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Trout Unlimited concerned about adequacy of winter flows for fish

Pete FowlerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Fish could face a big question mark after Oct. 31.That’s what the Trout Unlimited conservation group thinks, in light of a recent Colorado River water flow agreement.”It’s an incomplete agreement because it doesn’t look at the winter picture,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “This agreement takes care of very important issues – no question about it – endangered fish, rafting through Labor Day, and it takes care of some of the potential conflicts with the irrigators in the Grand Valley. But beyond October 31, it’s a big question mark of how the lack of the Shoshone call is going to impact the trout fisheries.”Whiting said Grand Valley irrigation-related water rights don’t really call for water in the winter, and there’s no sign that the Shoshone hydroelectric plant in Glenwood Canyon will be repaired by winter. The plant is the only force driving flows from upper Colorado River reservoirs in the winter, she added. She was speaking about the area mostly upstream from the Green Mountain Reservoir, which lies about 20 miles south of Kremmling.”If the Shoshone is not going to be calling this winter, our question is what happens after October 31?” she asked.The flow agreement became necessary when a penstock ruptured in the Shoshone hydroelectric plant in Glenwood Canyon June 20, shutting down the plant until Xcel Energy is able to complete repairs. The plant has a senior water right dating back to 1905, which traditionally has helped maintain adequate water flows for the Glenwood-area rafting industry throughout the summer. The plant is entitled to 1,250 cubic feet per second.The groups agreed to shoot for flows of 1,200 cubic feet per second in Glenwood Canyon through Labor Day and 810 cfs for endangered fish in the Grand Junction area through October.Rafting industry representatives have said they would be forced to shut down for the season if the river’s flows fell below 1,000 cfs.Whiting said lower flows could have an especially negative effect on upper Colorado River fisheries in the winter.”If fish are spawning and the eggs are left high and dry, you’re not going to have a very good fishery next year,” she said.Whiting said there could also be problems with low flows preventing trout from finding the deeper, warmer pools they favor in the winter. There was a question of what would happen with upper Colorado River flows after Labor Day.She said that if the 810 cfs at Palisade is made up farther downstream by making releases from reservoirs like Ruedi Reservoir, the upstream fisheries could also suffer after Labor Day.Whiting didn’t want to minimize the need to protect endangered fish and the importance of the rafting industry. She said Trout Unlimited just wants to make sure that the winter issues are dealt with.Trout Unlimited’s mission is to protect, conserve and restore cold-water fisheries. In Colorado, that translates into trout, Whiting said.Contact Pete Fowler: 945-8515, ext. 16611pfowler@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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