding and willingness of those involved to work together. Their cooperation helps the diverse groups reach the mutual goals of the water owners, operators and users, municipalities and government agencies. The Flow Program has created a model for all rivers in the West, and one Coloradans can be proud of.”

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.


    Whitewater sports brought in $52 million in business along the Arkansas River mainstem in 2012

    May 12, 2013

    raftingarkriver.jpg

    From The Mountain Mail (Casey Kelly):

    Commercial rafting activities brought more than $52 million into the Arkansas River Valley economy in 2012, Rob White, Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area park manager, told Salida City Council during a work session Tuesday. White said the $52 million figure came from the Colorado River Outfitters Association’s 2012 year-end report on the economic impact of commercial rafting. In 2011, the impact on valley economy was a little more than $60 million. “You can see the effect that a low-water season has,” White said.

    To calculate economic impact, the report uses total cash spent in the local area for rafting, food, lodging and souvenirs by one rafting customer in one day, taken from a 1991 survey conducted by the Bureau of Land Management. That figure is multiplied by the number of commercial user days and an economic multiplier of 2.56 (the number of times a dollar is spent in the local area before being spent outside that area, according to the Colorado Tourism Board). “I don’t think people realize the economic impact whitewater boating provides to the communities in the Upper Arkansas River Valley,” White said. “People are bringing a lot of people into the area and spending a lot of money.”

    Other data White highlighted from the report included the Arkansas River recording a total of 169,486 commercial user days, the most of any river in the state in 2012. White said the Arkansas River saw “more than half the use of all other rivers in the state of Colorado. That’s including the Colorado River. So you can see basically how important the Arkansas River is in terms of drawing people from both the Front Range and out of state for whitewater boating and for rafting.”

    Commercial use on the Arkansas River in 2012 was down from 2011, which saw 208,329 commercial user days. “2011 was obviously a much better water year. In some respects, almost too good of a water year. We had big, big flows and we had high water advisories on the river a couple of different times,” White said.

    More whitewater coverage here and here.


    Snowpack news: Colorado River outfitters are more upbeat about the start of the season

    May 5, 2013

    gorecanyonrafting.jpg

    From The Mountain Mail (Calley McDermott):

    Because of recent late-season snowfall, Colorado River Outfitters Association predicts a “normal start” to this year’s rafting season. The typical rafting season is mid-May to mid-September. David Costlow, CROA executive director, said, “The state’s weather patterns over the past 3 weeks give plenty of reason to think that more moisture will be in the forecast, thus adding to the snowpack and overall water levels. This puts outfitters on track to offer rafting throughout the typical rafting season.”

    Rob White, Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area parks manager, said, “I’m really pleased with the late-season snow. It’s really helping the recreational flows, as well as agricultural interests.” He said the summer flows will depend on how warm it gets and how quickly. “Either we’ll have full-on and steady flows like we did in 2011 when it came off nice and even, or it gets hot and stays hot and the runoff comes quickly with a higher peak,” White said. He said certainly the spring snow has enabled a “better whitewater season than last year.”

    Mike Whittington, co-owner of Independent Whitewater rafting company, said, “I think we’ll have a good average season with what (snow) we got. We are reportedly at average.”

    SNOTEL reported Monday that the Arkansas River Basin was at 73 percent of median and 61 percent of peak.

    Whittington added that he would prefer the runoff to “trickle down and stay nice and steady.” Ideal flows in his opinion are 1,000-2,000 cubic feet per second, but he said if the flows can “hover around 1,000 cfs for the season, it would be a big step above last year. But I don’t know if that will happen. As long as flows are 700 cfs and above, it will still be great fun.”

    According to Colorado River Outfitters Association’s 2012 Economic Impact Study, Colorado’s rafting industry had a more than $127 million economic impact on the state’s tourism industry in 2012 – and that was during a down year. Low water levels and wildfires plagued the industry. In 2011, Colorado’s rafting industry generated an economic impact of more than $151 million.

    More whitewater coverage here.


    Durango: Ambitious restoration/construction project for the city’s whitewater park to kick off in November

    May 2, 2013

    durangowhitewaterparkplansmay2013durangoherald.jpg

    From The Durango Herald (Jim Haug):

    By using berms or coffer dams, sections of the river will be split into dry and wet sides to allow workers to get to the river bottom of the whitewater park, also known as Smelter Rapid, by Santa Rita Park and Durango’s wastewater-treatment plant.

    Contractors then will do restoration and maintenance work, such as grouting boulders into place, as well as creating a new underwater structure to allow for gentler rapids and to accommodate beginner and intermediate ability levels.

    The work is scheduled to begin in November and wrap up by next March, which also will result in a temporary diversion of the Animas River Trail to the other side of the wastewater-treatment plant and away from the river construction. This section of river trail is scheduled to get an upgrade, too, widening from 10 to 14 feet to accommodate an anticipated increase in traffic to the river.

    Plans also call for a partial relocation of the equipment yard for the wastewater-treatment plant to create a more park-like setting by the river entrance. Erosion of the shoreline would be mitigated with boulders. Officials hope to create a more graded or level access to the river that would be in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

    The city’s hired mastermind is Scott Shipley, a World Cup champion kayaker who also competed in three Summer Olympics and whose firm, S2O Design, also developed the hydraulic features in the whitewater course for the London Olympics. The firm currently is a consultant for the whitewater course for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro…

    Trying to place rocks strategically without knowledge of the river bottom was “always a roll of the dice,” Brennan said. “You’re not sure what the (rock) is hitting,” Brennan said. “You’re hoping it stays.” With this construction plan, “we’ll see how the rocks are touching each other. We’ll be able to put it together like a jigsaw puzzle.”[...]

    The $1.3 million project is funded by a half-cent sales tax that voters approved in 2005 for parks and recreation purposes, but the project has ramifications bigger than minimizing maintenance and hopefully getting Durango “back on the map” as a destination for whitewater competitions. It fulfills a mandate of the city’s Recreational In-Channel Diversion right, which was granted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board about six years ago. “By completing the whitewater park, it gives us the right to protect the (river) forever,” said Cathy Metz, director of Parks and Recreation. “So we could never have a diversion of the Animas upstream or a dam on the Animas. It’s a big deal for our community, not only for paddling but for environmental reasons, as well.”[...]

