State water conservation board meets in Glenwood
River recreation business owners and enthusiasts are expected to be out in force today as the Colorado Water Conservation Board meets in Glenwood Springs at the Hotel Colorado.
The afternoon session will include conversation about the upcoming draft statewide water plan, which is due out later this year at the direction of Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The water plan is the main agenda item from 1-5 p.m. Starting at 3:45 p.m., the board will hear an update on public input received to date from the state’s nine river basins, including from the Colorado River Basin Roundtable. The meeting is open to the public and will include a time for comments.
Meanwhile, boaters, rafters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts are gathering in conjunction with the meeting to highlight the economic value of Colorado’s rivers, and to try to ensure river flows are protected from new large trans-mountain water diversions.
The Colorado and other western basin roundtables are urging against including any new Front Range diversion projects in the water plan.
A coalition of business and conservation groups said in a Wednesday press release that they will emphasize the economic importance of Colorado’s river-based economy, which they say is greater than $9 billion annually and supports more than 80,000 jobs in the state.
“Water diversions, which are being debated during the CWCB board meeting, would significantly jeopardize this river economy,” according to the release.
Geoff Olson, co-owner and operator of Blue Sky Adventures in Glenwood Springs, said in the release that commercial river rafting alone in Colorado last year was worth about $150 million.
“We want the governor and the state water board to make smart, long-term decisions to protect our rivers and our livelihoods, and this huge part of Colorado’s economy,” said Olson, who employs 35 people during the height of the summer whitewater season.
The first-ever statewide water plan is intended to determine how water will be managed across Colorado for the next several decades.
“Colorado’s cities can easily conserve more water, and that will preserve flows for the river-based recreation that is so important to so many Coloradans,” said Annie Henderson, co-founder of the Upper Colorado Private Boaters Association, an American Whitewater affiliate.
Whitewater businesses have also emphasized the need to secure recreational in-stream flows, which is also included in the draft Colorado River Basin Implementation Plan.
The CWCB will continue its meetings Friday, and this morning is scheduled to meet with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, also at the Hotel Colorado.
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Over 75,000 hikers visited Hanging Lake during this year’s peak season. Via signage, the city hopes to point more of those hikers also in the direction of downtown Glenwood Springs.