Wild and Scenic status for Deep Creek? BLM defers to coalition to keep feds out of management.

April 12, 2014
Deep Creek via the Bureau of Land Management

Deep Creek via the Bureau of Land Management

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Federal agencies have found Deep Creek east of Glenwood Canyon to be suitable for wild and scenic protective status.

But the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service have decided to defer such a determination for parts of the Colorado River in and east of the canyon and instead give a coalition the chance to provide similar protections while keeping the federal government out of it.

The decisions were announced as part of final resource management plans released by the BLM’s Colorado River Valley and Kremmling field offices, and a related action by the White River National Forest. They are subject to protest periods before they can be finalized.

The agency determinations regarding Deep Creek wouldn’t confer the protective status on Deep Creek. That would require an act of Congress, or by the Interior secretary under certain conditions when a state governor petitions for it. Only one waterway in Colorado, the Cache la Poudre River in Larimer County, is now a wild and scenic river.

The Deep Creek suitability finding applies to Forest Service and BLM segments covering about 15 miles of the Colorado River tributary, which as its name suggests is rugged and largely inaccessible. According to a suitability report from both agencies, they determined the segments can be managed under the wild and scenic designation “with very little conflict with other uses because most of the land is federal, and the likelihood of development is small.”

Circumstances are different on the Colorado River, leading the agencies to hold off, at least for now, on determining wild and scenic suitability for nearly 100 miles of water on several stretches from Gore Canyon outside Kremmling through No Name just east of Glenwood Springs. Instead, they’ve decided to see if a stakeholder group’s alternative management plan will suffice. That group is made up of counties, conservation groups, western Colorado and Front Range water utilities, and other entities worried about the implications should wild and scenic status be conferred on the river.

“It will have all the protections of that but doesn’t come with the federal designation, which is going to be key for the local management of the river in Colorado,” said Mike Eytel, a water resource specialist with the Colorado River Water Conservation District, which is part of the group.

The concern of a wild and scenic designation is its potential to limit water development within river stretches receiving that protection.

“It could have a significant impact on our ability to develop Colorado River water, in my opinion,” Eytel said.

The Forest Service’s draft decision states that the decision to give the stakeholders’ proposal a chance will provide certainty for their “water yield and flexibility for future management on such a complex river system as the Colorado River.”

Eytel said assuming the decisions go forward, the real work begins for the group as it seeks to monitor and manage the river as outlined in its plan. Under the Forest Service and BLM decisions, they reserve the right to revisit the suitability question later if protections aren’t adequate.

The BLM also has found dozens of other river and creek stretches to not be suitable for wild and scenic status, including stretches farther upstream on the Colorado River.

More Wild and Scenic coverage here.


CSU Sponsors First Poudre River Forum Feb. 8

January 21, 2014
Cache la Poudre River

Cache la Poudre River

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jennifer Dimas):

The Cache la Poudre River is life-blood for Northern Colorado. In recognition of its importance to the area, the community is invited to the first Poudre River Forum, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8 at The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland. The forum, “The Poudre: Working River/Healthy River,” will focus on all of the river’s stakeholders, representing perspectives from agricultural, municipal, business, recreational and environmental backgrounds. Topics to be discussed include:

• The water rights of agricultural and municipal diverters;
• Where the water in the Poudre comes from and what it does for us;
• Ecological factors such as flow, temperature, fish and sedimentation.

The forum will feature presentations and dialogue, including remarks by State Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs about how the Poudre itself was the site of early conflict and cooperation leading to the development of the doctrine of prior appropriation in the West, and how water law has evolved in recent years.

Following the event, a celebration of the river will be held until 6 p.m. with refreshments and jazz by the Poudre River Irregulars.

Pre-registration is required by Jan. 31. The cost is $25; students 18 and under are free and scholarships are available. To register, visit http://www.cwi.colostate.edu/thepoudrerunsthroughit

The event is sponsored by The Poudre Runs Through It Study/Action Work Group facilitated by CSU’s Colorado Water Institute.

More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.


Wild and scenic designation for the Dolores River?

January 14, 2014
Dolores River near Bedrock

Dolores River near Bedrock

From the Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

New management plans by the BLM and Forest Service upgrade the status of two native fish, and list new sections of the river as “preliminarily suitable” for a Wild and Scenic designation.

Roy Smith, a BLM water specialist, explained that the suitability status for the Lower Dolores from the dam to Bedrock has been in place since a 1976, and the special status was reaffirmed in a recently released public lands management plan.

“It qualifies because below the dam, the lower Dolores is a free-flowing stream that has outstandingly remarkable values (ORVs),” he said. “A common misconception is that suitability means we can wave a wand and make it Wild and Scenic, but that is not true. That takes congressional action.”

The 1976 suitability study noted that the Dolores is compatible with a Wild and Scenic designation, and “McPhee dam will enhance and complement such designation.”

ORVs are obscure and sometimes controversial assessments that identify river-related natural values. They are an indication that a river could qualify as a Wild and Scenic River in the future. In the meantime, their natural values are protected in management plans.

In their recent management plan, the BLM and Forest Service upped the ante, adding the bluehead and flannelmouth suckers to ORV standard list, which already includes the bonytail chub.

The Colorado Water Conservation board also believes native fish on the river deserve additional help. They propose to issue a new in-stream flow requirement for a 34-mile section of the river from the confluence with the San Miguel River to the Gateway community.

Ted Kowalski, a CWCB water resource specialist, explained that the new instream flow is proposed to improve habitat conditions for native fish.

“In-stream flows are designed to protect the natural hydrographs on the river, and we feel they are better than top-down river management from the federal side,” Kowalski said. “The proposed instream flows on that section of the Dolores are timed to accommodate spawning needs for native fish.”

Required peak flows reach 900 cfs during spring runoff, and then taper off. Most of the water would be provided by the San Miguel River, an upstream tributary…

The Dolores Water Conservation Board and the Southwestern Water Conservation board objected to the changes, fearing the move could force more water to be released downstream. They have filed appeals and protests to stop them.