    “This is the flagship of the whitewater parks, or it was,” [Shipley] said. “It will be the flagship of whitewater parks again. So I hear from you. This is not a project we’re going to fall asleep on.”

    More whitewater coverage here and here.


    Arkansas River: Late season snowfall expected to give rafting revenue a shot in the arm #COdrought

    April 20, 2013

    arkansasriverbasinhilow04192013

    Click on the thumbnail graphic to see the big spike in late season snow water equivalent in the Arkansas River Basin. Whitewater sports are a big business along the Arkansas River mainstem above Lake Pueblo so the snowfall translates to economic activity this summer.

    Here’s a release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

    A steady stream of March and April snowstorms in the high country have managers at Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) anticipating a good run-off this spring and steady flows for rafting throughout the summer.

    “The snowpack in the Upper Arkansas River Basin is much better this year than at the same time last year,” said Rob White, AHRA Park Manager. “We are looking forward to a great spring and summer season for whitewater boating.”

    White said that as of April 18, the snow levels in the upper Arkansas basin are more than double what they were at this time last year. “Last year we received very little if any precipitation in March and April, while this year we have been more fortunate. The mountains that surround the Arkansas River Valley are continuing to receive snow,” he said.

    The Arkansas River is the most commercially rafted river in the United States and an abundant supply of whitewater and gorgeous scenery are just two of the reasons why the river is so popular. “Browns Canyon and the Royal Gorge provide two of the most spectacular stretches of scenery and whitewater that you can find. Also, with the spring snowpack increasing every day, we are very excited about this year’s whitewater season,” said White.

    Not only will there be a good spring run-off, but the late season snowstorms also increase the possibility of a successful flow program for the multi-agency Voluntary Flow Management Program (VFMP). The VFMP maintains minimum flows for the fishery throughout the year and provides enhanced flows for rafting and kayaking from July 1 through mid-August.

    “In a year like this, we potentially have the best of both worlds; the fishery on the Arkansas River is the best it’s been in years due to low flows last season, while the late season addition to the snowpack promises to provide an abundance of whitewater,” said White.

    The AHRA is managed through a cooperative effort between the Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. In addition to AHRA, Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages 42 other state parks, more than 300 state wildlife areas, all of Colorado’s wildlife and a variety of outdoor recreation.

    Here’s a report from Tracy Harmon writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Rafters are rejoicing at the late winter snowstorms that are bringing more water to the Arkansas River for rafting and kayaking this summer. The steady stream of snowstorms in the high country have extended through March and April, boosting snowpack totals to double what they were this time last year, said Rob White, Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area park manager.

    There is more than twice as much snow as at the same time last year, White said. “The spring snowstorms that the Arkansas River Valley have been receiving are of tremendous benefit to the agricultural, municipal and recreational communities,” he said. “We are looking forward to a great spring and summer season for whitewater boating.”

    The Arkansas River is the most commercially rafted river in the United States, so an abundant supply of whitewater is just what rafters have been hoping for. That’s because not only will there be a good spring runoff, but the late season snowstorms also increase the possibility of a successful flow program through mid-August.

    Last year, rafting outfitters experienced a nearly 19 percent dive in visitor numbers, making it the worst year since droughtand fire-stricken 2002. Arkansas River rafting customers went from 208,329 in 2011 to 169,486 in 2012, resulting in a nearly 16 percent drop in economic impact to the region.

    Last summer, the rafting industry brought in $20.5 million in direct expenditures to the Arkansas River corridor and a total economic impact of $52.5 million when factors such as meals, lodging and gasoline are considered.

    More whitewater coverage here and here.


    FIBArk Festival seeking sponsors and advertisers

    April 4, 2013

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    From The Mountain Mail:

    FIBArk organizers are seeking sponsors and advertisers for the festival’s program guide before its April 1 sponsorship deadline. The 65th annual whitewater festival will take place June 13-16. “Many local businesses are back for this year’s festival, and we thank them,” Shaun Matusewicz, FIBArk event coordinator, said. “FIBArk is a huge undertaking and couldn’t happen without their support.”

    The FIBArk board plans to print about 3,000 copies of the collectible program guide, which is distributed free around town during the festival. It features a schedule of events, historical information, band bios, maps and event descriptions. No format or pricing changes from last year are planned this year for the guide, board members said. “The guide is a must-have for anyone coming to the festival,” Matusewicz said. “It’s a very popular piece of information for out-of-town visitors and locals.”

    Businesses interested in advertising in the guide may email FIBArk at fibark@gmail.com for information.

    FIBArk is also planning two events in April and May. The FIBArk Youth Paddling program will host the second stop of the Rocky Mountain Whitewater Cup April 13-14 in Salida. The event will feature a wildwater race from Salida to Salida East, a slalom competition and a freestyle competition.

    On May 18 FIBArk will host the 11th annual Cruiser Crit, which raises funds to provide music during the whitewater festival. The event draws costumed participants of all ages to race cruiser bicycles along downtown streets, alleys and paths.

    More whitewater coverage here and here.


