GLENWOOD SPRINGS — City Council is considering whether to seek legal protection of Colorado River flows between April and September for the purpose of whitewater recreation.
A resolution before the council for tonight’s regular meeting would initiate a Colorado Water Court action to secure surface water rights on the Colorado during the peak spring and summer months for a future whitewater park.
“Ever since I came onto this council there has been a desire and a movement toward the eventual construction of another water feature on the Colorado,” Mayor Leo McKinney said. “This is part of that process.”
The existing “wave” feature in West Glenwood is a huge economic boon to the city, especially during peak runoff and the early summer season.
“Adding another feature at some future date would serve to keep our tourism community thriving,” McKinney said.
The various legalities of the proposal have been the topic of several recent executive session discussions among council members, city staff and a team of engineers, lawyers and land planners who were assembled earlier this year to prepare the application.
A proposed water court action serves as the formal application to secure a legal “recreational in-channel diversion right” on the Colorado River above its confluence with the Roaring Fork River, near the city’s Two Rivers Park.
The application requests a maximum flow 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.
Early- and late-season flow rates, between April 1-29 and from July 24-Sept. 30, are asked to remain at 1,250 cfs.
The 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 proposed request.
“Recreational boating enthusiasts and the representatives of the local and regional kayaking and rafting industries have consistently indicated that the establishment of a boating park and the protection of recreational water flows within this reach of the Colorado River is a high priority,” reads a resolution to be considered by City Council.
McKinney said the Glenwood Springs area already enjoys an extended rafting and whitewater season compared to other parts of the state.
“This action is really to protect the investment we have made with the one feature we already have, and in the future of our tourism-based economy,” he said. “And, the more water we can keep in the river is better for downstream users.”
The regular City Council meeting begins at 6 p.m. tonight at Glenwood Springs City Hall.
Earlier in the day, at 11:30 a.m., council is also set to meet with the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Grand Avenue Bridge project planning team.
The work session meeting, during which no public comments will be taken, is meant to discuss several new design options for either an elevator or ramp connection, or combination of both, to access what will be a new pedestrian bridge across the Colorado River from Seventh Street.
Council does not plan to take action on the elevator/ramp design alternatives, one of which CDOT will include in the formal environmental assessment for the larger bridge project at the city’s direction, until after the first of the year.