Even the preliminary Wild and Scenic status on the Dolores is strongly opposed by McPhee Reservoir operators because if officially designated, Wild and Scenic rivers come with a federally reserved water right, which would also force more water to be released from the dam.

Jeff Kane, an attorney representing SWCD, said adding two native fish as ORVs was unexpected and unfair to a local collaborative process working to identify and protect native fish needs…

Accusations that federal agencies and the CWCB hijacked a 10-year-long, grass-roots effort to protect the Dolores were expressed at the meeting, which was attended by 80 local and regional officials…

A diverse stakeholder group, the Dolores River Working Group, is proposing to make the Lower Dolores River into a National Conservation Area through future legislation. As part of the deal, suitability status for Wild and Scenic on the Lower Dolores River would be dropped.

“It is still worthwhile to get our proposal out there,” said Amber Kelley, Dolores River coordinator for the San Juan Citizen’s Alliance. “We should continue to move forward in our collaborative effort despite the concerns about the BLM changes.”

More Dolores River Watershed coverage here and here.


The BLM’s suitability analysis for Wild and Scenic designation for Deep Creek is nearing the end

October 31, 2013
Deep Creek via the Bureau of Land Management

Deep Creek via the Bureau of Land Management

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud) via The Aspen Times:

A process that began nearly 19 years ago to have Deep Creek in far eastern Garfield County designated as a Wild and Scenic waterway is nearing the end of a formal suitability analysis as part of the BLM’s new Resource Management Plan.

“We are conducting our suitability analysis for Wild and Scenic Rivers through our RMP,” said David Boyd, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Northwest Colorado District. “We anticipate the proposed plan/alternative will be released late this fall or early next year,” he said.

In addition, the White River National Forest is working with the BLM to analyze eligible segments of Deep Creek as it passes through forest lands.

“The draft plan has identified both the BLM and Forest Service segments of Deep Creek as suitable for Wild and Scenic in two alternatives,” Boyd said, including a conservation alternative and a less-restrictive “preferred alternative.”[...]

One other area waterway, the Crystal River south of Carbondale, is in the preliminary stages of being proposed by conservation groups for Wild and Scenic designation as well.

More Wild and Scenic coverage here.


Wild and Scenic designation for the Crystal River?

January 6, 2013

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Here’s an in-depth report from Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith). Click through for all the detail and some great photos, as well. Here’s an excerpt:

Wild and Scenic status, which ultimately requires an act of Congress to obtain, prevents a federal agency from approving, or funding, a new dam or reservoir on a Wild and Scenic-designated river.

And that’s one big reason why Pitkin County, the Roaring Fork Conservancy, the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association (CVEPA) and American Rivers are exploring Wild and Scenic status for the Crystal — because it would likely block a potential dam and reservoir from being built at Placita, an old coal town between Marble and Redstone…

The West Divide Water Conservancy District and the Colorado River District are fighting to retain conditional water rights that could allow for a dam across the Crystal and a 4,000-acre-foot reservoir.

The river district says such a reservoir could put more water in the often parched lower Crystal River in the fall and could also provide hydropower.

But the county, CVEPA and American Rivers are actively opposing the renewal of the conditional water rights tied to the dam and a 21-day trial in district water court is scheduled for August.

In the meantime those groups, plus the Conservancy, are testing local sentiment about seeking Wild and Scenic designation.

“We want to disseminate as much information as possible to the public about the Wild and Scenic program, and then ask the folks in the Crystal River Valley if they think it is a good idea to pursue,” said Pitkin County Attorney John Ely, who leads most of the county’s water-related initiatives.

To that end, the groups held two public meetings in mid-November, one in Redstone attended by 57 people and one in Carbondale with 35 people there…

What the Wild and Scenic Act does do is let the river run — by preventing federal agencies from permitting or funding “any dam, water conduit, reservoir, powerhouse, transmission line or other project,” according to its language.

It would prevent, for example, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from issuing a permit for a hydropower project on the river or along its banks.

“Some rivers need to be left alone,” said David Moryc, senior director of river protection at American Rivers, describing the underlying intent of the law, according to a summary of the meeting prepared by the Roaring Fork Conservancy…

When asked about that via email, Ely of Pitkin County said he thought Colorado had only one designated river because of the “lack of information as to the benefits and restrictions of the designation, and the time and dedication it takes to get it through Congress.”

Another reason may be that once a river is designated Wild and Scenic, the federal government becomes a stakeholder on the river and has a chance to review potential changes to it, such as any new water rights. Some may feel that Colorado water law is complicated enough already…

“I think the Crystal has the potential to be a nice clean straightforward effort because there are no out-of-basin uses yet,” Ely wrote. “If there is interest in going forward, we’re happy to be the laboring oar and do that work.”

More Crystal River Watershed coverage here and here.


Crystal River: Momentum building for Wild and Scenic designation

December 3, 2012

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Here’s an analysis of efforts to protect the Crystal River under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for The Aspen Daily News. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Thirty-nine miles of the Crystal River are already “eligible” for designation under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Now four organizations are building local support to determine if much of the river is also “suitable” for protection under the act.

Passed in 1968, the act allows local and regional communities to develop a federally backed management plan designed to preserve and protect a free-flowing river such as the Crystal River, which runs from the back of the Maroon Bells to the lower Roaring Fork River through Crystal, Marble, Redstone and Carbondale.

Wild and Scenic status, which ultimately requires an act of Congress to obtain, prevents a federal agency from approving, or funding, a new dam or reservoir on a Wild and Scenic-designated river.

And that’s one big reason why Pitkin County, the Roaring Fork Conservancy, the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association (CVEPA) and American Rivers are exploring Wild and Scenic status for the Crystal — because it would likely block a potential dam and reservoir from being built at Placita, an old coal town between Marble and Redstone.

The West Divide Water Conservancy District and the Colorado River District are fighting to retain conditional water rights that could allow for a dam across the Crystal and a 4,000-acre-foot reservoir.