    Grand County ponies up dough for instream water rights for whitewater park #coriver

    February 26, 2013

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    From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

    A manmade play wave, fashioned with rocks and concrete boulders in the river, would be the first whitewater park in Grand County. Such play waves attract paddlers from far and wide. It is planned to be located at Pumphouse, the popular Bureau of Land Management boating site on the Colorado River west of Kremmling off the Trough Road, between the Gore Canyon’s class 4-5 rapids and the splashy, family friendly class 2-3 section below Pumphouse. The Pumphouse site is already developed with a parking area and bathrooms, and is a strong location for boaters late in the season due to upstream reservoir releases…

    Grand County is seeking water rights attached to the whitewater park at Pumphouse and a potential feature — someday in the future — at Hot Sulphur Springs, which the town has indicated it favors having as an attraction, according to Grand County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran. The county, with help from hired Project Coordinator Caroline Bradford of Eagle, established these locations as most-preferred among actual users of the river by conducting a series of meetings and reaching out to boaters across the state. Bradford received more than 100 letters in favor of the park, she said…

    The county is seeking river flows varying from 800-1,200 cfs, depending on the time of year between April and October, for recreational use on the Colorado River. The rights are still pending in District 5 Colorado Water Court, and Underbrink Curran said the county has satisfied the concerns of all but three objectors. Water attorneys for the county are “optimistic,” Underbrink Curran said. They have indicated they are “confident that they have a good opportunity to settle with the objectors,” two of which are Colorado Springs Utilities and Climax. The county has until April 2014 to settle…

    Financing the $1.7 million project remains another hurdle. Grand County has pledged $600,000 and is using a chunk of that to pay for the legal process of obtaining water rights. Last week, Bradford announced a “a huge step forward” for the park when the Colorado Water Conservation Board committed a $500,000 grant toward the project from its Water Supply Reserve Account. Although more than $39 million has been awarded to hundreds of water projects across the state since the fund’s inception in 2007, it was the first time the board awarded money for a recreation project…

    Meanwhile, fundraising continues to see the project to fruition. Bradford is charged with leading the effort to raise another $500,000 to $600,000 from within the boater community and from other partners, she said.

    Work on the project will be overseen by both the Bureau of Land Management and the Army Corps of Engineers, according to Carey, and the county will be applying for appropriate permitting. The process will involve public comment periods.

    Construction of the project would take place during a three to four month window, taking into account the sensitivity of the river, he said. The project would involve diverting the river channel around the work area.

    More whitewater coverage here.


    Pitkin County gets another 60 days to settle objectors to their Roaring Fork RICD application

    February 25, 2013

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    From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), two major upstream diverters and three billionaires with property near Aspen have active statements of opposition on file against the county’s proposal.

    On Feb. 1, Judge James B. Boyd of Division 5 water court in Glenwood Springs gave the parties in the case another 60 days to settle.

    The county is seeking the right to run between 240 and 1,350 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water over two rock and concrete structures it plans to build in the river, at a cost of about $1 million, which includes a stairway to access the feature. The new water right would be what’s known as a “recreational in-channel diversion,” or RICD, which is a program that allows governments to obtain a water right for recreational purposes. It can have the added benefit of keeping more water in a river.

    The structures would form two waves for kayakers and other boaters in the Fork, just across Two Rivers Road from the entrance to the Elk Run neighborhood.

    The county so far has come to terms with three of the 14 parties that originally filed statements of opposition in the case — the city of Aspen, the Basalt Water Conservancy District and the Starwood Metropolitan District.

    Of the remaining 11 entities, at least three are controlled by billionaires who own property upstream of the proposed “Pitkin County River Park.”

    Bill Koch (via Elk Mountain Lodge LLC) and Penny Pritzker (via PT Ranch Barn LLC) each own property along Castle Creek, and Ed Bass (via Mountain Valley Cabin LLC) owns property on the banks of the upper Roaring Fork.

    Another opposing entity is GRE II LLC, which is controlled by David Gerstenhaber of Argonaut Capital Management, a New York hedge fund. GRE II owns 37 acres of land, with water rights, on Star Mesa above McLain Flats Road.

    Statements of opposition in water court are typically formulaic and it is not easy to discern a party’s true intent in filing them. Some parties file statements simply to monitor changes in a case…

    The latest draft proposal from the county has the water right stepping up and then back down across a 142-day runoff season.

    Beginning on April 15, the water right would run for 33 days at 240 cfs, another 24 days at 380 cfs, and then for 15 days at 1,530 cfs, ending June 25.

    Then the flows step down from the peak — with 56 days flowing at 380 cfs and another 14 days at 240 cfs, ending Labor Day.

    More Roaring Fork Watershed coverage here.


    Colorado’s rafting industry hopes this season will beat 2012 #codrought

    February 18, 2013

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    From The Aspen Times (Janet Urquhart):

    The Colorado River Outfitters Association held its annual convention earlier this month in Grand Junction. The organization, which represents about 50 licensed rafting outfitters across the state, said last year’s drop in user days — defined as a paying guest on a river for any part of a day — was the second-highest decline since the association began tracking the numbers in 1990. The biggest drop came in 2002, a season marked by drought and fire in Colorado; it also came in the wake of the 9/11 economic downturn. That year, user days were down 40 percent, according to the association.

    The association’s annual report indicates that user days on the upper Roaring Fork River, a stretch that includes Slaughterhouse Falls below Aspen, plummeted from 6,672 in 2011 (a bountiful year for spring snowpack and river flows) to 112 last year. The decline on the Roaring Fork below Basalt was somewhat less pronounced — user days dropped from 912 in 2011 to 736 last year, the report said.

    The upper Colorado River, including the popular stretch through Glenwood Canyon that includes the Shoshone rapid, actually saw an uptick in user days — from 32,842 in 2011 to 39,645 last year. Senior water calls on the Colorado kept the river flowing at decent levels throughout the season and attracted boaters who were displaced from other rivers…

    Both the Colorado and Green rivers came through the 2012 season “unscathed,” according to the outfitters group.

    The Arkansas River, on the far side of Independence Pass from Aspen and a destination for some local rafting companies, was also down in boater traffic last season, with 169,486 user days, compared with 208,329 in 2011…

    Across Colorado, user days for rafting outfitters that are members of the statewide group numbered 411,100 last year. That translated to an economic impact of $127.5 million, down 15.7 percent from 2011, the Colorado River Outfitters Association calculated. The sum reflects user days, their direct expenditures on a rafting trip and the number of times those dollars are spent in a local area (2.56 times, according to the Colorado Tourism Board). Direct expenditures last year totaled $49.8 million, the outfitters association said.

    The Arkansas River was the biggest economic generator in the Colorado rafting industry, with $20.5 million in direct expenditures last year, the association reported. The Colorado River in Glenwood was next, at $7.7 million. The Roaring Fork, including trips on all stretches of the river, generated about $102,000 in direct spending last year.


