Colorado River advocates stress keeping water here
Until less than a century ago, the Colorado River barely entered Colorado. The name followed what’s now known as the Green River through Utah, the northwest corner of Colorado, and into Wyoming, while the branch that finds its headwaters near Rocky Mountain National Park was known as the Grand.
That all changed on July 25, 1921, when Congress passed legislation renaming the Grand and bringing the Colorado River to the heart of its namesake.
In the decades since, the Colorado River has been the subject of innumerable controversies over water rights and conservation.
On Friday, Conservation Colorado seized the impending anniversary — known a Colorado River Day — to bring representatives from several local institutions came together at Colorado Mountain College’s Glenwood Springs campus to discuss the importance of conservation. Earlier this month, the Colorado Water Conservation Board unveiled a second draft of a Colorado Water Plan, in which conservation is stressed, though not enough for some.
“We are all stakeholders,” said Conservation Colorado field manager Kristin Green. “We’re getting a lot of people with different backgrounds and different political stripes coming to the same conclusions.”
Several speakers emphasized the need for the Colorado Water Plan to resist transmountain diversions.
Solomon Liston of Whitewater Rafting LLC emphasizes the economic importance of the river.
“People move here for a lifestyle,” he said.
Whitewater Rafting provides around 65 seasonal positions, and is just one of dozens of such companies along the river. Like angling and other water sports, rafting attracts more visitors when the water’s high.
“It all depends on the flow,” Liston aid. “As we divert water from the Western Slope” for use on the Front Range, “it takes away from the whole experience.”
Silt Trustee Aron Diaz also expressed frustration with diversions to the Front Range. With major cities downstream demanding water as well, he characterized the Upper Colorado as “squeezed in between.”
“There are economic and environmental reasons to keep Western Slope water on this side of the Divide,” he said. “With our first state water plan in the process of being drafted, the Colorado Water Conservation Board needs to hear from diverse voices.”
The final public deadline for comments on Colorado’s Water Plan is Sept. 17. To view the draft and submit comments, visit coloradowaterplan.com.
Heather Lewin from the Roaring Fork Conservancy, based in Basalt, said the wet spring has that part of the watershed in good health, for a broader benefit. The organization keeps a close eye on the health of the Roaring Fork watershed, monitoring temperature, water quality, flora and fauna. This year, the rainy spring — hailed by some as “the miracle May” — helped make up for below average snowpack for a robust runoff. The result, at least short term, is river health that trickles downstream.
“As a major tributary, the health of the Roaring Fork directly affects that of the Colorado River,” Lewin said.
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