The river district says such a reservoir could put more water in the often parched lower Crystal River in the fall and could also provide hydropower…

Chuck Wanner, a former Fort Collins city council member, said at the meetings that it took 10 years to get sections of the Cache La Poudre River on the Eastern Slope designated under Wild and Scenic.

Today, that’s the only river in the state that carries the designation and no river in the vast Colorado River basin is officially Wild and Scenic.

When asked about that via email, Ely of Pitkin County said he thought Colorado had only one designated river because of the “lack of information as to the benefits and restrictions of the designation, and the time and dedication it takes to get it through Congress.”

Another reason may be that once a river is designated Wild and Scenic, the federal government becomes a stakeholder on the river and has a chance to review potential changes to it, such as any new water rights. Some may feel that Colorado water law is complicated enough already.

And then there is the fact that designation eliminates the possibility of federal funding for future water projects, which can dampen the enthusiasm of most cities, counties and water districts.

Whatever the reasons for scarcity in Colorado, Pitkin County is ready to lead a Wild and Scenic process for the Crystal River.

“I think the Crystal has the potential to be a nice clean straightforward effort because there are no out-of-basin uses yet,” Ely wrote. “If there is interest in going forward, we’re happy to be the laboring oar and do that work.”[...]

While today only the Cache la Poudre River has stretches that are designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the BLM is preparing a suitability study on a number of area river stretches.

A final EIS is expected to be released in early 2013 by the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office followed by a record of decision in 2014 for the following rivers and river sections:

• Abrams Creek

• Battlement Creek

• Colorado River — State Bridge to Dotsero

• Colorado River — Glenwood Canyon to approximately 1-mile east of No Name Creek

• Deep Creek — From the BLM/Forest Service land boundary to the Deep Creek ditch diversion

• Deep Creek — From the Deep Creek ditch diversion to the BLM/private land boundary

• Eagle River

• Egeria Creek

• Hack Creek

• Mitchell Creek

• No Name Creek

• Rock Creek

• Thompson Creek

• East Middle Fork Parachute Creek Complex

• East Fork Parachute Creek Complex

For more information on regarding Wild and Scenic suitability on these rivers, search for “Colorado River Valley Draft Resource Management Plan,” which will lead you to a BLM website that contains the draft EIS document.

The BLM is also reviewing a number of stretches on major rivers in Colorado, either for eligibility or suitability, including:

• Animas River

• Dolores River

• San Miguel River

• Gunnison River

• Colorado River

• Blue River

In all, according to Deanna Masteron, a public affairs specialist with the BLM in Lakewood, the BLM is currently analyzing more than 100 segments in Colorado through various land-use plans. The Forest Service also has the ability to analyze rivers for Wild and Scenic designation.

More Wild and Scenic coverage here and here.


Redstone: Wild & Scenic Rivers Educational Forum for the Crystal River November 14

November 4, 2012

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to view Pete McBride’s photo essay about the river.

From the Roaring Fork Conservancy:

Roaring Fork Conservancy, Pitkin County, American Rivers, and the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association will host a public educational forum to explore the process of a Wild and Scenic River designation for the Crystal River. The forum panel will include Kay Hopkins from the White River National Forest, Chuck Wanner, former Ft. Collins city councilman who played an integral role in the designation of the Cache la Poudre as Wild & Scenic, Mike Moody from the Native Fish Society in Oregon who has participated in the Wild and Scenic process on the Molalla River in Oregon, and David Moryc, Senior Director of River Protection at American Rivers. The public is encouraged to participate to learn more about the process of designation, ask questions, and be part of the community to evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of this possible designation for the Crystal River.

What: Wild and Scenic River Educational Forum for the Crystal River
When: Wednesday, November 14, 2012, 6:30-8:30pm Redstone Church, Redstone
Thursday, November 15, 2012, 6:30-8:30pm Third Street Center, Carbondale
Who: All community members, stakeholders, land owners, and business owners

Partners for this Educational Forum include Pitkin County, Roaring Fork Conservancy, Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association, Town of Carbondale, White River National Forest, Avalanche Ranch, Wilderness Workshop, American Whitewater, Thompson Divide Coalition, Western Rivers Institute, Roaring Fork Audubon Society, American Rivers, Native Fish Society, and the Sierra Club.


Drought news: Drought helps proponents of the NISP make their point about storage

August 7, 2012

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Here’s an in-depth look at the current state of the Northern Integrated Supply Project from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

…the 2012 drought has brought an often breathless sense of urgency to the debate over the need for the big alternative to damming up Poudre Canyon – a massive dam building project called NISP that would siphon water from the Poudre River and turn a valley on U.S. Highway 287 north of Fort Collins into Glade Reservoir – a lake bigger than Horsetooth Reservoir.

The drought proves that Northern Colorado still needs to find “buckets” in which to store water during wet years so the region can have a water savings account for years like this one, said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, NISP’s mastermind and chief advocate…

“The current drought throughout Northern Colorado has brought home a stark reality — we need more water storage and soon! Without it, our children’s and grandchildren’s future will be at risk,” Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway wrote in the Windsor Beacon on July 17. He warned that a Colorado without NISP would be a Colorado with 100 fewer square miles of irrigated farmland in Weld and Larimer counties. It would be an economic and environmental disaster, he said…

“You can conserve only so much,” [State Sen. Mary Hodge of Brighton] said. “When you conserve as much as humanly possible you don’t leave yourself room for a year (like) you have now.” The bottom line, she said, is that the Front Range isn’t going to stop growing, and all those new Windsorites, Erieans, and Frederickers must have access to more water.

Perhaps to illustrate the political peril surrounding NISP, Gov. John Hickenlooper‘s administration has no official position on the project except to say that it encourages water projects to have “multiple benefits.” NISP has those benefits, and the state hopes that the Army Corps has prioritized its review of the project, Hickenlooper wrote in a May letter to the Army Corps. “The governor has not endorsed NISP,” Hickenlooper’s special water policy advisor John Stulp said Thursday, adding, “There’s no question about when we have a drought that we start looking at what our options might be to help minimize the impacts of future drought.”[...]