    Rafting companies saw big drop in revenue in 2012 #codrought

    February 7, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

    Arkansas River rafting and summer tourism at the Royal Gorge Bridge took a huge hit in 2012. Rafting companies and the gorge posted double­digit drops in visitors in a year marked by the summertime Waldo Canyon wildfire and low Arkansas River flow. Rafting took a nearly 19 percent dive, the worst year since drought­stricken 2002.

    The number of boaters went from 208,329 in 2011 to 169,486 in 2012, according to a report by Colorado River Outfitters Association members Joe Greiner and Jody Werner. The decline in economic impact was not quite as harsh: about 16 percent. The drop­off in boating came during a summer marked by a weak economy, low water levels due to a drought and the wildfire. In 2002, visitation sank to 139,178. The rafting industry credits last year’s better numbers to a marketing push promoting the benefits of lower­flow rafting for first­timers and families.

    The industry’s outlook for this summer is brighter due to a slight upturn in the economy. However, the potential for continuing drought “weighs on the possibility of a full recovery,” the association reported.
    According to the group’s 2012 report: Last summer, the rafting industry brought in $20.5 million in direct expenditures to the Arkansas River corridor and a total economic impact of $52.5 million when factors such as meals, lodging and gasoline are considered. In 2011, the industry created $23.8 million in direct expenditures and $60.9 million in economic impact.

    “Colorado’s whitewater rafting industry took a solid hit in 2012. It was the largest drop we’ve seen since 2002 following similar drought and fire conditions throughout the state,” Greiner said in the executive summary. “The proactive education of consumers regarding the quality of lower water conditions helped improve river use over drought stricken 2002 levels.

    “Many families were able to experience rafting for the first time and consumer reviews were extremely positive regarding the quality of the experience. Although the Arkansas River has guaranteed flow targets that are augmented by large upstream reservoirs, river use was affected by the Colorado Springs (Waldo Canyon) fire,” Greiner reported.

    More whitewater coverage here.


    Montrose County ponies up $50,000 for whitewater park engineering

    January 22, 2013

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    From the Montrose Daily Press (Will Hearst):

    The greater Montrose community came one step closer to a collaborative application for a Great Outdoors Colorado grant Tuesday, after the city locked in an agreement with Montrose County for $50,000 toward the engineering of the whitewater park project.

    All five city council members voted to accept the $50,000 offered, which will not only help cover the upfront design costs, but make for a much stronger application to GOCO because of the multi-agency participation. In exchange, the county asked that the city contribute an equal amount to an improvement project in the future to the fairgrounds or other county asset.

    Councilor Bob Nicholson, while on board with the plan, hesitated at the way a letter worded the county’s agreement. Nicholson said he was more than willing to keep the city’s side of the bargain, but had assumed the county would ask for repayment only for fairgrounds improvements.

    More Uncompahgre River coverage here and here.


    Rafting season numbers down due to drought and wildfires

    October 13, 2012

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    From the Grand Junction Free Press (Caitlin Row):

    Outfitters said the statewide drought, below-average snowpack levels and Colorado’s many fires all attributed to a depressed rafting season in 2012. “We definitely saw an impact in numbers of people who came to play with us this year,” owner/operator of Grand Junction-based Adventure Bound River Expeditions Tom Kleinschnitz said…

    Having a drought year, compounded by an impactful Colorado fire season, packed a “1-2 punch,” Kleinschnitz said, also noting that fires can be more harmful than drought to business regionally. It can be difficult for someone in Virginia, for example, to understand where Front Range fires are in relation to a Colorado rafting trip on the West Slope if they’re unfamiliar with the state, he explained.

    Gateway Canyons Adventure Center also saw a deep dip in rafting trips on the Dolores River this summer. Adventure Center guide Nick Kroger said the outfitter normally hosts upwards of 30-40 trips a season, but this year it only hosted two commercial trips. “The season lasted a couple days this year for the Dolores River,” Kroger said. “Typically, the season lasts from mid-April into July if we’re lucky.”

    More whitewater coverage here.


    ‘Recreation is one of the few uses of water that doesn’t require pumping water out of our rivers’ — Zak Podmore

    October 12, 2012

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    From the Huffington Post (Zak Podmore):

    When we talk about reasons to keep water in our rivers — as opposed to sinking it deep into fracking wells, spreading it on the lawns of new subdivisions, or sending it over the Rockies to other river basins — recreation is often found near the top of the list. Recreation is one of the few uses of water that doesn’t require pumping water out of our rivers. Instead, it encourages making our rivers as accessible, clean, and as naturally beautiful as possible.

    In an election year like this one some candidates would like us to believe that to be pro-economy you have to be pro-growth, pro-drilling and in favor of new water projects such as reservoirs and diversions. According to this mentality, anything that’s going to protect our state’s natural resources is going to kill jobs and hurt our wallets. But there are other voices speaking up to say the direct opposite: that a strong, stable economy in Western Colorado is going to be built not on the booming and busting cycles of resource extraction, but on the seasonal, sustainable cycles of resource preservation. People who come to enjoy the Western Slope of Colorado to raft, fish, hunt, bike, camp, or simply to sightsee are drawn by the recreational opportunities the mountains and rivers have to offer as intact mountains and rivers.

    As our expedition team floated down the length of the Colorado, we met with many river experts who commented on value of river recreation. First was Molly Mugglestone, the project coordinator for river-advocacy group Protect the Flows, who met with us to explain the river’s contribution to the regional economy. Mugglestone has spent the last year creating a coalition of over 500 businesses in the Colorado River Basin who rely on a healthy river for their livelihoods. Coalition members range from the obvious rafting and fishing companies to small businesses in tourist towns who need the yearly influx of people to stay in business. Together Protect the Flows and the businesses they represent have been speaking up for the needs of a recreation economy.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


    Montrose: The Montrose County Commissioners endorse the the town’s whitewater park application

    August 3, 2012

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    From The Telluride Watch (Katie O’Hare):

    City Councilors and the Montrose Recreation District board asked county commissioners to the table on July 31 to discuss if the county was willing – and at what cost – to support a project that would include creating a whitewater park along the Uncompaghre River at Riverbottom Park.

