The state Water Quality Control Commission this week approved a special “Outstanding Waters” designation for several branches of Thompson Creek and its tributaries in the upper Thompson Creek watershed, west of Carbondale.
Trout Unlimited and the Roaring Fork Conservancy said in a news release that the designation will ensure that the watershed’s water quality is protected in perpetuity.
The Water Quality Control Commission’s decision means that anyone seeking approval for development or discharge permits in the watershed must demonstrate that the proposed activity does not degrade the creeks’ baseline water quality.
“This is a huge conservation win that ensures there will be no degradation of these pristine waters,” said Aaron Kindle, Colorado Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “The designation will safeguard the streams, wetlands and tributaries of a nationally significant watershed, and the genetically pure populations of cutthroat trout found there.”
To qualify for the designation, a stream must exhibit high standards on 12 different water quality parameters, including ammonia, dissolved oxygen, e. coli, nitrate, pH and various metals.
The protections will be applied to North Thompson, Middle Thompson and the South Branch of Middle Thompson Creek, as well as several tributaries, including Park Creek, a stronghold for a rare subspecies of cutthroat trout. The vast majority of the designated creeks are on Forest Service lands.