As the river’s spring flows would be heavily reduced, more than 2,700 acres of native plant communities would be lost, the Army Corps concluded in its draft environmental review. The city of Fort Collins worries water quality in Horsetooth Reservoir could be degraded by a pipeline sending Glade water into Horsetooth Reservoir, possibly costing the city millions in capital costs to ensure the quality of its drinking water is maintained depending on how much water is transferred between reservoirs. And, in addition to harm city natural areas along the Poudre could suffer if the river is diminished, the city could have to spend in excess of $125 million to upgrade its water treatment facilities to protect the river…

…the era of big dam proposals on the Poudre River evaporated decades ago after Congress protected a long stretch of the river as wild and scenic in 1986, effectively canceling the Cache la Poudre Project, a proposal to build a chain of reservoirs throughout Poudre Canyon. A later plan to build a dam lower in the canyon was also scuttled…

…even Poudre River advocates are divided on NISP and Glade. “NISP is the natural outgrowth (of the fact that) we didn’t build a dam on the main stem at Grey Mountain,” said Bill Sears, president of Friends of the Poudre, who said the primary concern in the 1980s was to ensure that the values of a free-flowing river in Poudre Canyon trumped the value in storing water there. But now that the canyon is protected, “the need for water storage doesn’t go away,” he said. “So, where are you going to put it? “To their credit, Northern has scoured the area thoroughly,” he said. “I think they make their case for Glade, but until the Corps of Engineers makes their final ruling, I’m hesitant to make a hard and fast stand.”

From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

Tuesday’s forecast high of 92 degrees could be as cool as it gets in the city for a week, according to the National Weather Service office in Denver. The drought-parched Eastern Plains have a slight of rain, but “precipitation amounts will generally be light,” forecasters said Monday. Western Colorado could see slightly cooler temperatures this week, with highs in the low 80s in Steamboat Springs and Durango, and in the 70s in Aspen, according to the weather service.

All of Colorado remains in a severe, extreme or exceptional drought, according to the federal government’s U.S. Drought Monitor. After the hottest July on record in Denver, when temperatures were 4.7 degrees hotter than usual, August so far is 2.7 degrees above average.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


Gunnison River basin: 10 segments in Delta County deemed not suitable for Wild and Scenic designation by the Lower Gunnison Stakeholders Group

May 15, 2011

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

The Lower Gunnison Stakeholders Group found a wide range of criteria on which to base its “non-suitable” recommendations. Existing water rights, private property rights, and production agriculture were important. In several cases, streams’ “outstandingly remarkable values” were found already protected by current management regimens. Streams within the NCA and Wilderness especially were found to benefit from the management regimens on their surrounding public lands. Members of the Stakeholders Group felt that official Wild and Scenic designation on some segments would only attract more visitors to them and damage their special characteristics. “The outstanding remarkable values that BLM has identified for these streams and stream corridors are, in many cases, the result of the management practices of local ranchers and, more recently, the BLM’s management practices,” the group found.

The Stakeholders Group did find some conditions in the stream segment corridors it studied to be less than ideal, and they made recommendations for improvement. For example, protection of historical and cultural sites in the corridors should be site-specific. Signage, fencing, and use of volunteer “stewards” to monitor the sites’ conditions were recommended. Other sensitive cultural sites should not be identified publicly to protect their pristine condition…

The 10 stream segments included stretches on the Gunnison River, Rose Creek, Big and Little Dominguez Creeks, Cottonwood Creek, and Escalante Creek.

More Wild and Scenic coverage here. More Gunnison River basin coverage here.


‘Poudre runs through it’ forum recap

February 6, 2011

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From the Northern Colorado Business Report:

Mary Lou Smith, a policy and collaboration specialist with the Water Institute, said the main message of the forum was to get people with diverse opinions about the region’s water future talking together. “The message was it’s important for us to look at the various values we bring to the table when we look at the future of the water supply in this area,” she said. “We said how can we work together? That really set the tone.”[...]

Smith said the purpose of the forum was not to push any particular agenda as to how the region’s future water needs should be met. One ongoing controversial water issue in the region is whether Glade Reservoir – a proposed new storage project- should be built just outside Poudre Canyon. Smith said Glade may or may not be part of the solution. “There’s a whole portfolio of solutions, including storage,” she said. “This isn’t about building Glade – it’s much broader than that. It’s about realizing there are trade-offs and helping the public better understand how water law works and forming educated opinions.”

Three more educational sessions are set to continue the discussion on Feb. 24, March 10 and March 24. All three will be held in the Larimer Courthouse, 200 W. Oak St., from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.


‘Poudre runs through it’ forum recap

February 4, 2011

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

More than 300 people turned out Thursday night at the Larimer County office building in Old Town to consider the best ways to keep the various future needs of Poudre River water from being fodder for a fight as part of a UniverCity Connections-sponsored series of public forums called “The Poudre Runs Through It: Northern Colorado’s Water Future.”

Author Laura Pritchett suggested people find “the radical center,” the place where those with sometimes drastically different ideas about the river can meet to civilly discuss their views and find solutions to the region’s water needs without fighting. The radical center, she said, should be that middle ground where people discover there isn’t just one solution for the water – either store it in Glade Reservoir or not at all. Those in the radical center, she said, seek to find a “portfolio” of solutions…

The fundamental threat to the Poudre River is urban growth, said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University. “Much of the future water demand will be right here in the Front Range corridor,” he said. “We haven’t as a society decided if we want to control that growth yet.”[...]

Lynn Hall of Fort Collins said her biggest fear is losing the wildlife habitat along the Poudre River through the city. “To have a natural river with as much wildlife habitat as it has a few blocks from downtown is really a miracle,” she said. “We need to be really clear to figure out how we can make this accessible to humans, but not as an urban construction.”