    The city teamed up with MRD hoping to submit a Great Outdoors Colorado grant application by Aug. 29 that could provide $350,000 toward the project, which includes improvements to the MRD’s ball fields and surrounding areas, also in Riverbottom Park.

    “In principal, it’s all about improving the community for all of us,” said Kerwin Jensen, City of Montrose community development director.

    After a two-hour meeting, commissioners David White and Gary Ellis – who did most of the talking for the county – agreed to put the request for funding help on their regular commissioner meeting agenda for Monday, Aug. 6…

    The city staff stressed the economic benefits the county could see from having a whitewater park in Montrose, which included increased tourism and new businesses to cater to those visitors, as well as the recreational opportunity it would provide county residents.

    “Economic development is number one in our strategic plan, and things like this contribute to that,” Commissioner David White said.


    Drought/runoff news: Rafting companies can do OK in low water years #CODrought

    June 28, 2012

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    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Jon Mitchell):

    “Our best years have been the hot years,” said 52-year-old Kevin Schneider, president and owner of Glenwood Resorts. “We’re really a family business, and moms aren’t interested in taking their kids out on the water when it’s really high and rough.”

    That was definitely the case a year ago, when a massive late-season snowmelt caused high, rough waters and dangerous conditions in Glenwood Canyon and downriver. Now, with the winter snowpack long gone and temperatures routinely flirting with triple digits, water levels are at much more manageable levels.

    What’s followed, as a result, is a trickle-down effect that’s helped the bottom line of local rafting companies in a big way…

    There’s an obvious difference in the water flows, but the biggest difference is in the overall water-flow measurements. According to figures provided by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), river flows on June 27, 2011, measured 24,400 cubic feet per second (cfs) on the Colorado River below Glenwood Springs, reached water levels of 11.77 feet near Dotsero and were flowing at 7,220 cfs where the Roaring Fork River flows into Glenwood.

    There’s a stark contrast in water levels and flows this year. As of Tuesday, the USGS reported that the Colorado River below Glenwood was flowing at 2,150 cfs, was 2.80 feet deep at Dotsero and was flowing at 727 cfs where the Roaring Fork flows into Glenwood…

    The water flow from 2011, though long gone, still left an impression on the routes rafting companies take while business picks up this year. Rocks and boulders were moved by the water flow all around Glenwood Canyon, but especially around the area where Grizzly Creek meets the Colorado. In a spot guides call “Tombstone,” a new boulder moved by last year’s river flow has narrowed the water-flow gap to around 16 feet wide, upgrading the move from a Class III (moderate) move to a Class IV (difficult) move.

    More whitewater coverage here.


    FIBArk results: ‘Demon Pride’ takes home the Hooligan Race trophy, Best-In-Show — ‘Chinese Takeout’

    June 18, 2012

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    Click here for race results from The Pueblo Chieftain.

    More coverage from Tracy Harmon writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    Isaac Schmidt of Arizona was all smiles as he sported a pink helmet and paddled his Andy Warhol-inspired “God Bless America” canoe with alternating pink and turquoise stripes. Dave Curran, 54, of Fruita gave a nod to the race’s “Oldest and Boldest” theme by wearing a 1973 helmet and an equally antique French-made life vest as he paddled a 1975 version of a kayak…

    The river was running at 400 cubic feet per second Saturday, when it is usually flowing at about 2,000 cfs this time of year.

    More Whitewater coverage here.


    Chaffee County officials are trying to get increased flows for the FIBArk festival this weekend

    June 15, 2012

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    From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

    Kara Lamb, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation regional public information officer, said the bureau had not to planned to supplement river flows during FIBArk. The Bureau of Reclamation manages the Frying Pan-Arkansas Project, which diverts West Slope water into the Arkansas Basin and stores it in reservoirs like Turquoise Lake and Twin Lakes Reservoir. The bureau also administers the Voluntary Flow Management Program, and Lamb said the program does not take effect until July 1. She said other entities with water in storage are not likely to release any because of the drought and lack of runoff from winter snowpack…

    Chaffee County Commissioner Dennis Giese told The Mountain Mail that local officials have been in contact with municipal water providers in Colorado Springs, Aurora and Pueblo West, all of which have water stored upstream.
    Giese said officials received no firm commitments but that the municipal water providers “have always been cooperative.”

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    Colorado River Cooperative Agreement: Parties to the agreement flip the switch on the Shoshone Outage Protocol

    June 14, 2012

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    Here’s the release from the Colorado River District (Jim Pokrandt):

    In this year of historically low runoff, the Colorado River District, Denver Water and the Bureau of Reclamation are cooperating to add flows to the Colorado River through the Shoshone Outage Protocol for the benefit of fish, rafting and crop irrigation along the entire stretch of the mainstem from Parshall in Grand County to Grand Junction in Mesa County.

    The extra water is the result of the Shoshone Outage Protocol, a part of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement that was hammered out over the last six years by 42 West Slope entities and Denver Water.

    The three reservoir operators are increasing river flows by about 450 cubic feet a second (cfs) through releases from Wolford Mountain Reservoir, Williams Fork Reservoir and Green Mountain Reservoir, respectively. Through the weekend and early next week, flows in Glenwood Canyon should hover around 1,100 cfs, to improve rafting and to aid farmers and ranchers in the Grand Valley, helping to boost flows that are too low. The 71-year average of flows for this time of the year in Glenwood Canyon is more than 6,000 cfs.

    Additionally, the flows are helping to lower water temperature levels in the river along the Pumphouse area of the river in Grand County to help trout survive.

    “This makes a real difference in the river,” said Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn. “Since we started, you can see by the gage that the temperature of the water has come down 4 degrees Fahrenheit.”

    The Protocol is designed to add water to the Colorado River when the Shoshone Hydro Plant in Glenwood Canyon is down for maintenance and not using its senior water right, which normally would have the river flowing at about 1,250 cfs through the canyon, absent the usual runoff flows. The Protocol is taking place even though all the parties have yet to sign the agreement.

