Water released from Ruedi to help endangered fish
The Colorado Water Conservation Board on Wednesday has begun releasing water from Ruedi Reservoir to benefit Colorado River endangered fish.
On Aug. 31, the CWCB entered into a lease agreement with the Ute Water Conservancy District for water stored in Ruedi Reservoir to supplement flows for existing instream water rights on the Colorado. The releases will continue through September.
The agreement allows the CWCB to lease between 6,000 acre-feet and 12,000 acre-feet of water from Ruedi for instream flow use on the so-called 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River, located near Palisade. No releases will result in overall flows from Ruedi exceeding 300 cfs.
The 15-Mile Reach provides critical spawning habitat for the following endangered fish: Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub and bonytail.
“These types of ‘win-win’ agreements are needed to assure that Colorado can beneficially use water within Colorado and help recover endangered fish that use the Colorado River for habitat,” said James Eklund, director of the CWCB.
The Ute water district was established in 1965 to supply domestic water service to rural areas of the Grand Valley, encompassing roughly 260 square miles and servicing over 80,000 people.
The district originally entered into a repayment contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in September 2013, through which it purchased 12,000 acre-feet of water annually from Ruedi Reservoir. By entering into this lease, the CWCB has access to this water on a short-term basis for the benefit of four endangered fish species. Water released from Ruedi Reservoir under this lease will also be available for non-consumptive power generation immediately above the reach, providing additional late-summer benefits to the local area.
“This is the first time that the Species Conservation Trust Fund has been used to purchase stored water to supplement flows to critical habitat for endangered fish. We are excited that we have been able to use this particular funding source and our instream flow program for this purpose,” said Linda Bassi, chief of the Stream and Lake Protection Section of the CWCB.
Currently, the CWCB holds two instream flow water rights on the reach. Jana Mohrman, hydrologist for the Fish and Wildlife Service for the Upper Colorado River Recovery Program, added that “it’s outstanding to see the initiative and cooperation on behalf of the endangered fish by Ute Water and CWCB.”
“Colorado has always been on the leading edge of balancing the development of water resources with recovery of endangered species, and this lease is another example of how Colorado has been able to creatively balance those competing interests,” said Ted Kowalski, Chief of the Interstate, Federal & Water Information Section.
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