The second part of the series of forums will be three education sessions scheduled for Feb. 24, March 10 and March 24 at the Larimer County office building, 200 W. Oak St. Those will be followed by two public dialogue sessions on April 11 and 16.

More coverage from the Rocky Mountain Collegian (Vashti Batjargal):

The public forum served as a place for residents to discuss the value the Poudre River holds and how water should be allocated to each of the region’s competing needs. “We have a fixed resource and it’s all about trade-off,” said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute. “In everything we choose, we also choose not.”[...]

George Reed, owner of 62 acres of land 10 miles north of Fort Collins, said he’d like a reservoir. “We could learn a lesson from the squirrels: You have to put some water away,” Reed said. “I’ve never seen a reservoir I didn’t like.”[...]

The forum was designed to get community input for decisions on water distribution and conservation for growth and agricultural needs. CSU associate professor of history Mark Fiege said the decisions the community will ultimately make concerning water distribution will have an effect on future generations. “It will impose a burden and responsibility that we cannot fully predict,” he said.

More coverage from Bill Jackson writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

The initial session turnout surprised organizers, but only a small percentage of the crowd offered public comment. Organizers, including UniverCity Connections, Colorado State University and the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado, collected comments from the crowd as they left. Those comments will be compiled and used at educational sessions later this year. MaryLou Smith, a policy and collaboration specialist with the CSU Colorado Water Institute, said the sessions were conceived as a city of Fort Collins event, but she realized, from the turnout, that other communities along the 126-mile stretch of the river should also be included.

Reagan Waskom, director of the water institute at CSU, said the Poudre River, as well as others in northern Colorado, face serious demands in the future. Much of those demands will come from expected growth along the Front Range. To meet those demands, he said, an additional 500,000 to 800,000 acre feet of water a year will be needed; an acre-foot of water is considered enough to supply two families with a year’s supply of water. The annual flow of the Poudre is about 275,000 acre feet…

Tom Moore is a local farmer and business owner who said cities in the area are willing to pay $10,000 an acre-foot for water. “It’s hard to put an agricultural value of one-third that,” he said, adding it is the quality of water in the region that draw people and businesses.

More Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.


BLM Uncompahgre Field Office Wild and Scenic review update

January 23, 2011

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

There was unanimous agreement that Deep Creek and West Fork Terror Creek segments in the BLM’s North Fork Gunnison River Unit were unsuitable for BLM management as wild and scenic waters. The stakeholder group’s recommendation will be forwarded to the Uncompahgre Field Office (UFO) for consideration when BLM managers evaluate 11 stream segments in Delta County for “suitability,” the next stage in the wild and scenic evaluation process. Five other stream segments under consideration at the Jan. 10 meeting also received near unanimous agreement to be excluded from the BLM’s wild and scenic inventory. However, four individuals representing various environmental groups including The Wilderness Society and North Fork Valley-based WSERC did not want the five stream segments removed at this time. The five are Potter Creek, Monitor Creek, Roubideau Creek segments 1 and 2, and Gunnison River segment 2. The five will be looked at in more detail by a subcommittee of the full stakeholders group scheduled to meet this month, and then presented for reconsideration at an upcoming stakeholders meeting. A total of seven eligible stream segments were being evaluated on Jan 10. All of them are located outside of the new Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area. The stakeholders group is trying to meet a Feb. 15 deadline for submitting its recommendations on the seven. In addition to the seven non-NCA stream segments, six other stream segments located within the NCA boundaries must have a stakeholders recommendation by April 15.

More Wild and Scenic coverage here.


Telluride: City council gives a thumbs up to the proposed instream flow right for the San Miguel River

January 13, 2011

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From The Telluride Watch (Karen James):

As the Colorado Water Conservation Board prepares to decide whether or not to file for an instream water right on the lower San Miguel River at a meeting in Denver later this month, the Town of Telluride has added its voice to that of San Miguel County’s and others in support of the filing.

“The health of the San Miguel River is important to the Telluride community in terms of economic and environmental factors. The outdoor recreation industry in this area is quite dependent upon flows within the river system necessary to sustain fishing, whitewater and related activities. The health of the river ecosystem is intrinsically tied to wildlife habitat, wetland and riparian values that truly define this beautiful part of Colorado,” states a letter to the CWCB and approved by the council when it met on Tuesday.

If approved, the instream flow would establish minimum flows in a 16.5-mile stretch of the river located in Montrose County reaching from Calamity Draw west of Naturita to the Dolores River confluence, primarily to prevent three dwindling species of native fish there from being listed for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The CWCB considered filing for the appropriation this time last year, but delayed its decision at the request of the San Miguel County BOCC and other entities in order to allow downstream water users time to figure out off-stem water storage to meet their future needs and to file for any additional water rights they might require.

“We wanted to try and guarantee that the instream flow is what it should be,” said Fraser of the town government’s support. “Some people may not agree, but we are doing what we think is right for the community and the region.”[...]

And speaking of the San Miguel River, council would also like to see sections of the waterway that have been determined eligible for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System actually protected as such.

In a letter to the US Bureau of Land Management Uncompahgre Field Office, which is currently seeking public comment concerning 11 segments of the San Miguel that were determined to be eligible for the designation following an exhaustive inventory process throughout the 675,000-acre Uncompahgre Planning Area, the town underscored its support for “prompt, extensive and reliable protection,” for every eligible segment in the river, and those segments and tributaries within proximity to the Telluride community, in particular.

“The San Miguel River system as a whole, and certainly those segments and tributaries identified, are inclusive of outstandingly remarkable values in terms of natural flows, river health, riparian habitat, recreational opportunities and scenery,” reads a letter to the agency approved by council on Tuesday.

Accordingly, the town believes that the majority of those stream segments found eligible for protection would be best preserved with designations as suitable for protection.

More San Miguel watershed coverage here and here.


San Miguel River watershed: Wild and Scenic designation?