    “This is a good example of how the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement can work when everybody is pitching in to help the river in a time of need,” said Lurline Underbrink Curran, the Grand County Manager.

    Said Jim Lochhead, CEO/Manager of Denver Water, “This is exactly why we all came together to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement – to provide benefit to the Colorado River. Denver Water is proud to be part of an effort that fulfills our goal to operate our system in a way that benefits the environment.”

    Currently, the Shoshone Hydro Plant is operating at about half capacity, which requires about 700 cfs of water. Xcel Energy is unable to run Shoshone at full capacity while it works on repairs to the tunnel that runs about two miles from the Hanging Lakes power plant dam to the power plant itself. The work could last until early September.

    A call on the river, such as the Shoshone 1,250 cfs water right, forces junior water rights holders to replace diverted water from reservoir storage or to stop diverting, thus boosting flows as they decline with the natural drop of the runoff throughout the summer.

    From the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

    The Colorado River District, Denver Water and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation are increasing river flows by about 450 cubic feet a second through releases from the Wolford Mountain, Williams Fork and Green Mountain reservoirs. That should boost flows in Glenwood Canyon to around 1,100 cfs through early next week. The river district says the 71-year average of flows for this time of the year in Glenwood Canyon is more than 6,000 cfs. The extra flows will help reduce water temperatures in Grand County to help trout survive.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


    Western Governors’ Association: Outdoor recreation in western states = $255.6 billion

    June 14, 2012

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    Here’s the release from the Western Governors’ Association website (Chris McKinnon/I Ling Thompson/Kathy Van Kleeck/Thom Dammrich)

    The Western Governors’ Association (WGA) and a coalition of outdoor industry groups today released a joint study documenting the continued growth and importance of outdoor recreation to the economies of the Western states and the nation. The recreation economy was the topic of discussion at the opening session of WGA’s Annual Meeting being held here.

    “The numbers are better than expected,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire (Wash.), WGA’s Chair. “We knew that outdoor recreation was a growth sector and that it creates jobs, but this study documents just how important it is to our national and Western economies.”

    Joining the Governors to discuss ways state and local governments can work with industry to grow the outdoor recreation economy were: Michael Caldwell, Mayor of Ogden, Utah; Sally Jewell, President and CEO of REI; Bennett Morgan, President and COO of Polaris Industries, Inc.; and Dusty McCoy, Chairman and CEO of the Brunswick Corporation.

    “WGA will continue working with our industry partners to release state-by-state data later this year on the economic impact of outdoor recreation,” said Gov. Gary Herbert (Utah), WGA Vice Chair. “With this information states can consider policy that will help to create more businesses, jobs and income related to outdoor recreation.”

    Outdoor recreation is an overlooked economic giant. With $646 billion in national sales and services in 2011, recreation dollars are nearly double the size of pharmaceuticals ($331 billion) and motor vehicles/parts ($340 billion). As another comparison, it powers the economy in a manner comparable to the financial services and insurance industry ($780 billion) and outpatient health care ($767 billion). The full report can be found on the WGA Web site at www.westgov.org/reports.

    This study marks the first time both the motorized and non-motorized sectors of the outdoor recreation industry have worked together to document the total size of the outdoor recreation economy. The study, commissioned by the WGA, was conducted by Southwick and Associates. Southwick surveyed households on actual expenditures on outdoor recreation then, based upon that data and modeling, generated the jobs, taxes, payroll and total economic impact.

    The Outdoor Industry Association, Outdoor Foundation, Motorcycle Industry Council, Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association, Specialty Vehicle Institute of America and National Marine Manufacturers Association contributed funding for the study.

    From the report:

    Western States — Tax Revenue
    Spending on outdoor recreation generates significant tax revenues for local and state governments. In westernstates in 2011 it generated an estimated:

    $15.41 billion in Federal tax receipts
    $15.38 billion in state and local tax receipts


    Whitewater Stand-Up Paddling Championship recap: ‘We just wanted to make a cool course’ — Paul Tefft

    June 11, 2012

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    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Dave Shively):

    At Sunday’s conclusion to the championship — part of the fourth annual Rocky Mountain Surf Festival hosted at the park — Tefft had a far different concern. That is, how to give the 30-some stand-up paddlers who turned out for this year’s festival a surf event when the flow numbers were much closer to 2,600 cfs. Instead of the scheduled SUP-surf event, organizers opted for a “circleSUP” contest, where paddlers in three divisions (men’s, women’s and kids) were broken up into smaller groups of five paddlers or less for a short, sprint course routed around an upstream buoy, then through the park’s wave with two more turns in an S-shape after the wave. “It was like yesterday’s SUPcross race, but it was a better course,” said racer Mike Tavares. “There’s more turns and it’s more technical.”[...]

    In the most exciting heat of the day, the women’s final, local Glenwood Springs paddler Brittany Parker — one of the few, if not only, locals participating in the weekend’s three events — made a run to pass river-SUP competition stalwarts Jenny MacArthur and Nikki Gregg, winners of Saturday’s SUPcross and downriver events, respectively. After some board jostling and contact, Parker fell behind. After judges adjusted the times according to the contact, Parker finished in second place behind Gregg. The 22-year-old, who instructs SUP lessons for the Glenwood Adventure Co., also took third place in Saturday’s SUPcross. Aspen’s Clark Tefft, 13, won the circleSUP kids division. And on the men’s side, Dan Gavere beat out Tavares again, repeating the result of Saturday’s heated SUPcross final.

    More Whitewater coverage here.


    Whitewater sports help drive the Colorado economy

    June 2, 2012

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    From the Summit Daily News (Neal Schwieterman):

    In the rural Colorado we all love, it is often difficult to make a living. Many of us know ranchers and farmers whose spouses work “regular” jobs to keep the family afloat in the agricultural life style. Even when we work “regular” jobs, our pay is well below Front Range rates. So how do we make a rural economy work? Diversify. The more veins feeding the aorta, the quicker it fills. On the Western Slope, few of us want to make it rich, but we sure would like our children to be able to return after college and make a go of it.

