GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Three possible locations for one or more future whitewater parks on the Colorado River have been identified by a team of consultants working to secure a legal in-stream recreational flow right for the city of Glenwood Springs.
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.
“It can only be enforced when all other senior water rights are satisfied,” he said.
A group of engineers and land planners who were assembled by the city to work on the project earlier this year looked at several potential locations for a new whitewater park.
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.
“The actual ability to use these flows can be quite a few more years,” Hamilton 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.
Local whitewater enthusiast Joe Mollica, who was influential in the construction of the West Glenwood “wave” feature, applauded council’s decision to secure the in-stream flow.
“This is an important step in the process,” he said. “This really is the future for Glenwood Springs, and our economy is based on this river.”
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.
“The RICD is not taking water away from the stream, and will not alter the natural flow of water through the river,” Sturges said. “I’m very proud of this council for getting this process started, and hope we can ultimately get [a park] built.”
“I’m very proud of this council for getting this process started, and hope we can ultimately get [a park] built.”
Glenwood Springs City Councilman