November 29, 2010

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From the Telluride Daily Planet (Katie Klingsporn):

The BLM has already conducted an exhaustive eligibility study of sections of the San Miguel and Dolores Rivers that mapped and inventoried the waterways and documented “outstanding remarkable values” — such as abundant wildlife or significant historic value — of each. A final eligibility report, which was completed this summer, names free-flowing sections of the San Miguel River as well as parts of many of its tributaries (Beaver Creek, Dry Creek, Naturita Creek, Saltado Creek and Tabeguache Creek) as eligible for one of the following designations: wild, scenic or recreational. If designated, segments would enjoy certain protections tailored to keep them wild, beautiful or recreationally valuable.

Now, the BLM is moving into the suitability phase — which will use public input and land status records to determine which segments deserve protection, and if so, if it should be through designation. As part of this, the agency is seeking public input. And starting this week, it will be hosting a number of resource advisory committee subgroup meetings locally to talk about the river.

The meetings are scheduled as follows:

• Monday, 6:30 p.m., Norwood Community Center

• Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., Naturita Community Building

• Wednesday, 5:30 p.m., Wilkinson Public Library

More San Miguel River coverage here and here.


Colorado River District is convening a meeting of water interests in the Gunnison basin to answer questions regarding the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act

August 3, 2010

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Here’s the release from the Colorado River District (Dave Kanzer/Chris Treese):

The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Uncompahgre Field Office (UFO) recently completed a Wild and Scenic Rivers Eligibility Study for the streams and rivers within the UFO’s management area. This study was completed as part of the field office’s update of its Resource Management Plan. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act requires completion of a Wild & Scenic River study when Federal agencies revise their land use plans. The Eligibility Report and an executive summary are available at the UFO’s web site: www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/ufo/wild_and_scenic_river.html

The Eligibility Report identifies 33 segments on 22 streams and rivers as eligible for designation under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

The BLM-UFO is beginning the second phase of its Wild and Scenic River study. Called the “suitability analysis,” this analysis is the process of further evaluating each segment identified as eligible in order to develop management plans and possible recommendation for addition to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system for each segment.

During the initial stage of the suitability process, the BLM will be evaluating a number of suitability criteria such as manageability, land ownership, usage tradeoffs and conflicts, usage levels, and alternative methods for protecting the values that led to the initial eligibility determination.

In cooperation with the UFO, the Colorado River District is convening a meeting of water interests in the Gunnison basin to answer questions regarding the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, to provide additional information on the suitability analysis and its implications, and to determine the group’s interest in exploring consensus management recommendations that provide use and management flexibility while protecting the resource values that qualified river segments as eligible. (NOTE: This effort is limited to the portions of the UFO and Dominguez-Escalante NCA in the Gunnison/Uncompahgre basin and will only be considering streams and rivers within that watershed.) As an interested stakeholder you are invited and encouraged to attend an initial informational and organizational meeting. Your input is critical to developing a thorough draft suitability analysis and to determining stakeholders’ willingness to explore development of consensus recommendations regarding some or all of the stream and river segments identified as eligible.

The meeting will be held:
Date: September 1, 2010
Time: 2:00 – 4:30
Location: Bill Heddles Recreation Center, Delta, CO

To ensure adequate seating please RSVP to Meredith at the River District office at 970 945 -8522, ext. 221 or email mspyker@crwcd.org

To ensure full representation of all interests in Gunnison basin water matters, please pass this invitation along to anyone you believe may be interested in attending.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


Montrose County Commissioners support the Lower Dolores River Working Group’s proposals

April 15, 2010

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From the Montrose Daily Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

Those supporting alternate plans to protect the Lower Dolores River can count Montrose County in. Montrose commissioners are supporting the Lower Dolores River Working Group’s efforts to develop protections for the river that also protect private property and water rights, the commission decided in a resolution last week. Parts of the Lower Dolores, which flows through Montrose County’s West End, are listed as “suitable” for federal Wild and Scenic River designation.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here.


Cortez: Dolores River Dialogue meeting recap

March 25, 2010

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From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

Representatives from every major stakeholder group in the Dolores River watershed flooded the Dolores Water Conservancy District offices Tuesday for the first full meeting of the Dolores River Dialogue since October 2008. Among the items on the agenda were a presentation on the progress of the Lower Dolores Plan Working Group and a discussion of DRD restructuring. Presentations were also given on native fish populations in the Dolores, recent findings regarding salinity, the work done by the Dolores River Restoration Partnership and information on the 319 Watershed Study…

Created to examine alternatives to a Wild and Scenic River designation for the Dolores River, the group has spent the last year identifying and brainstorming around the plethora of issues involved in river protection. In early December, the group moved into the recommendation phase of the project, mindful of a June 2010 deadline to present recommendations to the Dolores Public Lands Office. “They have come up with 15 consensus recommendations,” [Facilitator Marsha Porter-Norton] said. “The recommendations are pretty solid, but this isn’t the report of the group. I would call them the bulk, but there could be some more recommendations arising.”[...]

The initial recommendations put forward by the group include a desire to continue monitoring and documenting priority archaeology and cultural resources; wildfire management by the Dolores Public Lands Office; the denial of Bradfield Bridge as a launch site at the present time; allowing a viable put-in/take-out to remain in place in the Slickrock area, although a partnership is needed to meet various needs; management of the Big Gyp recreation site rather than decommissioning the site; a continuation of the “first come/first served” policy around usage of campsites; continued partnerships for the management of tamarisk and other invasive plants; and maintaining current management practices of the four-wheel-drive road along the river from the pump station to Slickrock. Through the recommendation process, the group concluded that primary river protection must be secured to ensure the efficacy of the other action steps. “The key thing they have decided is the need for special legislation that would set up some type of area in the Lower Dolores,” Porter-Norton said. “This was arrived at by consensus at the March meeting – something that would be alternative to the Wild and Scenic designation…

In seeking an alternative to Wild and Scenic designation, the group finds itself balancing the need for environmental protection against the desires of recreational use and private land ownership. “There are really two things,” Porter-Norton said. “One is to protect the area, and yet it would also respect the economic development and private property rights. I think the group understands that the area needs to be protected and also that there are a lot of private interests involved.”[...]