    Recreational rafting does not drive the economy, but is another feeder vein. The Taylor River accounts for two-thirds of the boating user days in the Gunnison Basin. The $4 million in economic activity this generates helps fill restaurants and rental houses and keeps energetic ski area workers employed off season. In the Colorado Basin, including the Blue, Eagle and Roaring Fork rivers, direct spending totals over $12 million, generating a total of over $31 million in economic activity. Of that, boating on the Blue River contributed over $750,000 in direct spending and nearly $2 million in economic impact. These numbers from the Colorado River Outfitters Association 2001 report do not include economic activity generated from fishing, pleasure boating on reservoirs or “private boaters,” who like the sport enough to purchase the gear to raft, kayak or canoe rivers on their own. They are not confined to the commercially run sections of rivers.

    More whitewater coverage here.


    Runoff/snowpack/drought news: ‘We really live on snowpack, that’s what it comes down to’ — Richard Ferguson

    May 29, 2012

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    From the Associated Press (Thomas Peipert) via The Denver Post:

    The first impact has been an early paddling season and lower flowing rivers. “We really live on snowpack. That’s what it comes down to,” said Richard Ferguson, a trip coordinator for the Poudre Paddlers Canoe and Kayak Club, which serves northern Colorado.

    He said low river flows already have forced him to cancel one trip scheduled in July on the Yampa River. A group outing that had been planned for Memorial Day had to be moved. “A light snowpack means that the peak is very early,” Ferguson said. “What happens is the season just disappears very quickly. What you have, essentially, is no water to paddle in.”

    Although he still plans to hit the rapids just about every other week for the time being, Ferguson predicts there won’t be any paddling on the Poudre River by midsummer…

    Mage Skordahl, the NRCS’s assistant snow survey supervisor, said the snowpack peaked around March 12, a month ahead of average, and current conditions match those recorded during the record-setting drought of 2002, one of the toughest years for river guides in the state…

    Jon Donaldson, co-owner of River Runners, a rafting guide company based in Buena Vista, said, “We’re going ahead full bore like there won’t be an effect.” High water last season — especially in the Royal Gorge area near Cañon City — closed parts of the popular Arkansas River because they were too dangerous to navigate. Donaldson predicts those same sections will remain open the entire season this year, which means the possibility of more trips — and more business.

    From the Aspen Daily News (Dorothy Atkins):

    Local fishing outfitters are counting on an active monsoon season and a surplus of water from Ruedi Reservoir to keep the stock healthy. [Jarrod Hollinger, owner of the fly-fishing guide company, Aspen Outfitting Co.] is advising locals to follow fishing protocol to protect the stock. Use rubber nets, barbless hooks and be sure to only have fish out of the water for under 30 seconds, said Hollinger…

    Low-water levels are going to be a boon for the recreational fishing industry in June and July when the river usually peaks. During those months, high-stream flows typically push fishermen upstream where the flows aren’t as powerful. At lower stream flow levels, there are more options available to fishermen, and tourists opt to fish rather than raft.

    From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

    As of [Orchard City trustee Jimmie Boyd's] report last week, Little Gem and Park reservoirs were full and spilling, and most Grand Mesa reservoirs still had ice cover. The town is expected to have 160 to 170 acre-feet of reservoir water available. Orchard City’s water utility used 120 to 125 acre-feet in 2002, Boyd said. That will leave some 40 acre-feet for the town to rent to valley irrigators.

    From the Colorado River District via the Delta County Independent:

    However, unlike 2012, Colorado reservoirs this year are relatively in good shape, although Green Mountain, Ruedi, Taylor Park, and Aspinall Unit reservoirs on the Western Slope stand a good chance of not filling.

    Those assessments of the state of water reserves was delivered to the Colorado River District board of directors meeting in April.

    The report included the following points:

    • Wolford Mountain Reservoir has already filled.

    • The net effect is that water storage in 2012 puts water users in a better position than 2002, although supplies will have to be closely gauged and steps taken to mitigate anticipated shortages.

    • Entities holding contracts in Ruedi Reservoir will be receiving a letter asking if they have excess water to pledge in a pool for use by irrigators if needed this year.

    • The Colorado River District itself will be dedicating water it holds in Ruedi, as well as supplies in Wolford Mountain Reservoir to the pool.


    Drought/runoff/snowpack news: May 22, 2012 drought update from the CWCB

    May 28, 2012

    usdroughtmonitor05242012.jpg

    Here’s the drought update from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Veva DeHeza):

    April 2012 was the fourth warmest on record (records date back to 1895). While May has been slightly cooler, temperatures remain above average, exacerbating persistently dry conditions on the west slope and throughout the San Luis Valley. May precipitation along the Front Range corridor has improved. However, municipalities are reporting increased demand and expect to see storage levels drop if conditions persist. Evapotranspiration rates on the Eastern Plains resemble levels expected for mid-summer months. Many irrigators are using more water than normal for this time of year. All major basins have seen significant declines in snowpack. All continue to be below normal for the year. Extreme drought conditions have been introduced in the Yampa, Colorado and Gunnison River basins per the U.S. Drought Monitor. Governor Hickenlooper has expanded Drought Mitigation and Response Plan to include this region.

     The last two months temperatures have been five degrees above average for most of Colorado, with some areas experiencing temperatures 6-10 degrees above normal.

     The Colorado and Yampa River basins both have the lowest May 1st snowpack on record (45 year record), with 21% and 17% of average respectively. Both were also near record high this time last year.

     Reservoir storage remains strong throughout most of the state, at 112% of average. The Gunnison River Bain has thehighest percent of average storage at 124%, while the Rio Grande has the lowest at 70% of average.

     As of the May 22, 2012 US Drought Monitor, 96% of Colorado is experiencing some level of drought classification.D1, moderate drought, conditions remain in much of the southern Colorado, while the northern and central mountains are now classified as D2, severe, and D3 extreme drought conditions. Pockets of D2 also exist in the San Luis Valley and Crowley County.

     The Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) values range from -4 in the North Platte headwaters to -1.93 in the Big Thompson. The South Platte River Basin, which encompasses the Big Thompson sub-basin, is the only river basin that is predominantly weighted with reservoir storage this time of the year. With storage strong values appear slightly higher. All SWSI values throughout the state, utilizing the revised methodology, are negative.

