As the chairman of the Arkansas River Outfitters Association (AROA) committee for Water Resources, I am compelled to comment on the risks to watersheds in general in Colorado and specifically, the Arkansas River watershed. AROA is a trade group comprised of rafting and fishing outfitters on the Arkansas River which has become the most popular river for rafting in the western US and is also a world class Brown trout fishery. AROA represents roughly 90% of all commercial recreational use on the Arkansas.
Unfortunately, waterways such as the Arkansas, among many others, are currently at risk for unlimited pollution. Over the past decade, Supreme Court decisions have put in doubt protection for seasonal streams and headwaters which feed into and replenish annually larger waterways, such as the Arkansas. Thousands of miles of streams are currently at risk of unlimited pollution, development and ultimately, destruction. In fact, 3.7 million citizens of Colorado get their drinking water from public supplies fed by streams which are currently at risk.
Recreational businesses such as those of our membership, as well as the many communities that rely on a robust tourism economy, depend on water quality and flow protections as our very lifeblood and as a means to continue to attract visitors to Colorado. Restoration of Clean Water Act protections to seasonal streams and watersheds in general are vital to maintaining what is a thriving recreational industry in Colorado.
President Obama and the EPA have an opportunity to stand up for Colorado waterways by restoring Clean Water Act protection. Collectively, our industry would encourage the Obama administration to see this essential effort through to a satisfactory conclusion that includes the full protection of water quality and flow rates that Colorado rivers and streams deserve.