The next meeting of the Dolores River Dialogue will take place in the fall. The Lower Dolores Plan Working Group will meet next at 5:30 p.m. April 19, at the Dolores Water Conservancy District. For more information, contact Porter-Norton at 247-8306. On the web: Dolores River Dialogue, http://ocs.fortlewis.edu/drd/.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here and here.


BLM seeking public input for draft Wild and Scenic River Eligibility report

December 31, 2009

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Here’s a release from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (Erin Curtis):

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is seeking public comments on a draft Wild and Scenic River Eligibility Report conducted by the Uncompahgre Field Office.

The report is the first step in a Wild and Scenic River evaluation for the 900,000-acre field office, which is being conducted as the field office revises the Uncompahgre Resource Management Plan. The Draft Eligibility Report provides an inventory of river and stream segments on BLM-administered lands, and identifies those segments that meet the eligibility criteria necessary for federal Wild and Scenic River consideration.

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed in 1968 to preserve selected rivers or sections in their free-flowing condition in order to protect “the water quality of such rivers and to fulfill other vital national conservation purposes.” To be eligible under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, a river or stream segment must possess one or more “outstandingly remarkable values,” have sufficient water quality to support those values, and be “free-flowing.” The BLM evaluated 174 river and stream segments and found 35 to be eligible.

The draft report identifies five segments of the San Miguel River (approximately 55 miles), two segments of the Dolores River (approximately 20 miles), and two segments of the Gunnison River (approximately 18 miles) as eligible. Eligibility review does not take into account potentially conflicting uses or the manageability of a river segment, which will be addressed in the upcoming suitability phase.

At this stage, the BLM is specifically looking for information regarding free-flowing condition and outstandingly remarkable values, including vegetation, wildlife, cultural, recreation, hydrologic, geologic, and scenic. Public comments on the draft report will be accepted through Feb. 26. The report is available at http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/ufo/uncompahgre_rmp.html.

Comments can be emailed to uformp@blm.gov or mailed to the Uncompahgre Field Office, Attn: RMP Revision, 2645 S. Townsend Ave., Montrose, CO 81401.

“Once the eligibility study has been finalized, we’ll be working with stakeholders to look at each eligible segment to determine whether or not it is suitable for Wild and Scenic River consideration,” said Uncompahgre Field Manager Barb Sharrow. “Public involvement in this process is essential.”

The suitability study will be included in the Resource Management Plan revision, which will analyze a range of possible recommendations. The BLM may or may not actively recommend suitable segments for Wild and Scenic River designation, based on input from stakeholders and the public.

River segments determined to be eligible are afforded interim protective management by the BLM until a suitability study is completed. The Resource Management Plan revision and suitability analysis is scheduled to be completed in 2013.

The Cache La Poudre River is currently the only river in Colorado with segments included in the Wild and Scenic River system. For more information on Wild and Scenic Rivers, visit http://www.nps.gov/rivers/.

More Wild and Scenic coverage here.


Wild and Scenic designation for parts of the San Miguel, Dolores and Gunnison rivers?

December 23, 2009

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From the Telluride Daily Planet (Katie Klingsporn):

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) just released a draft Wild and Scenic Eligibility Report — one of the first steps in achieving the designation — that identifies segments of the San Miguel and its tributaries, the Dolores and the Gunnison rivers for Wild and Scenic status. “The idea is to safeguard the value of the rivers,” said Erin Curtis, public information officer for the BLM. The BLM’s Uncompahgre Field Office is currently seeking public comment on the draft report, which can be found at http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/ufo/uncompahgre_rmp.html.

The document is basically a 155-page inventory that describes some 35 segments that may be eligible in terms of value of geography, ownership, wildlife, recreation and more. It identifies roughly 55 miles of the main stem of the San Miguel River — stretches that runs roughly from Deep Creek to the confluence with the Dolores River. It also identifies pieces of several of the San Miguel’s tributaries: Beaver Creek, Fall Creek, Dry Creek, Naturita Creek, Saltado Creek and Tabeguache Creek. In addition, it identifies approximately 20 miles of the Dolores River, including segments where “the scenic value created by the river flowing within the canyon is rare in the region of comparison.” These rivers were plucked from some 174 segments that the BLM inventoried — and were chosen for their beauty or history, their geology, paleontology or hydrology.

But in the end, in order to achieve this designation, a river or stream segment much be determined as both “eligible” and “suitable” — qualifications that each come with their own review process. Right now, these segments are in the eligible stage, during which land managers work to determine if the river or stream segments possess one or more “outstanding remarkable value.” These could range anywhere from having fantastic wildlife activity to great recreation, holding significant historic value to just being really darn scenic…

The BLM will be accepting comments on the Draft Eligibility Study until Feb. 26. Comments can be emailed to uformp@blm.gov or mailed to the Uncompahgre Field Office, Attn: RMP Revision, 2645 S. Townsend Ave., Montrose, CO 81401.

More Wild and Scenic coverage here and here.


BLM: Proposed wild and scenic designation for western Colorado streams

July 8, 2009

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The BLM is moving ahead with studying 155 miles of stream reaches for possible Wild and Scenic designation. Many see it as an intrusion on state control over water resources. Here’s a report from Le Roy Standish writing for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

The designation could limit private property rights on lands adjoining streams designated wild and scenic. The designation also could curtail water rights and possibly touch off an exhaustive fight with the federal government, according to water stakeholders…

Mely Whiting, water counsel with Trout Unlimited, said part of the wild and scenic discussion needs to be about long-lasting effects to the river brought on by permanent activities, such as ranching, on land. “The reality is how long are they going to hold on to that (land) and what is going to come next?” Whiting said of private property owners adjacent to rivers. “The purpose here is to make a statement and preserve it for future generations so they can decide what to do with it.”[...]