     Some drought indicators, in portions of the state, show conditions worse than 2002, such as the SWSI for Yampa/White and Arkansas basins, which indicates less surface water supply in 2012 than 2002.

     La Niña conditions weakened to neutral. A full transition to El Niño is not expected this spring, but could occur later this summer. El Niño conditions would favor more moisture for the state.

     The long term forecast for late summer (July-September) shows a tilt towards wet conditions covering most of southern Colorado, near-normal moisture over the northwestern portion of our state, and a slight tilt towards wetness in northeast Colorado.

     Producers are already anticipating a low wheat harvest and rangeland conditions are poor. Dry land farmers are the most impacted at this time, although irrigators are reporting needing more water than normal for this time of year.

     Fire danger remains above normal for the western portion of the state.

    From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

    In response to conditions, Gov, John Hickenlooper has ordered expanded activation of the statewide drought mitigation and response plan. Counties in the Yampa, White, Colorado and Gunnison basins could see severe drought-related economic impacts, and other sectors of the state’s economy may also be affected if current weather trends continue, Hickenlooper wrote in a May 21 memo the heads all state government agencies.

    Based on Hickenlooper’s order, a drought task force will start to meet regularly and state departments will assign senior-level managers to coordinate the drought response. More information on Colorado’s drought plans are online at the Colorado Water Conservation Board website.

    A May 21 update from the Colorado Water Availability Task Force outlines other effects of the warm, dry spring, including evapotranspiration rates on the eastern plains that are normally seen in mid-summer. That means the soil is losing moisture fast, upping demand from irrigators. Some drought indicators, including water supply and runoff forecasts, are worse than in 2002, the last significant drought in the state. Producers in the agricultural sector are already anticipating a low wheat harvest and rangeland conditions are poor. Dry land farmers are the most impacted at this time, although irrigators are reporting needing more water than normal for this time of year.

    Here’s a release from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District (Diane Johnson):

    Eagle River Water and Sanitation District customers are reminded that the normal Water Use Regulations apply year-round. The regulations govern how water is used, particularly outdoors, within Eagle River Water & Sanitation District’s service area.

    “The district is responsible for protecting an adequate supply of water to its customers,” said General Manager Linn Brooks. “We promote efficient use of water at all times, but given this year’s potential water supply challenges, every customer can lessen the impact of the drought to our community by carefully considering their outdoor water needs.”

    As part of the district’s general rules and regulations, the Water Use Regulations are rooted in Colorado water law and state that “water shall be used for beneficial purposes only and shall not be wasted.” This is primarily achieved by watering no more than three days per week and avoiding outdoor water use during hot and windy times of day, when water is lost to evaporation.

    The complete Water Use Regulations are available at www.erwsd.org

    The district encourages customers to have their irrigation systems properly maintained because water is wasted if sprinkler heads or lines are broken or are spraying onto driveways or roads.

    From The Norwood Post (Ellen Metrick):

    “We’re getting customers ready for whatever’s coming down the pike,” said Town of Norwood Administrator Patti Grafmyer. The water situation this year isn’t much different from 2002, the year of the Burn Canyon Fire and town water restrictions that eventually allowed only indoor water use. That summer, the town pulled water from the San Miguel River under its conditional water right, and trucked it up to the mesa, where customers could fill tanks to water trees and shrubs.

    As for gardeners in this dry year, Grafmyer said, “Hopefully they will think about how and what they plant.”

    From the Snowmass Sun (Jill Beathard):

    With the low amount of snow this year, it’s a bit early to run commercial rafting trips on area rivers fed by runoff. But Snowmass-based Blazing Adventures is taking trips on the Colorado River, which has the best whitewater in the state right now, according to rafting guide Ben Whitaker. “Because it’s dam-controlled they can release the water,” Whitaker said. “They get it to a decent flow, and they can maintain that flow.”

    From the Associated Press via Steamboat Today:

    Matthew Aleksa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction forecast office, said a strong low-pressure system that moved through Nevada and into northern Utah before pushing its way toward Idaho overnight Saturday brought the strong and sustained winds that plagued much of Colorado, including Routt County, on Saturday. Those winds also blew dust into the sky, significantly reducing visibility in cities like Steamboat Springs. Aleksa said smoke from wildfires in neighboring states could have contributed to the haze but that the primary cause is airborne dust.

    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Scott N. Miller):

    Diane Johnson, communications manager for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, said people in her office have said Gore Creek through Vail seems to have peaked for the season. The same is true farther down the Colorado River system. Eagle County Public Works Director Tom Johnson has been told the Colorado River near Glenwood Springs peaked earlier in May. Rivers are running at a relative trickle for this time of year across Western Colorado. In fact, the U.S. Geological Survey’s streamflow map showed just one local stream — Homestake Creek — running above its normal flow for May 25.

    Streamflow is important for Eagle County, since there are only a few high-elevation reservoirs for use later in the season. That’s why water managers are keeping a close eye on streamflows.

    From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

    Steamboat weather observer Art Judson said Thursday that he has recorded 0.62 inches of precipitation in May at his weather station between downtown and the ski area. That leaves a little less than a week to catch up to the average May precipitation of 2.08 inches. In a typical month of May, a little snow on Mount Werner translates into cold rain at lower elevations and hits the sweet spot for the grass hay that dominates the meadows of the Yampa Valley. This year is a little different.

    “The soil temperatures have climbed to the point that the growth pattern is different this year,” Hagenbuch said. The hay is further along in its growth cycle than normal, and farmers and ranchers are scrambling to irrigate earlier than they typically would. Water is in the creeks and rivers now, but it won’t be for much longer.

    If there’s a silver lining, Hagenbuch said, it’s that calving season was easy this spring and the fences didn’t need mending because of the scarcity of the snowpack. That gives hay growers more time to monitor their irrigation ditches…

    He is wary that a little later in the summer, the return flows from hay fields that replenish the river in most seasons won’t restore enough water to the stream for each successive hay grower down the chain to get the water their fields need.


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