The Grand Junction BLM Field Office recently studied 117 sections of streams and rivers on federal lands, not private lands, in the counties of Mesa, Garfield, Delta and Montrose. The resulting eligibility report found 20 segments on 15 waterways as candidates for the new designation. Affected rivers include the Colorado, Gunnison and Dolores rivers. “Including a 20-mile stretch of the Colorado River west of Grand Junction, 18 miles of Big Dominguez Creek, 15 miles of Little Dominguez Creek and stretches of the Dolores and Gunnison rivers,” according to a statement on the BLM’s Web site.

During a briefing to the Mesa County Commission, Catherine Robertson, director of the Grand Junction BLM Field Office, said even though the designation would apply only to federal lands, what happens on adjoining land, or upriver on private lands, may affect the BLM’s ability to manage wild and scenic river stretches. She expands on that statement, as quoted on the BLM’s Web site: “These segments would be determined not to be suitable for designation.”

On June 16 the Colorado River District gathered multiple stakeholders at BLM’s Grand Junction offices. The meeting was to begin the process of analyzing the BLM’s Wild and Scenic River Eligibility study to find a “collective alternative” that everyone can agree on and then submit it to the BLM, said Chris Treese, a spokesman for the Colorado River District…

With the designation could come a federal reserved water right, which could touch off a legal fight on par to what played out over years in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison case, he said. “We would like to avoid that,” Treese said. In an attempt to avoid a legal fight, he is spearheading the effort to bring together local concerns and submit a preferred local alternative to the BLM by mid-2010. “We (the River District) think that a local alternative is a preferred alternative to the unilateral federal designation,” Treese said. “Yet there are those that may favor federal control.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


Pourdre River watershed: Corps of Engineers is doing a basin wide review of water projects in conjunction with NISP EIS

July 1, 2009

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which would be responsible for issuing permits for Glade as well as proposed expansions of Halligan and Seaman reservoirs, is weighing the environmental impacts all of the projects could have on the river before allowing construction of the pipeline’s remaining segments. The Corps is analyzing the combined effects of the projects as part of environmental impact statement, or EIS, studies for Glade and the Halligan-Seaman projects, said Chandler Peter, a project manager with the agency.

At issue is how depletion of the river caused by the projects would affect the river’s resources, including its fisheries, riparian areas, recreation and morphology, Peter said. “We need to understand the cumulative effects of these projects and determine what mitigation and operational conditions would be needed to minimize those impacts,” he said.

Click through and read the whole piece. He’ll bring you up to date on Greeley’s new pipeline.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


Dolores River: Sections eyed by BLM for Wild and Scenic designation

April 12, 2009

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The Bureau of Land Management is studying parts of the Dolores River for Wild and Scenic designation. Here’s a report from Kristen Plank writing for the Cortez Journal. From the article:

Approximately 32 miles of the northern Dolores River and watershed was recently evaluated in a Wild and Scenic Eligibility Report released by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Grand Junction office…

“The first thing we do during this river study is to look at eligible segments of rivers that fit into the criteria of the Wild and Scenic River Act of 1968,” said Michelle Bailey, outdoor recreation planner at the Grand Junction office. “We then ask ourselves, ‘Hey, does this segment meet the criteria?’ If the answer is yes, then we further study those segments.”[...]

The Dolores River section of the study runs from the southwest border of the Grand Junction field office, running parallel to Highway 141, through Gateway until the river reaches the Colorado-Utah border, Bailey said. Conducted during the past 12 to 14 months, the eligibility study found geological, paleontological, recreational and scenic values within the 32-mile stretch of the river. The public has 30 days to comment on the eligibility portion of the report. While a segment of a river might be found “eligible” for Wild and Scenic designation, Bailey said “it may not be suitable.”[...]

The suitability study comes next, and public comment from stakeholders and the general public is taken throughout the study. The suitability study is slated to be completed in 2011. The findings will then go into the Grand Junction field office’s resource management plan, which will give recommendations of Wild and Scenic River designations to Congress. Congress will then decide which of the rivers should be given Wild and Scenic designation.

Recently, a group known as the Lower Dolores Management Plan Working Group has been meeting monthly to give input on a comprehensive river management plan known as the 1990 Dolores River Management Plan. The Dolores Public Lands Office plans to update the management plan this fall, and the working group will help determine how best to classify the Lower Dolores River so that it receives appropriate protection. The group hopes to bypass the Wild and Scenic River designation because federal management of that portion of the river conflicts with current principles the Dolores River Dialogue – a group that meets to preserve and improve water habitats in the Dolores River Valley – has already established.

On the Net: To read the Grand Junction’s eligibility report, go to http://www.blm. gov/co/st/en/fo/gjfo/rmp.html and click on “Wild & Scenic Eligibility Report.”


20 Grand Junction area stream sections under consideration for Wild and Scenic designation

April 8, 2009

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb): “A report the BLM announced Tuesday said a 19-mile stretch of the Colorado River in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area west of Grand Junction is eligible for the designation, as is a 7.3-mile portion in De Beque Canyon and a 1.3-mile portion downstream of the Grand Valley Diversion Dam. Some other segments identified as candidates for designation are parts of the Gunnison River upstream and downstream of Whitewater, portions of the Dolores and Little Dolores rivers, more than 16 miles of Big Dominguez Creek, and 15 miles of Little Dominguez Creek…

“The BLM’s new eligibility report, available at http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/gjfo/rmp.html, looked at 117 river and stream segments. It is the first step in an evaluation being conducted by the agency’s Grand Junction Field Office, which oversees 1.2 million acres…

“Other eligible stretches are found on North Fork Mesa and Blue creeks in the Dolores River watershed; Roan and Carr creeks outside De Beque; Rough Canyon Creek south of Grand Junction; and East Creek, West Creek, Ute Creek and the North Fork of West Creek in Unaweep Canyon.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.


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